Minutes of meetings of Carleton University’s Senate and Carleton University’s Board of Governors now all begin with the following words:
Carleton University acknowledges and respects the Algonquin people, traditional custodian of the land on which the Carleton University campus is situated.
I agree that it is respectful to acknowledge that Carleton physically occupies traditional Algonquin lands, but the manner in which this is officially recognized seems disrespectful and disingenuous. The above statement appears in minutes to official meetings, yet such acknowledgments are never articulated verbally at the meetings. It is a blatant lie including statements in minutes that were never uttered at the meeting. Acknowledgment of Carleton being on Algonquin lands is boilerplate dicta in minutes, seemingly written as a public relations ploy, not said in any meaningful manner. Anishinaabe traditions are like all other Turtle Island (North American) traditions in being oral. Including acknowledgment of Carleton being on Algonquin lands in written form, but not oral form, therefore seems disrespectful. Respect is often gained through ceremony, not mere boilerplate watermark that is inappropriately placed in minutes of a meeting in which no acknowledgement was verbally offered nor tobacco offered.
Meetings of Senate and Board of Governors should begin with the oral tradition of the university acknowledging the lands shared by our Algonquin neighbours (whether this sharing is voluntary or involuntary is another matter). This would take an extra 10-15 seconds each meeting. Until that is done, if the written acknowledgment only appears as false boilerplate at the top of minutes, I will take 30 seconds each meeting to highlight this hypocrisy and vote against approval of such minutes. And maybe I will also take an additional 10-15 seconds to acknowledge Carleton being on unceded Algonquin lands.
When I complained about this matter at the 28 November 2014 meeting of Carleton University’s Senate, the university president replied that I could propose a motion for consideration at the 30 January 2015 meeting of Senate mandating oral acknowledgment at all subsequent meetings. However her recommendation is totally misguided. Universities should not compel people’s speech. We might as well compel a confession using torture. One cannot mandate respect. Respect has to come from the heart. University management and the executive of the Board of Governors need to decide for themselves what constitutes respect for our Anishinaabe neighbours. I will not propose a motion to prevent the university’s so-called leaders from being disrespectful of our Indigenous students, colleagues, and neighbours.
Some readers will deem this blog posting trivial and my recommendation needlessly time-consuming. Yet I argue that oral acknowledgment of Carleton University being on traditional Algonquin lands is no more trivial and time-consuming than the pleasantries of greeting one another. It is no more trivial and time-consuming than adding the supposedly content-less word ‘please’ or giving thanks. This is all part of being a member of a respectful community.