Settler Acknowledgement

It’s become all the rage, among certain PC sets, to begin meetings with a so-called “Land Acknowledgement”. For those unaware of this increasingly-common practise, there’s not much to the process. It is, in fact, surprisingly self-evident: someone, usually a person in authority or some specially invited guest, stands to verbally acknowledge the land they’re standing upon and the indigenous peoples who claim it as “traditional territories”.

Many feel this moment, small though it may be, honours those who were, unquestionably, in Canada before Europeans set foot upon this continent. Others, like myself, find it nothing but piteous pandering. These gestures, it could be argued, amount to little more than performative penance and, in reality, do nothing to heal long-standing wounds. Worse, by legitimising land acknowledgements society is being distracted from legitimate grievances with what amounts to a band-aide solution. This is text-book virtue signalling—solemnly commenting on a problem without making any serious effort to fix it.

That would be bad enough but things seldom stop there. No, lately it’s commonplace to dismiss Europeans, and all their descendants, as “settlers”. In context, settler is clearly meant to be derogatory. I have to bite my tongue whenever I hear the term used this way. Dismissing the entirety of Western culture and all their contributions to modern society is, much like racism itself, idiotic. The courage it took to leave all you ever knew, on the uncertain chance at building a better life for you and your children, is remarkable. As is the work those people put into their new homes/communities. There was little ‘settling’ going on back then, just backbreaking labour.

But making one group feel better about itself by putting someone else down is human nature. Divide and conquer worked in the centuries before Christ just as well as it does now. As does distract and embitter. And that is all these land acknowledgements ever accomplish. We’d be better off promoting understanding, teaching history, or working towards actual change rather than what we’re doing now. That, however, would require effort…and instant gratification is all the rage, no matter how shallow.

The so-called “Native Problem” has no solution. Mainly because no sitting-politician is willing to tackle the issue. It only seems to matter during elections, where would-be governments (at all levels) make grandiose promises. Sadly, nothing ever gets done in the halls of power…other than to pass the dilemma onto the next party in line. The situation has gotten so bad that everyday Canadians are trying to pick up the slack. Land acknowledgements are one such effort. They may be awkward, misguided, and historically inaccurate—sitting through some white woman butchering the pronunciation of native names in the guise of Political Correctness is painful; and that’s coming from a man who has mutilated a lot of names!—but at least it’s something. Which is more than our purported ‘leaders’ have managed.

I would argue that far from being a “problem”, Canada has a “Native Opportunity”. Indigenous peoples are one of the few growing populations in our country. They are amongst the youngest ethnic groups too. If there were more opportunities for these Canadians, we’d all benefit. Some of that ‘settler’ drive would go a long way to sorting this country out. And the sooner we acknowledge that, the better off we’ll all be.

Posted on: July 22, 2023, by :