The District of Sooke is now opening regular and committee of the whole council meetings by acknowledging and recognizing meetings are held on the traditional land of the First Nations.
Up until now, Sooke was one of a handful of Island communities that did not acknowledge First Nations before government meetings. Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt and Colwood are among Greater Victoria governments that do.
The Sooke change was initiated by Mayor Maja Tait, who said for years the district has recognized First Nations at special ceremonies but never at council meetings.
“It seems like something long overdue that we should be acknowledging their territory and their government,” Tait said.
“I have no fair argument to say why I wasn’t doing it at every council meeting.”
Acknowledging territory is part of a longstanding protocol on Vancouver Island. It is a formal historic practice that has continued among Indigenous communities for hundreds of year.
And it also makes formal acknowledgement of the need for reconciliation. It is a statement that recognizes the traditional territory of the Indigenous people who called the land home before the arrival of settlers, said Laurie Meijer Drees, chair of First Nations Studies at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.
“Recognizing the land and the communities informs people of the colonial history of our region, specifically, that treaty processes/land surrenders have not yet taken place,” said Meijer Drees.
“The land is what hosts us all, it is a precious resource that holds all our lives. Acknowledging where we are is good for our souls and it keeps us humble and grateful.”
Meijer Drees added that acknowledging the land or territory in formal government meetings is a sign of understanding Canadian society to be made up of multiple nations and settler communities.
“It is thus good diplomacy to acknowledge nation-to-nation conversations,” she said.
– with files from Black Press