Feb. 7, 2022

Guided by Elders and members of Indigenous community, nursing student writes extended land acknowledgement

Second-year student Harsimrit (Sim) Lakhyan shares transcript of her extended territorial acknowledgement, which includes nursing perspective
Sim Lakhyan

By now, many of us are familiar with land acknowledgements as they are often heard or spoken at the beginning of all meetings and community events on and off campus. But it’s important to know the significance behind them, as territorial acknowledgements are ways to recognize the land we live on, can often be personal and acknowledge our individual role in advancing reconciliation.

Last fall on Sept. 30, nursing student Harsimrit (Sim) Lakhyan was part of the Faculty of Nursing’s inaugural event Honouring Truth and Reconciliation Day. That day, Lakhyan read an extended land acknowledgement she had written in her first year of the nursing program. Originally, she had offered to write it to lead her NUR 288 class for a group presentation.

“I wrote this acknowledgment with the knowledge I gained from Elders and members of the Indigenous community in my term 3 placement at the Morley Community school on the Stoney Nakoda reserve,” she says. During that term, Lakhyan says she learned more about land acknowledgements but always felt like something was lacking.

“One day, an Elder from Morley spoke about his students, and I understood what the other land acknowledgments were missing. It was the people and what has happened and continues to happen to the people,” she says.

When I started writing, I thought about all I had learned and how angry, sad, frustrated, and hopeful I was.

She says, “I am the daughter of immigrants. I recognize my impact as a settler and yet, I can empathize with the impacts of colonialism.”

To create the following land acknowledgement, Lakhyan reached out to members of various communities and collected their feedback and suggestions. Through the process and with the guidance of Elder Jackie Bromley and Louise Baptiste-Bigchild, director of Indigenous initiatives at UCalgary Nursing, Whiley Eaglespeaker and Michelle Robinson, she wrote the following version with a nursing perspective based upon the current UCalgary land acknowledgment. It has even since been used by nursing faculty in some classes. 

Sim Lakhyan reading the extended land acknowledgemen

Sim Lakhyan reading the extended land acknowledgement she wrote at the Faculty of Nursing's inaugural Sept. 30 Truth and Reconciliation event.

Extended Land Acknowledgement:

A common teaching of the Elders is that as human beings we did not arrive on this land on our own, but because of the knowledge of our ancestors. Such knowledge includes the coexistence of all beings of creation, who were able to — for many years — independently seek treaties to maintain the peace.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta, which includes the Blackfoot Confederacy (comprising the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai First Nations), as well as the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations). The City of Calgary is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3. I would also like to note that the University of Calgary is situated on land adjacent to where the Bow River meets the Elbow River, and that the traditional Blackfoot name of this place is Moh’kins’tsis, which we now call the City of Calgary.

Furthermore, we want to extend this land acknowledgement to recognize the harm of colonization and the impact it has had and continues to have. This includes, but is not limited to, the introduction of disease, loss of traditional economic systems, loss of social connections, oppressive legislature, residential schools, and the '60s scoop which has now become the millennial scoop. The latter two have been a source for intergenerational trauma and loss of identity that many Indigenous people in Treaty 7 and across Canada continue to suffer.

We recognize the physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse that many Indigenous children have suffered and, in some cases, continue to suffer. We understand that this trauma is in the genes and as such we will use the seven generations back and seven generations forward approach. Furthermore, we remember each and every missing and murdered Indigenous woman as each life has left a void in the hearts and communities across this nation.

We understand that a land acknowledgement is one small step in reconciliation but is by no means the end or solution. We recognize the intersectoral collaboration needed to remove the systematic oppression that is imposed on the Indigenous people. We understand that the term Indigenous does not do justice or encompass the diversity of people to whom it is used to describe. We recognize the diversity and will work to promote it.

We, as future nurses, are aware of our role to advocate, do no harm, seek social justice, provide culturally appropriate care, and promote the health of the Indigenous people in Canada. We recognize and acknowledge the systematic oppression that exists in health care and we will strive to correct these flaws.

We understand the limitations of western medicine and hope to incorporate traditional practices that benefit our patients, including but of course not limited to opportunities for individuals to smudge. We recognize the importance of collaborating with Elders in the community to provide the best care possible.

We recognize that we are to honour ambiguity while supporting the patient to achieve health in the manner they choose. We recognize the importance of the seven sacred teachings in daily life and our future practice as nurses. We recognize that the ceded land agreements were done in conditions that would not be legal today and understand that we as a country have failed to meet the promises established.

Furthermore, we need to reflect on how as colonizers we have benefited from the systematic oppression of the Indigenous Peoples. Our status in Canadian society is built on trauma and oppression of Indigenous people, and we must understand this as we begin to undo the policies and remove systems that remain in place. Each of us needs to play our part to stop the othering and racist policies that separate fellow human beings from our society. We are to aid and build up our fellow Canadians in the various Indigenous communities throughout Canada. Lastly, we leave you with the question of what does this land acknowledgment mean to you? What will you do to meet the calls to action set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

Why are territorial acknowledgements important?

This year’s EDI Week at UCalgary ran from Monday, Jan. 31, to Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. The theme for this year is From Commitments to Action – Building Equitable Pathways and Futures in the University.