Recognizing Aboriginal people as traditional stewards of the land is an important part of showing respect for the First Nations of British Columbia. There are a variety of ways to acknowledge Aboriginal traditional stewards, which fall into two categories:
- Welcome to the (shared) traditional territory
- Acknowledgment of (shared) traditional territory.
In the context of Aboriginal cultures, “traditional territory” refers to a specific place within British Columbia and not British Columbia itself. Over 30 Aboriginal language groups are represented across British Columbia. Traditional territory refers to “this” place, the traditional language group of the area where the event is held. The welcome follows a traditional protocol for Aboriginal nations where people entering another’s traditional territory (language area) would seek permission from the traditional stewards and they would be welcomed to the area through an opening ceremony. Today, non‐Aboriginal populations who are not originally from British Columbia are also welcomed to the traditional territory for the purpose of the events, and as a part of a continuing protocol, which is maintained and observed through Aboriginal communities across British Columbia.
Practices such as welcome to the traditional territory and acknowledgement of the traditional territory enable the wider community to share in Aboriginal cultures, and lead to better community relationships and understanding. Observing these practices connects participants with the traditional territory, and provides a welcoming atmosphere and spiritual presence to the land upon which people are meeting. It also reinforces the place of Aboriginal perspectives within policies and procedures.
In efforts to improve relationships with Aboriginal people and communities, locals should take the responsibility of finding out who the local Aboriginal people are. Invite the Aboriginal people to open your meeting with traditional words or a song. If you are hosting a local meeting or a workshop, take the time to acknowledge the Aboriginal people on whose territory you are speaking. This gesture pays respect to the Aboriginal people in your local.