The Feminist Media Studio is located on the lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation, who are the custodians of the lands and waters on which we frequently gather. The FMS has been using Territorial Acknowledgements grounded in the models of the Concordia Indigenous Directions Leadership Group, collectively drafted by Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean Dr. Karl S. Hele, and Dr. Louellyn White, for the past several years. We begin events with this acknowledgement to support Concordia’s broader commitment to decolonization, and to recognize Indigenous presence on the lands the Studio occupies. We do so more specifically to recognize the historical and continuing violence of educational institutions—and of an improperly intersectional feminism—as instruments of the settler colonial project that must be resisted.
Chelsea Vowel (Métis, manitow-sâkahikan / Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta) stresses that “the way in which territorial acknowledgements are delivered must matter. Are they formulaic recitations that barely penetrate the consciousness of the speaker and those listening?” To counteract this tendency, she stresses the importance of searching and learning, as a way of engaging more deeply with the practices of acknowledging territory. The aim of the territorial acknowledgement, in her powerful words, is to “undo Indigenous erasure”, to “force non-Indigenous peoples to confront their own place on these lands”, to “disrupt” and to “transform”.
At the FMS, we strive to make specific the FMS’s situatedness in the settler colonial landscape through the territorial acknowledgement, our position not as “guests” but as “uninvited guests” (thus, structurally, intruders) on these territories. We also strive to make the acknowledgement specific to the event that we’re hosting, and to the possibilities the event potentializes for doing decolonial work.
As the pandemic made its way through our various communities in the spring of 2020, we were asked to withdraw from public and institutional spaces, to confine in our homes, and to continue our work remotely. As FMS began to articulate the Doing Feminism in the Pandemic project, we felt an urgent need to do two things: 1) to acknowledge that those private spaces also (although scattered and singular) are located on unceded lands; 2) that the virtual spaces we’ve been invited into do not free us from the infrastructures of settler colonialism, far from it.
Technological acknowledgement is a tool we devised to recognize not only the territories on which hosts of events are located, but the territories on which the media infrastructures of videotelephony, which we use to gather during the pandemic, are located. Zoom does not emerge in the ether; its headquarters are located on the land of the Muwekma Ohlone peoples. It draws videotelephony resources, energy, server space from infrastructures spread around the globe, many responsible for the continued dispossession of Indigenous lands and the shoring up of settler colonial institutions. Technological acknowledgements were for us a way of acknowledging the persistence of settler colonial infrastructures in the pandemic. They were a way of highlighting the gap between #ShutDownCanada (the call of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in February 2020) and the legislative demands to confine in our homes during the first wave of the pandemic.
The Technological Acknowledgement we have drafted is not itself meant to become rote. The data it cites must be updated, the realities it points to altered. It serves as an example for acknowledging the specificity of occupation in each instance of its use, and across the material and virtual spaces where we do feminist work. Please use and share with us your Technological Acknowledgements from your contexts and events.