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Indigenous land acknowledgment to open Delta council meetings, public events

Acknowledgment to be written in consultation with Tsawwassen First Nation, Musqueam Indian Band
Delta City Hall. (James Smith photo)

The City of Delta will soon begin every council meeting and public event by acknowledging it sits on traditional First Nations land.

At its last regular meeting on Feb. 8, council unanimously endorsed a motion by Coun. Dan Copeland directing staff to develop a meaningful land acknowledgment for the beginning of council and committee meetings, as well as other city-run public events.

“To advance reconciliation and build stronger relationships with Indigenous peoples, it is important that City of Delta acknowledge the relationship that Tsawwassen, Musqueam and other Coast Salish peoples have with the land on which Delta is situated, and that our modern day city was founded on the traditional territories of the Tsawwassen, Musqueam and other Coast Salish peoples,” Copeland said in his motion.

Coun. Jeannie Kanakos in support of the motion said she hopes the city reaches out to local First Nations to approve any proposed acknowledgment, and that those words come with a commitment to “look at what we’re doing and listen to the First Nations on how we can do better.”

“We’re doing well we hope, we think, but that is part of reconciliation, opening our ears and changing our practices if necessary and when necessary.”

Harvie told council he and city manager Sean McGill have had conversations with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Ken Baird and CAO Braden Smith, and were scheduled to speak with Chief Wayne Sparrow and others from the Musqueam Indian Band that week.

“The most important thing [for] reconciliation is respect, and I want to make sure that the wording is actually one that the First Nations, both Chief Sparrow and Chief Baird, would like us to mention,” Harvie said.

“It’s important that it’s their words, not ours.”

Harvie suggested Delta council meet virtually with both chiefs and their respective councils.

Eight municipalities in the region currently begin council meetings with an Indigenous land acknowledgment, including Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley (both city and township), White Rock, Pitt Meadows, West Vancouver and Belcarra. Metro Vancouver does the same at its meetings as well.

A memo to council accompanying Copeland’s motion states that other municipalities in the region are also considering adopting the practice, while many public bodies including various levels of government, school districts and other agencies already make an Indigenous land acknowledgment at the beginning of meetings and events.

The Delta School District has begun every board meeting with an Indigenous land acknowledgment since January 2015, and since then has included the practice in school assemblies, presentations, district meetings and conferences.

Since January of this year, DeltaSD Indigenous education team member Nathan Wilson has also invited all staff and students to participate in a weekly Monday morning territorial acknowledgment via Zoom.

The Delta Police Board was to consider adopting the practice of making an Indigenous land acknowledgment before each board meeting on Wednesday morning (Feb. 17), but the item was pulled from the agenda just after the meeting started pending additional consultation with TFN Chief Baird.

Last month, Surrey city council voted five to four against developing a meaningful land acknowledgment to be delivered before council and committee meetings.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum told council on Jan. 11 that the city is a “leader” in “dealing with First Nations,” claiming that “we treat them better in Surrey literally than anywhere.”

McCallum said the city’s general policy is to recognize First Nations at all public events rather than at council meetings.

“I think they have been happy,” he said. “I have not, in 12 years I will say, not a single complaint from them that we need to do what’s suggested here.”

— with files from Tom Zytaruk

RELATED: McCallum says First Nations are treated ‘better in Surrey literally than anywhere’ (Jan.13, 2021)

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James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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