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An awkward situation

Acknowledging the traditional owners of country before events brings up what Bhante Sujato recently called an awkward situation, that is our continuing occupation of aboriginal land. The Greens start their meetings openly acknowledging that it is taking place on the stolen land of the …(eg Ngunnawal, Wiradjuri)…people and that their sovereignty has never been ceded. They then go on to show respect to elders, emerging leaders etc as in the traditional acknowledgement of country… Maybe Lokanta Vihara could consider adopting this stronger and more truthful stance when introducing events?

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Hi Marian, have you been tuning in? Yes we usually do the acknowledgement of country both online (even if it’s an international event) and at venues here on Sydney and also have an acknowledgement on our website.

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Could someone explain to me why those who think they are living on stolen land not then return to their ethnic country of origin? If I found myself on someone else’s land I would voluntarily remove myself from it. What is the reasoning here? Also, don’t such arguments play into the hands of ethnic nationalists, such as white nationalists? They love the idea of the original ethnic population having the best claim to land. Many European white nationalists would love the idea of all white Europeans returning to and living in Europe. It all sounds too close to the “blood and soil” type thinking to me.

Just genuinely trying to understand the other-side’s point of view here, as currently I don’t.

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Thanks Venerable Akaliko. The acknowledgement of country is a courtesy and a good reminder but my suggestion was to change the wording so as to heighten awareness. While acknowledgement of country is not in common use on buddhist platforms it has been used by the Australian government for about a decade and I reckon that some of the awkwardness that this kind of acknowledgement could engender has been lost through familiarity. Saying that the land was stolen & sovereignty never given up takes us further towards the real story.

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Hi Ceisiwr, It’s not so easy. I am a 7th generation aussie with a few different nationalities in my ancestry. I wouldn’t know what european country I am meant to belong to. There’s no way back. Thus the awkwardness of the situation.

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Yes, it’s a tricky issues, isn’t it? Should the Anglo-Saxons go back to Europe, along with the majority of Americans, North and South?

I’m very pleased to see the acknowledgements. We do this in New Zealand as well. The difference here is that we have an 1840 treaty with the Māori so the the British didn’t simply steal the whole country. Of course, there is continuing discussion over whether it has been followed properly, and various other issues, but that’s going a little off topic…

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That is fair enough, but there is always the option open of emigrating to a nation which hasn’t been stolen. For example if you came here to Wales. The welsh haven’t stolen the land from anyone, so you could leave Australia to the original inhabitants and move here. Other countries come to mind. Germany, France and so on.

Yes indeed. As I say I’m not looking to debate the issue per se here. I’m more interested in trying to understand the arguments.

And of course the Chinese immigrants, the Indian immigrants and so on. It would also apply to them too surely.

This is not the point of Land acknowledgments

Land acknowledgments are now part of many former colonies. In Canada we do them too, and they are extremely important not just for historical connections, but also for reconciliation.

It’s not about “sending people back” or “go back where you came from” kind of divisive/nativist politics.( although some like to make it that for their own agendas)

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Yes, thanks for that. It is important. The details are different here, but the principle is similar.

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Thank you for that. I never thought that anyone said this intentionally but by stressing that the land is stolen aren’t you then suggesting that the land does not really belong to all those who aren’t native, or is the use of the world “stolen” simply there for effect? If it really is stolen then it isn’t yours, by definition. That’s how it sounds to me, but others seem to understand the concept differently. For myself it’s not an idea or argument I hear all that often, since it would be a stretch to say that i, as a Welshman living in Cymru, am living on stolen land. It’s obviously an idea that those living in America or Australia are used to hearing. I only encounter it occasionally online, which is what prompted me to enquire further.

I guess I’m asking how the argument can be put forward whilst avoiding those conclusions, which no one wants.

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I’m not familiar with how land acknowledgments are viewed in Australia/ NZ, but here in Canada it is an important part of the reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Accountability is a big topic now after the horror emerging from former residential schools in recent news.

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That is truly appalling.

I think the acknowledgement that the land was stolen, and apologising for that, is the key to healing. Certainly, that’s been important here.

For those who don’t live in Australia or NZ, you might review Midnight Oil’s performance of “Beds are Burning” at the Sydney Olympics: Midnight Oil at the Sydney Olympics Closing Ceremony 2000 on Vimeo

The time has come to say fair’s fair
To pay the rent, to pay our share
The time has come, a fact’s a fact
It belongs to them, let’s give it back

The shirts saying “sorry” was a commentary on Prime Minister John Howard’s refusal to apologise, something that did happen a few years later:

There were similar issues in Canada and NZ, as Ficus pointed out above:

Accountability is a big topic now after the horror emerging from former residential schools in recent news .

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I see. Thanks Mike. Much appreciated.

Just heartbreaking! :broken_heart:
It’s as if all the colonies conspired to inflict this torment on their indigenous populations in parallel…

You are absolutely right.
The language in apologizing is important too: stolen, cheated, duped- many treaties with native groups were made under duress and with unfair agreements

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Thanks Ficus,

As you probably know, the movie Trouble in the Garden addresses some of the Canadian First Nations issues: Trouble in the Garden (2018) - IMDb
Though of course, it’s fiction, but you can find discussions on YouTube with the filmmakers about how they based it on experiences: Trouble in the Garden: A Discussion with the Filmmakers - YouTube

[Spoiler alert: watch the movie before reading too much about it, and watch it carefully…]

I found watching the movie and the discussion illuminating for the problems we face here. I have often found that seeing the issues of another country, that I doesn’t have any baggage about, helps in thinking about the situation in my own country.

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“We talk about reconciliation, but what is that? It’s this fuzzy concept that has no real political meaning at all…There is no fundamental acknowledgement of the sovereignty of first nations’ people and there is no acknowledgement of the truth of our history. We have these gestures, and this convoluted language around reconciliation, ideas of healing and unity before we have even faced up to questions of justice” - Stan Grant, prominent Aboriginal journalist, speaking this week about Reconciliation Week.

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To the best of my knowledge, no one in America has adopted publicly acknowledging how the first waves of European settlers, and then their descendants, stole land from the Native Americans. So Australia and New Zealand are already way ahead of the US there.

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