Opening Words and Land Acknowledgement

The Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination respectfully recognizes and acknowledges the relationship that the First Nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada have with the land all Canadians live on and enjoy.

Each weekly Advisory Panel meeting begins with a formal opening; following a valued tradition from many First Nations, Inuit and Métis, we use a short form of the HaudenosauneeFootnote 1 Ohenten Kariwatekwen, the “words spoken before all others.” It helps us clear our minds, honour creation, and remember our responsibilities towards the land, its peoples, and our mission. Most importantly, it brings our minds together from the various individual journeys we are all on so that we can walk together for a short time. Our Advisory Panel colleague, Aronhia:nens Derek Montour has kindly guided us through this practice of gratitude, turning our minds "towards Mother Earth and her beautiful dress, towards the oceans, seas and rivers and all the creatures who live within them, towards vegetation and land-loving creatures as well as those who fly in the sky, and towards the Four Winds, our Elder Brother the Sun, our Grandfathers the thunder beings, our Grandmother Moon, and our Creator, however imagined."

We would like to express our appreciation to Aronhia:nens Derek Montour for gifting us with this wondrous ritual that, every week, grounds us and connects our minds. It also reminds us that each of the 634 different First Nations communities, 53 Inuit communities and 8 Métis settlements have a unique historical, cultural, spiritual and environmentally sustainable connection to the land that their people and ancestors have inhabited since time immemorial.

We encourage all Canadians and visitors to these lands to learn about and regularly acknowledge the historic and current relationship that exists between the unceded land on which we live and work and the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. We also encourage all Canadians to consider how they can personally contribute to Canada’s reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

A complete English version of the Ohenten Kariwatekwen is attached at Annex A.


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