let us give thanks for the horn of plenty… of stolen land

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Jasmin Glaw (she/her), also known as Cha Nimke Nagwagin Kwe, is a self-taught indigenous artist and advocate of Algonquin and German decent from Hamilton, ON. She has a Diploma in Journalism and a B.A in French as a Second Language and Minor in Spanish. Jasmin currently works for Right To Play as the Training and Program Development Specialist. As an aspiring artist, she is the creator of cnnkdesigns and much of her work is centralized around the themes of identity, belonging and the teachings of the strawberry.

In looking toward the celebrations planned for the long weekend, many folks are celebrating Thanksgiving. Personally, during my upbringing, this weekend has typically been comprised of any available family member and their kids crammed into my childhood home, stuffing their faces, drinking some wine and nursing some type of turkey hangover. But at the end of the day we were together. 

Thanksgiving is a symbolic tradition for many, no matter the walk of life. But, what are we giving thanks for? What and where are we celebrating? And, how are we using our privilege to unpack the ‘darker’ history of Canada?

In many Indigenous cultures we celebrate the changing of the seasons and thank Creator and Mother Earth for blessing us with a prosperous harvest and bounty to carry into the next season. Giving thanks and giving respect to the land for supporting the livelihood of our communities. Overtime, colonization took this practice and shaped it into something of its own; a celebration of one’s own conquest, admiration toward the Monarch, a Christian ceremony of giving thanks and the list goes on. Each grouping of people recognize and come together to give thanks for many different reasons… but how did y’all forget about the land?

When you are told that you are Indigenous, that this is your land, that you have a spiritual connection to this place and that your honour, health and existence depend on your relationships with that river, those animals, those plants, when you are told that this is the right and good way to live and you are held to account for that culturally and spiritually, and you’re not able or allowed to live out any of that… 

Taiaiake Alfred (PhD—Cornell University)

The Decolonization and Reconciliation Handbook – pg 12

Let’s face it. Reconciliation has become the most over used buzzword in Canada. Active allyship appears to take the form of Canada’s beloved JT making one-off, door to door deliveries of jugs of water in First Nations communities for a photo opp. But don’t forget… you also bought a pipeline. A trickster, that one.

Anyways, let’s bring it back to the land! This Thanksgiving decolonize the breaking of bread by breaking down yours and your families understanding of the land you take up space on.
Here are few prompts and resources to help you in that process,

1 // Why do folks acknowledge the land?

  • To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory you reside on, and a way of honouring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. It is important to understand the long standing history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history. Land acknowledgements do not exist in a past tense, or historical context: colonialism is a current ongoing process, and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation. It is also worth noting that acknowledging the land is Indigenous protocol. (http://www.lspirg.org/knowtheland/

  • Getting to know people, creating a relationship to the place that you are from, the water that you drink...getting to know these things in an intimate way, is what essentially, will change peoples minds, change peoples hearts. Acknowledging the land and water that sustains us and life on Mother Earth is part of becoming a balanced and present human being. Its about honouring and protecting the land and water, honouring ourselves and our bodies. (https://www.whose.land/en/whyacknowledge)

    Nigit'stil Norbert, Gwich'ya Gwich'in, Born and raised in Denendeh, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

  • A land or territorial acknowledgement isn’t something that you just do; it’s not token or empty words. It’s way to honour the historical legacies of host nations and mother earth’s original caretakers, to demonstrate one’s understanding of power and privilege, and it’s a personal journey of unpacking how you’ve come to be here and take up space.

    Jasmin Glaw, Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, born and raised in Hamilton, ON

2 // We might all call Hamilton home, but who are the original caretakers?

  • Whose Land is a web-based app that uses GIS technology to assist users in identifying Indigenous Nations, territories and communities across Canada. Built and nurtured by BOLD Realities, TakingITGlobal and Canadian Roots Exchange in partnership with Native-Land.

  • The Hamilton Urban Indigenous Strategy was developed to strengthen relationships and understanding among all residents about the history, culture, experience and contributions of Indigenous people. For the city’s land acknowledgement, additional resources and upcoming events check out the city’s website.

3 // How do you put words into action?

When we talk about reconciliation, let me be very clear in saying that this is not a noun… it’s verb. To build out your journey toward active allyship and support the dismantlement of colonial structures here are few verbs you can act on to support the indigenous communities within the Hamilton/GTA region.

Support indigenous voices and calls to action //

Buy from indigenous businesses // 

  • Cheekbone Beauty (Online)
    Canadians are beautiful people and many have no idea this funding gap exists. The truth is First Nations children get 30-50% less funds for education than the rest of Canadian children.
    Cheekbone Beauty will be supporting First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada with 10% of profits from all purchases.

Consume indigenous sounds and stories //

Educate yourself on the historical and contemporary realities of Indigenous people in Canada //

Chow down at indigenous restaurants //

  • Healthy Roots Catering (Six Nations)

  • Nish Dish (Tkaronto)

  • Tea N Bannock (Tkaronto)

  • Ku-Kum (Tkaronto)

  • Pow Wow Café (Tkaronto)

For more eats outside of southern Ontario, check out this Food Network article for a few more options. 

At the end of the day, let us take this long weekend to give thanks to those we love and to the land from which the mother earth has nourished us. Because let’s be honest, we were all raised with a tit in our mouth anyways… so let’s respect and honour her.