TORONTO – Upon seeing one another in-person for the first time at local dive bar Scrungie’s, internet activist Dillon Sanders introduced himself to his date Rebecca Holder by way of a ceremonial acknowledgement of the traditional caretakers of the land on which they were meeting.
“Toronto is in the ‘Dish with One Spoon Territory,’” Sanders carefully explained to his date, who had previously been made aware of this fact on many occasions. “The Dish With One Spoon is a treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee,” he continued, taking extreme care to over-pronounce the names of each nation.
Land or territory acknowledgements are an increasingly popular way to begin gatherings where people wish to recognize the continuing history of indigenous peoples in North America, and can also be used by white people to feel like they are the good guys without actually engaging in any sort of concrete action.
“I was debating between starting with the acknowledgement or opening with a pronoun check-in,” explained Sanders. “Since we both have our pronouns on our profiles I figured I could skip it,” he added. “Then again gender is fluid and constantly shifting so maybe that was a mistake. I go by he/him and last I checked she used she/her but I should really ask each time I see her. I mean them.”
“Every time I go on a Tinder date it feels like an empty ritual devoid of any real potential to change to my life,” said Holder, “So when he did that land acknowledgement it seemed to fit right in,” adding “I still think it’s nice to do them though. It gets me out of the house.”
While typically used before ceremonies or public events in order to pay lip service to a large array of complex issues that actually require far more attention, Sanders has found that land acknowledgements can be worked into almost any context. “I usually do one at the counter before I order my morning coffee, one for the bus driver when I’m doing my commute, one for my dog before I take off her leash at the dog park,” he explained. “As a white person in Canada it’s my duty to try to educate people and make them feel a bit bad at the same time.”
After their date, Holder mentioned that there was unlikely to be a second one. “As soon as he saw the sealskin purse I bought from an Inuit artist in Labrador he just yelled ‘That’s not vegan!’ and ran off.”