A Territorial acknowledgement and an apology

I must admit that when I first began planning this project I did not take the time to properly consider the lands through which I would be travelling. On the encouragement of those close to me I have begun to educate myself, and although I am still only at the beginning of this process I would like to offer up the following – a formal acknowledgment of the territories through which the Old Man in a Boat Tour will travel, an apology for my initial insensitivity to these realities, and an overview of what I have learned so far and how it has affected my thinking going forward with this project.

I would like to formally acknowledge, with respect, that all of my journey for the Old Man in a Boat Tour will be over waters and on lands that for thousands of years have been the traditional home and passageways for many Indigenous peoples such as the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg, the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and more recently the Mississaugas of the Credit.

As I travel along the shore of Lake Ontario and the Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW) it will be directly past several First Nations lands and communitiesCurve Lake, Hiawatha-Alderville, and Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations. Further along the route on Lake Simcoe I will pass the Chippewas of Georgina Island and the Chippewas of Rama (formerly M’Njikaning) First Nations.

I would also like to acknowledge and highlight that the very structure and history of the Trent-Severn Waterway coincides with very significant negative effects that the colonization and European settlement of Ontario has had – and continues to have – on these and other Indigenous peoples and nations.

After leaving the TSW, traveling along the shores of Georgian Bay I will pass the Beausoleil First Nation, the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation, the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation (Lake Huron), and on Lake St. Clair the Walpole Island First Nation.

I would like to encourage anyone interested in this project to take time to consider our place on these lands as settlers and beneficiaries of the effects of colonization. This project seeks to raise funds and awareness to protect our natural environments and spaces. All such efforts must be rooted in respect for the Indigenous peoples and nations on whose lands we live and travel. They have long been stewards and protectors of these lands and we have much to learn from them.

I will confess – to my shame – that I started to write this with the goal of making a simple land acknowledgement that was appropriate and respectful and then moving on with other aspects of my fundraising project. A small sailing and boating club I belong to in Toronto has a brief acknowledgement on their website and I thought I could fashion something from that example. Many of the clubs where I have sailed over the years – both large and small and including some on the Trent Severn Waterway (TSW) – have nothing that I could find. I knew little of the history behind the colonization of Ontario and hadn’t ever bothered to find out. My education, as a white student from a middle class background, in the 1960’s and 70’s certainly was not at all concerned with teaching us the histories and present day realities of Indigenous peoples across Ontario and Canada. I had planned the route of my Tour without considering both the locations and the context of my trip. I sincerely apologize for my initial insensitivity, my omissions and my lack of insight and knowledge in these areas when I first began planning this project.  

Here’s what happened to me recently when I tried to obtain more background, particularly on the Indigenous First Nations in and around the TSW. I have provided some of the links below which I found both considerably broadened what I knew, and appalled me by what I hadn’t known or understood.  

Observing a recent live webinar on IPCA (Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas) organized by The Narwhal was a real eye-opener and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in conservation/environmental/First Nation issues. I can’t claim to have, as yet, more than a rudimentary understanding, but I can say that I am going to continue learning and trying to broaden the way I see these important issues. This is something everyone has to decide for themselves – but as Canadians I feel it should be our duty, at the very least, to become better informed. 

When I think back to my original intentions for this trip, I now know, from the research and reading I have done, that I will be travelling with a very different perspective and a second, much different yet equally significant, longer term goal.

Below are some resources I found helpful and that might serve as a starting point for your own learning:

  1.  How to be an Ally of Indigenous Conservation – https://landneedsguardians.ca/how-to-be-an-ally  A very significant and helpful guide.
  1. Reconciliation – https://aocan.org/about-us/reconciliation/  An indigenous perspective on the significant difference between reconciliation and justice.
  1. Profile: Sheryl Lightfoot – https://thenarwhal.ca/sheryl-lightfoot-undrip-expert-mechanism-appointment/  An interview with Sheryl Lightfoot, appointed as an independent Indigenous expert on the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  
  1. Madeline Whetung.  (En)gendering Shoreline Law: Nishnaabeg Relational Politics Along the Trent Severn Waterway.  Global Environmental Politics   Vol 19 Issue 3  August 2019    pg. 16-32 https://doi.org/10.1162/glep_a_00513
  1. Gidigaa Migizi (Doug Williams).  Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg:  This is our Territory.  ARP Books.  Winnipeg, Manitoba.  2018
  1. King, Thomas.  The Inconvenient Indian.  2012.  Anchor Press.  
  1. Water Rat’s Land Acknowledgement – http://www.waterrats.ca/   The Acknowledgement statement from the Water Rat Sailing Club, Toronto.  
  1. Trent Severn Site Management Plan – https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/on/trentsevern/info  A link to the Management plan for the TSW.  A dry read, but interesting more for what’s not in it than what is.  
  1. Statement of Apology for the Impacts of the 1923 Williams Treaties – https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1542393580430/1542393607484  The statement of apology for the impacts of the 1923 Williams Treaties by the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.   November 17, 2018.
  1. Wilderness Committee’s Territorial Acknowledgement – https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/territorial-acknowledgement  The Territorial Acknowledgment statement of the Wilderness Committee (Ontario).
  1. Map of Ontario Treaties and Reserves – https://www.ontario.ca/page/map-ontario-treaties-and-reserves  One source for Treaty information and First Nations’ land claims, provided by the Ontario Government.  It includes a disclaimer “Indigenous communities may have different understandings of the treaties than is represented here”.  This seems to me to be somewhat of an understatement.

Published by Ian C. Robertson

I am a retired Mathematics teacher and formerly a sailing instructor and Instructor-Evaluator with the CYA. I have been planning this fundraising trip for a number of years now, and despite setbacks - notably a cancer diagnosis and the pandemic - I am now at the building stages of a light, wooden, 16 foot rowing and sailing boat for the trip. The trip: 1,3000 km. along Lake Ontario, up through the Trent-Severn Waterway, along Georgian Bay to Lake Huron, through the St. Clair River, Lake Erie, alongside the Welland Canal and back onto Lake Ontario to get home to Grimsby! I am offering to match all donations to the WWF for this trip up to $8,000 and I hope and believe that there are lots of people who will support me and the WWF!

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