Decolonialize your wedding! Acknowledging Indigenous territory at your wedding #Advice#cultural appropriation#multicultural July 8 2016 | Guest post by Alexis Deighton MacIntyre Photo from Whyte Museum, Banff, Canadian Rockies | Photo by PunkToad — CC BY 2.0 When my partner and I discussed the elements we'd like to see in our wedding ceremony, a land acknowledgement was one of the first things that came to mind. If you've attended some form of government or publicly sponsored event in Canada recently, this may already be familiar to you. Before beginning an activity, the historic and present affiliation of the region is verbally recognized by whoever is facilitating as the ancestral territory of the local First People. Wait, what? If this isn't something that happens where you live, fear not! Here's a short introduction. Related Post Are the gifts I'm getting for my attendants cultural appropriation? I'm thinking about buying my bridal party luchador masks. But here's the deal: I am not Mexican. I am a fan of the wrestling style,... Read more At first encounter, European colonizers did not find the terra nullius, or "nobody's land," that they considered North America to be. Rather, flourishing and long-standing societies with diverse and distinct cultural practices, knowledge, and belief systems were already well in place. First Peoples in Canada include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, and many of these groups signed treaties with settlers that were later dishonoured or outright broken by the latter. Although terminology varies by region, a similar story unfolded in the United States, as well as other parts of the so-called New World. As non-Indigenous residents seized control and formed what would become dominions of the British Empire, vastly damaging and institutionalized racist policies wreaked havoc. From residential schools rife with abuse, to legal disenfranchisement, to the Potlatch Ban, and beyond, only recently have the atrocities of the past few centuries begun to be addressed. So, what does this have to do with your wedding? A wedding land acknowledgement is an expressive gesture of reconciliation, respect, and goodwill. Many non-Indigenous Canadians (and Americans, Australians, et cetera) are unaware of the legacy of colonialization, or its stifling and pervasive presence today. Taking pause to reflect upon the land's special relationship with the First People who hold its stewardship is a way of raising awareness of their historical, legal, and rightful claim. It also presents an opportunity to thank the host First People for their hospitality towards you and your guests during this momentous occasion. Related Post Tradition, confusion, and appropriation: Changing your name in an intercultural marriage There’s a lot to consider when contemplating a name change, of course: personal branding, publications if you’re an writer, your spouse’s feelings on the matter,... Read more Neither of us has Indigenous ancestry, so my partner and I contacted an Elder to approve our wording. An Elder is typically a senior individual who is charged with the safekeeping and dissemination of traditional knowledge. Universities are a good place to find a contact from your local First People, if a band administration, tribal council, or similar organization is unavailable. In some situations, an Elder or other person may wish to attend your ceremony themselves, in which case they can welcome attendees in person. If you're lucky enough to experience this, make sure you're aware of proper protocol and etiquette. A small honorarium, donation, or gift of some kind is often a polite way of giving thanks. You can check in with Indigenous or local government or educational institutions for more information. Our ceremony took place in a provincial park that is under the jurisdiction of a First People. However, if your venue is on contested land, you may describe it in your acknowledgement as "unceded territory," which means that the land was never surrendered or otherwise relinquished to colonial power. Determining the status of the location in question is a chance to uncover and better understand a significant aspect of human history that's been hitherto swept under the rug. Here is how we began our wedding land acknowledgement: "Welcome family and friends. Paul and Alexis would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, who have been stewards to this land since time immemorial, and we extend our thanks for this hospitality." Related Post The hobo wedding: why romanticizing certain wedding themes is problematic Two weddings have been causing a stir on the internet lately: the Colonial African wedding (original post removed by photographers) and the Depression-Era Hobo wedding.... Read more Although I write from a Canadian perspective, wherein land acknowledgements are becoming more commonplace, in this small action, you and your partner can contribute to a greater narrative of recognizing Indigenous rights that is gaining momentum all over the world. Taking the time to affirm ancestral territory during what may be one of the most solemn and joyous ceremonies of your life sends a bold message, and yet it's also a force for normalizing the dialogue surrounding how colonization continues to affect us all. This act of recognition is a sober, yet hopeful statement of solidarity, regard, and community. What could be more appropriate in celebrating a marriage? Why do couples borrow cultural elements for their wedding, and how can you do so respectfully? Many Anglo-Americans have such a mishmash of culture that they have few or no traditions that hold significant meaning for them. Perhaps people are inclined to like culture, symbolism, rituals,… Read More Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo Alexis Deighton MacIntyre Alexis is a musician and graduate student from Nanaimo, British Columbia. PREVIOUS The giant list of non-barfworthy love poems for weddings NEXT Green sparkly Tinkerbell shoes, no big deal Show/Hide comments [ 5 ] This is an excellent idea! I want to have a commitment ceremony in the area that I grew up in (in southwestern Ontario), an area where acknowledgement would be really important. I will look into this when the time comes! 4 agree Reply GREAT post! Thanks for this. 3 agree Reply Thank you for this! I first experienced a land acknowledgement about a month ago at a graduation ceremony here in Seattle. I found it moving, humble, and beautiful. It definitely felt like the least one could do with regard to righting the numerous wrongs of the past. 3 agree Reply Thank you for this lovely suggestion! I'm also aware that much of the farmland in California was taken from Japanese Americans during internment and never returned or remunerated. What I don't know is how to find out whom to acknowledge! How do I find out in what First Nations territory a piece of land was? Or what the other colonial history is? Any guidance you history buffs out there can offer would be so welcome! 2 agree Reply Hi Katherine – here are some maps to start with. They are by no means the be-all-end-all (especially since one is by the government rather than a tribal entity), and my suggestion would be to google to find a tribal council or reservation/rancheria contact, and then explain what you are doing, that you would like to acknowledge the traditional land-holders of the territory in your ceremony/event, and that you are trying to find the best person to talk to in order to find out how they would like you to talk about their tribe/people. That is the approach that I will be taking for my August wedding this year. Best wishes. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/California_tribes_%26_languages_at_contact.png https://www.water.ca.gov/-/media/DWR-Website/Web-Pages/About/Tribal/Files/Maps/California-Indian-Tribal-Homelands-and-Trust-Land-Map.pdf 1 agrees Reply Join the conversation Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Notify me of follow-up comments by email. 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