Grounding In Place
When we piloted the activity, each workshop began with a brief orientation outside the event space. One of our volunteers gave them a sense of what would be happening inside—that they would walk together to five different stations, and encouraged them to take care of and be gentle with themselves and with others, as the nature of the topic and experience was potentially sensitive.
Once everyone had gathered in a circle near the first station, members of our team greeted them and acknowledged our presence on the ancestral lands of the Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) and Lekwungen (Songhees) families. We emphasized that acknowledgments like these are not meant for benefit of the First Peoples, as such. We do it for those of us who have come to this land as immigrants—or who are here as the descendants of immigrants and settlers—so that we might pause for a moment and ground ourselves in awareness and appreciation of the continued, ongoing presence of the First Peoples across Turtle Island. During some workshops, a member of the Heron People Circle was present to offer a greeting in the Lekwungen language. On other occasions, we played a recorded welcome from Chief Ron Sam, elected leader of the Songhees First Nation*. Participants were invited to set an intention for the day as a way of becoming present in the experience. Through this welcome and introduction, we hoped to establish a sense that this was a space “within which special rules obtain,” set apart from business-as-usual at the university.
* Although we are all learning how to acknowledge the lands on which we are gathered at the beginning of an event, only certain people have been granted the authority to welcome people to these lands.
The idea for this first station grew out of a discussion in our planning committee about the significance of locating oneself as living and working on the traditional lands of Indigenous peoples. Heron People Circle members’ presence at the event contributed to the awareness that understanding where we are located was not an issue of the past; Xwsepsum and Lekwungen families continue to live and thrive on this land.
At this station, participants were invited to learn more about the Indigenous name of their place of birth or where they currently reside. We brought in various maps of the province of BC, the entire breadth of Canada, and the continent of North America, all of which included Indigenous place names and/or the First Peoples language spoken in each area. We invited participants to place a symbol (sticker) on the place where they came from, or currently live, and added a space for those born outside of North America. A volunteer equipped with the Native Land app on their iPad offered to enter the location of a participant’s birthplace or current residence and it would show the Indigenous name of that area. Name badges were available for participants to write down the place name(s) that resonated with them. Buttons acknowledging the ancestral lands of RRU were available to take from a basket on the table.
Near the maps, we posted a sign with a message that invited participants to consider what it means to say we are in relationship to the place where we live or work.
(Download the Locating yourself sign on the HANDOUTS & SIGNS page)
After about five minutes, our volunteers encouraged everyone to move on to station 2.