By KENDALL KING on August 5, 2022.
Potential revisions to the city’s land acknowledgement generated lively discourse between city councillors during Tuesday’s council meeting.
The topic was raised during a Community Vibrancy Advisory Board information briefing, when Coun. Shila Sharps requested an update on the land acknowledgement, something councillors promised to revise at their first meeting last November.
“I really, strongly feel very attached to this land acknowledgement,” Sharps said. “I feel like we are the only municipality which I’ve reached out to and looked at that doesn’t (have a land acknowledgement). And I’d like to see if we can have some further conversation.”
Coun. Ramona Robins, a member of the city’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, responded to Sharps, explaining the council is awaiting recommendations from committee members about the scope of the land acknowledgement, including when and where it will be spoken, and by whom.
Committee members currently include Indigenous Elders, MÃ©tis Knowledge Keepers and members of the CVAB, which the committee is an ad hoc of.
“The acknowledgement should mean something to the person saying it,” said Robins. “And we want to make sure it’s connected to our community. The difficulty we’re having, to a certain extent, is who assesses that in our Indigenous community? A lot of the leaders in our Indigenous community are not from Medicine Hat.
“They come from different places. They come to work here and provide us wisdom … But really the focus should be on people who lived on this treaty territory, and what they think an acknowledgement would mean.”
While councillors expressed understanding at the necessity of local Indigenous community members feedback, Couns. Knodel and Sharps inquired if there was a way to streamline policy revision/implementation processes for “action items” like the land acknowledgement.
“I just feel like we can move this a little bit faster,” said Sharps. “I feel like sometimes we get caught up in analysis paralysis. And I know that we, as an organization, have to be careful and diligent, but there is a call to action here.”
In agreement was Coun. Robert Dumanowski, who warned against delays stemming from bureaucratic procedure.
“I think what we don’t want (is to) hurriedly develop one and put it out there and then be criticized for cutting off something critical or not (saying something) the right way,” said Dumanowski. “But I think the bigger issue, for me, is not doing anything.
“We all want this. And so, in our desire to earnestly get this out there and to do it correctly, we are stepping on our own toes. (But) a land acknowledgement is an easy one. It’s an easy win for all of us in the sense that it’s meaningful and we all have a desire to do it.”
City manager Glenn Feltham closed the discussion with a pledge to look into the status of the land acknowledgement prior to the next scheduled council meeting.
No date was set as to when the revised land acknowledgement may debut.
The City of Medicine Hat’s existing land acknowledgement was developed in 2018 and approved by former council members in March 2021.
Three sentences in length, the acknowledgement can be used in verbal or written form and is intended to open any events or documents relating to the history of local Indigenous and MÃ©tis peoples. However, current policy expressly prohibits the use of the statement “in token fashion or as a platitude at every meeting or gathering or in every document or email.”