Frequently Asked Questions

by Cash Ahenakew

I am Dr. Cash Ahenakew, you can have an idea about the work that I do in Indigenous health, wellbeing and education in this video. As an Indigenous academic, I have compiled below a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) that I have received in my courses, in conferences I attended, and in interactions with colleagues and students. Most of these questions came from non-Indigenous people. Please note that the responses represent my own opinions; other Indigenous people may see things very differently. You may find some Indigenous people who will have harsher responses, others will have the opposite.

Research-related questions

As a non-Indigenous person, should I use Indigenous methodologies in my research?

This is a difficult and controversial question. In my personal view, it is ok for non-Indigenous people to draw on Indigenous methodologies to carry out their research as long as they understand and acknowledge that, because they have not been socialized in Indigenous protocols, ceremonies, relationship building and sensibilities, their use of these methodologies will likely be completely different from what was originally intended by Indigenous peoples. I advise my students to position themselves clearly and with a lot of cultural humility when they approach this issue in their work. Many times, I advise them to say that their research methodologies were “inspired by” or “informed by” Indigenous approaches rather than say that they are “using” these approaches. Some Indigenous people think that non-Indigenous people using Indigenous methodologies is inappropriate and a form of cultural appropriation. Sometimes I also tell students that Indigenous methodologies do not fit their project. This depends on what they want to do and how they are positioning themselves in relation to Indigenous peoples. It is important not to treat Indigenous methodologies as a product in a supermarket shelf of methodologies that consumers can choose from.

I want to work with Indigenous people for my research and in the future, where should I start?

Learn about colonialism, how your history and positionality intersect with it and are shaped by it, then educate yourself about Indigenous struggles way before you start to attempt to build relationships. Learn about how different Indigenous peoples “read you” as a settler in Canada. The real starting point for you is learning to build relationships differently, in ways that are grounded on trust, respect, reciprocity, consent and accountability (see Kyle Whyte‘s work). This form of relationship building neither deficit theorizes (or pathologizes) nor idealizes (or romanticizes) Indigenous (or non-Indigenous) peoples. Most Indigenous people operate from different senses and sensibilities than settlers (see the bricks and threads analogy on the Towards Braiding book). Be mindful that you will be building relationships in a context of historical conflict and therefore you should not expect Indigenous people to be necessarily excited about you wanting to engage with them or with your research project. Be aware that, given the violent history of settler-Indigenous relations in Canada, there could be legitimate mistrust and resentment towards settlers in Canada, particularly researchers . Many researchers have engaged with Indigenous communities before, only to cause a lot of damage (see Eve Tuck‘s work).  If you decide to do it, you will likely be seen with some suspicion and building trust can take years, even for Indigenous researchers working in their own communities. Therefore, if you are planning to involve Indigenous people in your research 3 years into the future, you start building community relations now, so that the Indigenous peoples/communities can guide you as to what kind of research they would be interested in collaborating with you around.

What would ethical research in collaboration with Indigenous peoples look like?

We still see the colonial pattern whereby non-Indigenous students and even professional researchers decide on a research topic of their own choice related to Indigenous people without understanding the context or consulting the Indigenous community, and they expect Indigenous individuals or communities to help them complete their projects – and be grateful for the “opportunity” to do so. These non-Indigenous students/researchers usually think that their research project is a way of “helping” Indigenous communities, but the communities may see it very differently: they may see these students/researchers as treating them as “data” to be harvested, which extracts time and resources from the community. They may also see the research as something that uses their suffering to build someone’s academic career. Research projects that are not sensitive to these issues often ask Indigenous peoples (as “research subjects”) to work for free, which is a very common form of cognitive exploitation. If you are going to do research with Indigenous peoples, make sure that you have long-standing relationships, that you have a system of reciprocity that serves the Indigenous people you are working with on their terms, and that, preferably, your research is effectively led by Indigenous peoples’ concerns. Most Indigenous people will say “nothing about us without us“. Some Indigenous people will say that all Indigenous research should be led by Indigenous researchers. Especially if you are new to this, it is important to keep in mind that this is difficult work that requires a lot of unlearning. As this unlearning happens, people usually make a lot of mistakes. While mistakes are important and inevitable, the most responsible thing to do is to be humble and attentive to the different types of labor that your un/learning creates for other people. It is also important to accept responsibility when you do make a mistake, and learn from it so as not to repeat the same mistake again.

Other resources: I highly recommend the SSHRC document “Chapter 9: Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada” if you are thinking about going in this direction. You can also find useful resources at the UBC Indigenous Research Support Initiative: https://irsi.ubc.ca/. The poem “Wanna be an ally” talks about the difficult things that are necessary to build ethical relations with Indigenous communities.

I have a methodology, process or practice that is very relational (or ecological) and I believe that Indigenous people would benefit from what I have to offer them. Where can I find Indigenous individuals or communities that want to collaborate with me?

Indigenous relationality and ecological sensibilities are different across and within communities. The stereotypes of the Indigenous eco-warrior and of the Indigenous shaman who brings peace to the world, although still useful in certain contexts, are idealizations that romanticize Indigenous struggles and undermine Indigenous self-determination in the long run. There are many non-Indigenous people who believe that their practices or methodologies can map onto Indigenous practices and methodologies, but their understanding is based on stereotypes and false and harmful equivalences between non-Indigenous and Indigenous knowledges. Indigenous practices and methodologies are complex and multi-layered and they require a lifetime of discipline for someone to have even a basic understanding of them. Unfortunately, the desire to collaborate in this way is a colonial and paternalistic desire that is understood by many Indigenous people to be a way of instrumentalizing and appropriating their knowledges for non-Indigenous agendas (which I’ve written about here). Engagements with Indigenous knowledges should be grounded in ethical and political commitments to support Indigenous peoples’ self-determination, and relational commitments to approach those knowledges with humility, reciprocity, and accountability. Because non-Indigenous peoples’ desire for collaboration on these problematic terms is so common – Indigenous peoples receive lots of requests like this – we have had to develop strategies to refuse engagement, so you will probably face a lot of Indigenous silence or non-compliance if you insist on this approach. You can read more about the problematic nature of consuming Indigenous knowledges here.

If I take many courses on Indigenous knowledges and research, or if I do my research on Indigenous issues, will I be able to find a job in the future in areas related to Indigeneity?

Jobs advertised with an Indigenous title are expected to be filled by Indigenous people, often Indigenous peoples from Canada (First Nations, Metis or Inuit). Fields like Indigenous Studies will also look for Indigenous scholars (especially from the local area) for their open positions. If you are not Indigenous from Canada, it will be almost impossible to be chosen for a job advertised with an Indigenous title in Canada. Having said that, it may be really useful and valuable to have courses related to Indigenous issues on your transcript or your CV.  Since the Canadian government has declared its commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, and many institutions and organizations have started to engage in processes of Indigenization, and decolonization, it is fair to say that Indigenous issues are now part of any job within and outside of academia in Canada. Therefore, educating yourself about Indigenous knowledges and research may indicate to employers that you are better prepared for the challenges ahead in any job, and for working ethically with Indigenous peoples in any sector.

I have taken courses on the two eyed seeing approach and I feel pretty confident that I can work well with Indigenous peoples. Do you recommend the two-eyed seeing approach?

Unfortunately, there is no approach or formula that will work in all contexts, all times and/or for all Indigenous peoples. In my view, the Two-Eyed Seeing approach has been really important as a first step when people are starting to notice the differences between settler and Indigenous ways of doing, thinking, relating and being. It also interrupts the desire by some settlers to want to “integrate” Indigenous knowledges into Western frames to create a revised universal truth. However, inevitably, especially in order to be intelligible to non-Indigenous peoples, it has simplified the issue in order to offer an entry-point into the subject. Since its introduction, Two-Eyed seeing has been taken up and used in many different ways by both Indigenous peoples and settlers. Some of these ways have been non-generative, for instance, when settlers approach “Indigenous knowledge” in pan-Indigenous ways that fail to acknowledge that there are not just two ways of seeing, but multiple different Indigenous knowledges as well as other non-Western knowledges – and different Western knowledges or paradigms as well. Sometimes settlers have claimed that they as individual knowers are engaged in Two-Eyed Seeing, rather than understanding it as a means of bringing together the insights of different knowledge communities, in ways that respect the value of those knowledges and the integrity of each. At its most generative, a Two-Eyed seeing approach can serve as an interruption of the common desire for universal knowledge, and a reminder of the situated nature of all knowledges and ways of knowing (seeing). Respect for (onto)epistemological pluralism can be found in many Indigenous knowledge systems (Andreotti, Ahenakew & Cooper, 2013; Reid et al., 2021). Settlers who want to apply Two-Eyed seeing as a universal or pan-Indigenous approach will likely face many push-backs, especially from Indigenous peoples. Nowadays, as the discussion about settler-Indigenous relations has become more complex and is also changing at a faster pace, it is important to pay attention to  the depth of the challenges and the difficulties of settler-Indigenous relations.

Teaching Indigenous content

How do we apply what we have been taught in your courses in K-12 schools?

If you have gone through teacher education you will probably expect my courses to give you something safe (guidelines or resources) that can be applied in the classroom. However, graduate education, especially in Educational Studies, is about interrogating “common sense”: your ideas, positionality, society, institutions, schooling, and also interrupting the desire for formulaic answers. In graduate studies, students are expected to go through their studies unpacking what they knew before in order to develop the depth and breadth of understanding to decide for themselves what is the next step for their work in their own contexts. When they leave the course, they are better prepared to face the fact that things are complex and complicated, and that very often even the best “solutions” create unanticipated problems. The intention is that this preparation will prevent you from becoming immobilized by this complexity, and instead enable you to make difficult, context-specific, self-reflexive, “imperfect” interventions in practice, and further, to accept responsibility for the outcomes (both intended and unintended) of your choices. Each K-12 school/context will need something specific to meet contextual needs. In addition, while I understand that the question comes from a place of someone wanting to do the right thing, this can also be considered an unfair question to ask of Indigenous people.

As a non-Indigenous teacher, should I be teaching Indigenous content?

If Indigenous content is a requirement element of your curriculum, then you will need to teach it. My courses prepare you to identify the ways to do it that can be harmful, but it does not tell you what the “right” way is, because that depends on the context. If you have to integrate Indigenous content into your curriculum, the right answer for your context will depend on a number of factors like: the quality of relations with the school’s local Indigenous communities, the degree of support from principals and other teachers, the availability and willingness of Indigenous people to work in partnership with you (and the availability of resources to compensate them for their time and labour), the availability and quality of resources and support for teachers, the training available for this kind of work, the stamina of everyone involved for a long and difficult process, etc. Perhaps a more useful question could be “What is the most responsible small next step for me to take in my context?” The courses I teach aim to prepare you to engage with Indigenous peoples and Indigenous content through an approach rooted in cultural humility, self-reflexivity, and an understanding of the depth of the challenges and the difficulties of Indigenous relations today. The courses are also designed to prepare you to role-model for your students and colleagues the importance of building relations with Indigenous peoples based in trust, respect, reciprocity, consent and accountability.


Learning about colonialism

Should we ask Indigenous people to teach us about colonialism?

The answer is “it depends”. While non-Indigenous people unquestionably need to learn about the historical, systemic and on-going violence of colonialism, retelling stories of harm can be very re-traumatizing for Indigenous people and many are refusing to do this heavy  work, although others do it professionally (and often get burned out).  Pages 41-54 in the Towards Braiding book give an overview of what to consider when inviting Indigenous people to teach, including appropriate compensation for Indigenous people’s time, labour and expertise.

Non-Indigenous people can do some of this homework on their own by engaging with videos, recorded testimonies, and books. Although learning about histories of harm is really important, it is insufficient to change the colonial ways people have been conditioned to think, feel, hope and relate.  In other words: interrupting colonialism is not about changing one’s “mind”, but changing one’s way of relating to oneself, to other beings, to the land and to the world at large. Having good pedagogical containers for this life-long and life-wide unlearning is not the same as participating in a reading club. I recommend the book “Hospicing Modernity: Facing humanity’s wrongs and the implications for social activism” as a source of good pedagogical containers.

Should I participate in Indigenous ceremonies, if I am invited?

While many Indigenous people really enjoy sharing their cultural practices and ceremonies, some Indigenous people are also against this type of sharing, their reason being that non-Indigenous people tend to selectively extract and “consume” Indigenous content and sometimes even go on to sell it to other people. This is complex and complicated; therefore, the answer to this question will depend on the context and the quality of relationships that you have. In chapter 3 of the Scarring the Soul Wound book I give a few guidelines for non-Indigenous people who want to partake in Indigenous ceremonies based on a course at UBC where we take students to witness a Sun Dance ceremony. The poem “Wanna be an ally” talks about the difficult things that are necessary to build ethical relations with Indigenous individuals and communities, if you wish to become an ally.

Why do we have to learn about depressing things that happened in the past? Why can’t we just focus on the future and move on to a better place together? I want to be told what I need to do to get it right and not feel guilty about something that I did not do.

These are very common feelings that arise and that need to be acknowledged before anything can happen. If we do not understand the past, what brought us here, we will continue to repeat it. Education is usually thought of as something that should make us happy and more fulfilled, but this kind of learning about the past is difficult, uncomfortable and often painful. Our formal education has mostly failed in preparing us to hold space for things that are painful, irritating, and overwhelming without wanting to be rescued from the discomfort. This prevents us from looking at the past and the present with maturity, sobriety, discernment and accountability, which are essential for building more ethical, equitable futures. Although you may feel that you did not do anything wrong in relation to Canada’s colonial history, you still benefit from the wrongs that were done in the past and the wrongs that continue in the present. Our livelihoods are underwritten by a system that is not only harmful to Indigenous communities, but also unsustainable for the continuity of life on a finite planet. We all have the responsibility to interrupt the violence, to repair relationships (including the relationship with the land and with non-human beings), and to be accountable: to learn from past wrongs, to address the present impact of those wrongs, and to only make new mistakes in the future, taking into account our responsibilities to current and future generations.

I am an international student and I wish to immigrate to Canada one day. I have never been told about the terrible things that have happened to Indigenous people in Canada. Do you have any advice for people like me?

What happened to Indigenous people here and around the world may also be a topic that is new for Canadian settlers who have been here for generations – and some people would prefer not to know. There may be similar patterns in your country of origin, of violent parts of history that are not told in history textbooks. If you immigrate to Canada then you will be part of a settler-colonial system – you will also be a settler and you will benefit from a system that systemically dispossess Indigenous peoples. You need to learn about your responsibilities and build stamina for the long road ahead. The “Letter to prospective immigrants to what is known as Canada” offers a good short synthesis of the colonial past and present of Canada and how colonialism benefits settlers at the expense of Indigenous peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and the accompanying Calls to Action are also great starting points.

How does colonialism manifest in day to day interactions at the institution? What does decolonization look like? How can you identify the working of colonialism when we have been conditioned to see it as normal?

Colonialism manifests in people’s narratives and behaviour (what they say, do, expect and value, what they are able to hear, how they plan, organise, and evaluate, and how they communicate, interpret and process information), affective patterns (what they want/desire, hope for, fear, aspire to, the boundaries of what they can imagine, what hey experience as wellbeing and how they process traumas) and relational patterns (what and how they feel connected and accountable to, how they relate t the land and to living and dying). In the book Towards Braiding there is a basic distinction between brick and thread sensibilities that I find very useful as a conversation starter about the differences between Indigenous and non-indigenous ways of knowing and being. As for decolonization, I think it is premature to try to imagine what decolonization looks like when our livelihoods are underwritten by colonialism and when our imagination and capacity to imagine have also been colonized. We need to start the work of interrupting colonial patterns so that we can open up the possibility that a form of decolonization (beyond what we can imagine today) becomes possible in the future.This demands that we have a different approach to change. The fact that we want to know and have guarantees about where we will arrive in order to start the journey is also a colonial pattern. I believe the path is made by walking, by trial and error, and the most important things about it will be the ones we stumble upon (the ones we could not have imagined at the beginning of the journey).

Questions about Indigenous identities

I am white passing, have no contact with Indigenous communities, but I have an Indigenous grandparent. Should I identify as an Indigenous person?

We need to look at this situation in many layers. In one layer, colonialism is probably the reason why you have no contact with your Indigenous heritage, so, at a basic level, it is up to you to decide how to relate to the Indigenous heritage of your family; this is nobody’s business. In another layer, claiming Indigeneity is also a political act that places you in a context of historical and on-going struggle where your legitimacy and credibility will depend on many factors, including the relationships you may or may not have with the community you are claiming association with. In another layer, since many institutions are hiring Indigenous people, claiming Indigeneity is also done for reasons related to economic/career opportunities. This is where it gets even more complicated because organizations will generally prefer to hire people who have a sensibility that is closer to theirs. Therefore, rather than hiring someone who grew up in a reserve, who has lived experience of the challenges faced by the communities and/or who speaks an Indigenous language as a first language, organizations will prefer to hire people who identify as Indigenous who have had a middle-class upbringing, who are cis-gender, heterosexual and white passing, who can write in perfect standard English, and who they feel will go along with business as usual (and not challenge them too much). Whatever you decide to do in this case, there will be Indigenous people who will support your decision, and others who will criticize that decision. My courses try to prepare you to understand why this is complex and how different Indigenous groups might read you, but only you can decide what to do.

I identify as an Indigenous person in another country. How should I frame my Indigeneity in the Canadian context? Should I apply for Indigenous scholarships and jobs?

If you are Indigenous to a place outside of what is today known as Canada, then it is important to clearly situate yourself as Indigenous from “[x]” country when you are claiming Indigeneity. You may also decide not to claim Indigeneity in Canada in order to respect the struggles and the space of voice of the Indigenous peoples here or to acknowledge your status also as a settler (if this is the case). Indigenous peoples in Canada will have differing opinions as to whether or not you should apply for Indigenous jobs and resources. Some Indigenous people in Canada believe that only Indigenous people who are from here should take positions identified as being for Indigenous people, or that at the very least, they should be prioritized; others suggest that the people who fill these positions should be not just Indigenous to Canada, but also local to the area; still others believe that it is important to have Indigenous peoples from around the world in these roles. As is the case with many other questions, the answer to this question depends on the context, and you will need to decide for yourself whether or not to apply – understanding that those making the decisions have their own answers to this question.

I hear about people being called “pretendians”. How can we recognize Indigenous fraud and what can we do about it? 

This is a tricky question, but an important one. Particularly as more (still limited and conditional) opportunities and resources become available for Indigenous peoples, there are instances of non-Indigenous people making false claims to Indigeneity in order to access those opportunities and resources. In some cases, the people making these claims have identified a distant ancestor who they claim was Indigenous; in some cases, they actually do have such an ancestor, in other cases, these claims are entirely made up. In either case, however, the individuals in question lack any contemporary relational connection to Indigenous communities. Most Indigenous peoples believe that Indigenous belonging is not something that one can unilaterally claim, based on affinity, ancestry, or DNA; rather, it is based on whether or not one is claimed as a member by a contemporary Indigenous community.

It is important that everyone, including non-Indigenous people, be aware of this pattern, including as they are making hiring decisions. However, this is also tricky because there is a risk of non-Indigenous people positioning themselves as the arbiters of Indigenous identity. Institutions that seek to hire Indigenous peoples should develop clear and transparent policies around Indigenous hiring practices in consultation with Indigenous members of their institutions, so as to defer to Indigenous protocols for claiming community membership, rather than merely relying on individual self-identification.

Aren’t we all Indigenous to some place?

The statement that “we are all Indigenous to some place” was originally used in the 60s and 70s to elicit support and solidarity for Indigenous struggles, but in today’s context it is used to undermine Indigenous struggles, as it delegitimizes the unique circumstances of Indigenous peoples’ claims. In Turtle Island, similar to the “all lives matter” movement, the claim that “we are all Indigenous” has become a form of delegitimization of the struggles of people who live under settler occupation. UNDRIP defines Indigenous peoples as: “inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.” Many Indigenous people have asked allies to consider the impact of general claims to Indigeneity on Indigenous communities and struggles today.


Contemporary challenges

Why are there so many problems in Indigenous communities?

First, I should point out the risk of approaching the challenges that Indigenous communities face in “damage-centered” ways, as Eve Tuck points out. Many of the problems that Indigenous communities face have their roots in the historical and ongoing effects of colonization, including residential schools, forced displacement from and dispossession of their ancestral lands, and various forms of state and state-sanctioned social, psychological, sexual, spiritual, and epistemological violence. When we invisibilize these histories and ongoing legacies of colonial harm that contribute to contemporary problems, we invisibilize the fact those who are culpable for this violence – which includes not only the Canadian state and Canadian institutions (including the educational, healthcare, and justice systems), but also individual settlers who continue to benefit from its effects – have yet to adequately acknowledge, let alone redress, this harm. In this sense, what appear to be “Indigenous” problems are actually problems of colonization that will require sustained efforts and resources to address them. That said, Indigenous peoples need to lead efforts to address these problems, rather than have solutions imposed on them from the outside. Indigenous peoples continue to seek justice and healing on their own terms.


Life-in-general questions

I try to listen to Indigenous people but I hear many conflicting things. How to make sense of all this complexity?

Part of the work of engaging with Indigenous epistemologies is learning to accept that Indigenous communities are heterogeneous, just as non-Indigenous communities are; and Indigenous individuals are complex, just as non-Indigenous individuals are. There is no one “Indigenous perspective”. This is difficult for some non-Indigenous people to accept, not only because people come to this work with their own preconceived ideas about what Indigenous people want and think, but also because they are often seeking to instrumentalize Indigenous perspectives toward a particular end. As a result, complexity and heterogeneity tend to get erased or flattened, and people may simply choose the Indigenous perspective that is most convenient for their own agenda. Alternatively, non-Indigenous people sometimes weaponize this complexity and heterogeneity against Indigenous peoples – suggesting that, for example, if Indigenous communities do not have consensus, then there is no point in consulting with them at all. I design my courses in ways that can help students to engage with the complexity and heterogeneity of Indigenous people and communities in responsible ways.

What’s wrong with romanticizing Indigenous people?

The question of what is wrong with romanticizing Indigenous people relates to the above question about the complexity and heterogeneity of Indigenous peoples and communities. Often times, people think that the antidote to the pathologization of Indigenous peoples is the romanticization of Indigenous peoples. However, in many ways romanticization is the mirror image of pathologization: rather than treating Indigenous peoples as less than human, or sub-human, it treats them as super-human. This is harmful for two reasons. One, it is not generally sustainable; while idealized images of Indigenous people can have a short-term impact of eliciting support from non-Indigenous peoples, this support is conditional on Indigenous people living up to an (unrealistic) image or expectation. Thus, when they inevitably contradict this image, the support tends to quickly evaporate. Two, it is an unfair burden to project onto Indigenous people one’s own idea of what they should be, usually based on what is useful to you. In reality, Indigenous people are, like all other people, complex and contradictory. And like all other people, have within us the capacity for both wonderful and problematic things. Support for decolonization or Indigenous rights cannot be conditional upon romanticized images of Indigenous individuals or communities; this support likely can only be viable and sustainable if they are rooted in a commitment to recognize and redress historical and ongoing injustices at the systemic level.

How should I raise my children as settlers/immigrants in Canada in ways that do not increase the harm towards Indigenous peoples?

The day that I received this question was the day that I had finished unpacking in a new rental at the terrace floor in a building in Wesbrook Village at UBC. That evening I saw and heard my neighbours’ children playing outside. They came close to my window making the usual sounds associated with Indians in cowboy films. This is something that used to happen a lot as I was growing up. I was really upset. I had to endure that for a while – the parents only called the children in at 9:30 pm. The parents were not paying attention to what was going on. Although there is no formula for raising children, one thing I can say is “pay attention”. Don’t assume your children are just innocent and beautiful – they are a sponge for societal prejudices, they are exposed to put-down cultures, they can be cruel. Do not shield them from the colonial history; instead, find age-appropriate ways to talk about what has happened and what is happening. Find ways to prepare them for the difficulties of repairing relations, help them to develop resilience, generosity, and humility. With the children in my family I like to watch a few films that show the violence against Indigenous children in sensitive ways. I use it to open conversations. I have to confess that I also enjoy watching “Brother Bear”,  “Moana” and even “Frozen 2” (all cartoons that address Indigenous issues), but the conversations that we need to have after these cartoons must address how these cartoons were made for Western consumption, and we need to interrogate how they present a particular palatable image of Indigenous peoples, how they reproduce Western ways of being in their attempt to represent Indigenous practices, and the implications of stereotypes that may be more positive, but may not represent how Indigenous peoples would have chosen to represent themselves.

How can land acknowledgements be more meaningful and less tokenistic?

Several Indigenous scholars have identified the limitations of land acknowledgements that do not invite the audience to consider their responsibilities as settlers towards local Indigenous nations (see for example Chelsea Vowel‘s blog and a recent article in Curriculum Inquiry by Joe Wark). My personal position is that land acknowledgements should be done in a way that acknowledges the violence towards the land and towards the Indigenous people of the land. The land acknowledgement should also support the wish and struggle of Indigenous people to have their lands returned to them, as well as the wish of the lands to return to their people. I have recently started adding a sentence to the land acknowledgements that I offer to that effect: “I support the struggle of [Indigenous nation or group] to have their lands returned to them”.