One Librarian’s Take on Territorial Acknowledgments


By: Karleen Delaurier-Lyle, Information Services Librarian, Xwi7xwa Library

I have worked at Xwi7xwa Library for approximately three years, both as a student worker and as the Information Services Librarian. At the reference desk, I am frequently asked how people can make their research relevant to the land they are on. I humbly offer up this blog post as a place for people to think about themselves, the places they are from, and the land they occupy.

In a recent UBC Centre for Teaching and Learning Technology (CTLT) webinar session called "Centering Indigenous Perspectives in Online Spaces", my supervisor, Sarah Dupont, and I were asked to provide faculty with resources that assist them in centering themselves and locating the traditional territory they are occupying. On the Okanagan and Vancouver campuses, it is a common practice for events, class lectures, and ceremonies to begin with a territorial acknowledgment. Speakers typically position themselves in relation to their acknowledgment by explaining what this means to them; while this makes acknowledgments diverse and deeply personal to an individual, the territories acknowledged from either UBC campuses are almost always the same: either Musqueam or Okanagan.


Currently, the global pandemic has many staff, faculty, and students working remotely on various traditional territories. For some, understanding whose territory you are on, especially as one travels, is an ingrained practice. For others, territorial acknowledgments are a completely new practice. Then, there are folks somewhere in the middle that just want to know how to identify whose land they are on since they are out of their regular routine.

I first learned about territorial acknowledgments as a student at UBC-Okanagan. This work was part of our research, and our research was always tied to who we were. The automatic result of these interwoven concepts meant that you could not shy away from understanding yourself in relation to the land where you are and how this impacts your research. It resulted in memories that sit in me like stones to remind me of times when I was not a good guest to my host nation, but because mistakes are inevitable and paralyzing guilt is unproductive, these are lessons learned on how not to be. Today, by receiving and giving territorial acknowledgments, it serves as an everyday reminder of what my responsibilities are as an uninvited guest and helps me understand my role during my time in this place.

When working with patrons at the reference desk I often hear students and faculty express fear around creating empty or meaningless territorial acknowledgments. The most meaningful ways I’ve experienced territorial acknowledgments in the classroom as a student were when people acknowledged the relationship they have to land as they talked about who they were, where they were from, and how this related to their respective geographic location and territory they were occupying. When we begin in this way, the reminder helps shift personal and communal responsibilities forward into discussions, research, and ongoing work.

Land Based Research Guide

Xwi7xwa’s most recent contribution to these questions has been to participate in offerings through webinars and to create resources on our research guides. Not a single member of Xwi7xwa’s branch is from the Musqueam territory that we work, live, and enjoy our time on, but we take on communal and individual responsibilities regarding how we work here on this land.