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Acknowledgment of traditional land

We had the tremendous privilege of being joined by traditional aboriginal elder Cat Criger at Monday’s Prep and Upper School assemblies.

Elder Cat is a traditional teacher and mentor from the First Nations people who works within the Indigenous Centre at the University of Toronto. He’s worked as a traditional teacher and healer for more than 20 years in the native and multicultural communities in Canada, the United States, England, Germany, Poland and Wales.

I gathered a group of faculty to discuss the possibility of introducing an “Acknowledgment of Traditional Land” statement for UCC earlier in the school year. This led to the College partnering with Elder Cat, consultation with groups of boys, and the collaborative development of an acknowledgment statement.

Monday’s assemblies began with Elder Cat conducting a purification smudging ceremony with a small group on stage. Dom Peters (Wedds ’17) delivered a tremendously moving “This I Believe” address, discussing the challenges facing indigenous persons and his own identification as a person of indigenous origin. I had the opportunity to discuss the thoughts behind the development of a unique “Acknowledgment of Traditional Land” statement for UCC, which states:

“We wish to acknowledge this land we gather on today at Upper Canada College. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of many peoples, including the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and more recently the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to gather and learn on this land.”

Elder Cat joined me in a conversation on stage, discussing the importance of land to indigenous peoples and the issues of diversity and inclusion. In both the Prep and the Upper Schools, boys had the opportunity to ask questions of interest and clarification.

We look forward to the “Acknowledgment of Traditional Land” statement being a regular part of the opening of significant assemblies and occasions at UCC long into our future.

Sam McKinney