Delta city council opened its meeting with an Indigenous land acknowledgement for the first time last week.
Mayor George Harvie delivered the acknowledgement for the first time on Monday, May 10, after council voted unanimously to adopt the practice on April 12. On hand via Zoom to mark the occasion were Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Ken Baird, Musqueam Indian Band Chief Wayne Sparrow, TFN executive council member Valerie Cross and TFN CAO Braden Smith.
The acknowledgment, which was developed by city staff in collaboration with the Tsawwassen First Nation and Musqueam Indian Band, will be made at the start of each council/committee meeting and City of Delta event. It reads as follows:
“Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is taking place on the shared, traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the scəw̓aθən (Tsawwassen), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), and other Coast Salish Peoples. We extend our appreciation to these First Nations for the opportunity to hold this meeting here today.”
A Delta staff report notes instituting the practice of making an Indigenous land acknowledgement is “one small step on the path to reconciliation,” and states further actions for addressing reconciliation will be brought to the recently-formed Mayor’s Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism.
In a statement released by the city this week, Chief Baid expressed his appreciation for the many opportunities that the TFN and City of Delta have had to “collaborate and produce better outcomes for all involved.”
“From community safety to recreational activities, our people are better off for having found ways to work together. In taking this step to acknowledge our territory, Delta is displaying its ongoing commitment to the Tsawwassen Treaty, the Tsawwassen people and our shared future in this beautiful place that we are fortunate to call home,” Baird said in a press release.
Chief Sparrow, meanwhile, said he was pleased the City of Delta is officially acknowledging the long-standing relationships that the Musqueam and Tsawwassen have with this territory which all three now all share as neighbours.
“xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) and scəw̓aθən (Tsawwassen) have worked hard for thousands of years to protect the lands and waters of our ancestors,” Sparrow said in a press release. “In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Musqueam’s right to fish Canoe Pass in the south arm of the Fraser River near Ladner. The Sparrow Decision set national precedent for Aboriginal rights, and speaks to our constitutionally recognized and protected rights to our territory.
“As we look to the future, meaningful reconciliation will be an ongoing network of renewed relationships rooted in mutual respect and understanding. Musqueam is committed to continuing to work closely with the City of Delta to strengthen our renewed relationship and work towards our shared goals.”
Mayor Harvie said he is grateful for the city’s strong relationships with all First Nations, particularly long-time local partners Tsawwassen and Musqueam.
“We have worked together on numerous initiatives over the years and we are thankful for their support and collaboration when we asked for their assistance to create a meaningful and respectful acknowledgement. I am honoured to have been the first at the city to have said these words in an official capacity, and I am sure everyone who has the opportunity to participate in this practice in the future will feel the same way,” Harvie said in a press release.
According to a report by Delta city staff, 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 motion to adopt the practice in Surrey was narrowly defeated at a council meeting Jan. 11.
The report 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, a practice it has since expanded to included 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.