Grand Forks city council has opted to adopt a land acknowledgement that doesn’t name any specific nation.
In June, council asked city staff for a report on options regarding acknowledging Indigenous lands, in keeping with a trend in recent years by governments and schools.
Staff consulted a 2019 report by the Public Employers’ Council Secretariat that suggested Grand Forks should acknowledge the Syilx (Okanagan) people. They also spoke with the regional director of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations, who pointed to the recent Desautel decision in the Supreme Court of Canada, which affirmed that the Columbia River watershed is Sinixt ancestral territory.
“In discussions with the regional director, it was recommended that the acknowledgment be specific enough to be meaningful,” read a staff memo presented to council on Monday. “For example, noting the importance of the confluence of the rivers to the people who hunted and fished in they valley.”
The memo presented three possible statements that could be read before council meetings and other functions:
• “We are privileged to meet near the confluence of the Kettle and Granby rivers, a location of ancestral importance to the hunters and fishers of area Indigenous communities.”
• “We meet on lands traditionally hunted and fished by the Syilx people and offer thanks for their stewardship over these lands.” (This option could also name other nations including but not limited to the Sinixt and Ktunaxa.)
• “I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered today on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Syilx/Okanagan people.”
Staff also suggested council could stick with no acknowledgement, or consult with area First Nations “to ensure the acknowledgement is considered appropriate and culturally sensitive.”
“I prefer and would recommend that we use option No. 1,” said councillor Christine Thompson. “It’s succinct, it’s going to resolve any issues, and we won’t be missing anybody.”
“My advice to this was to keep it simple and general,” said councillor Chris Moslin. “Is there a need for acknowledgement? Yes, I believe there is.”
Moslin noted that other groups, including the recreation commission and regional district have adopted similar statements.
Mayor Brian Taylor agreed the first option was “fairly generic, and won’t offend anybody. We can change it if we change our minds, but let’s start with that.”
Council unanimously agreed.