Author Topic: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements  (Read 389 times)

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AndyS

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Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« on: Sep 03, 2018, 03:41 am »
For people working on colonised land (I get the impression a lot of people here are from North America? But also anyone else to whom this applies), I'm wondering what the various regional norms are for land acknowledgements and any thoughts and suggestions for the choices you make when drafting one? There's a LOT of variation where I am, and I have strong opinions on some aspects of the one I do, but it's also always evolving.

Some basic questions to get started:
  • If the name(s) have been anglicised, do you use the anglicised names or the names in their languages?
  • What descriptors do you use for the land? (unceded, ancestral, occupied, traditional, stolen, &c.)
  • Are you on treaty land and how does that affect your choices?
  • Are there political tensions between local nations and how do you navigate that?
  • Does your company do a version for the programme, and does that differ from the spoken one?
  • What's your position on including an expression of gratitude?
  • If you draft yours in consultation with your company/producer/venue, have there been conflicts and how do you navigate that?

Mine as it stands is:
We acknowledge that this performance is taking place on stolen land within the unceded and occupied territories of the Halq’eméylem peoples, including the Xʷməθkʷəy’əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Səlil̓wətaɁɬ nations.

What's yours?

KMC

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Re: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« Reply #1 on: Sep 04, 2018, 08:01 am »
Be careful with virtue signaling, especially if wholly unrelated to the subject matter of the production.  If this is a professional production put on by an established and respected company then your audience is likely going to run the gamut of age, income level, and opinion.  A heterogeneous group will have a wide range of emotional response to a statement like this; the response is likely to range from complete concurrence and support all the way through to dismissal and laughter.  Your audience's experience begins the second they step foot in the door of the facility - why risk alienating supporters if the subject matter of the production is unrelated?
Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

PSMKay

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Re: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« Reply #2 on: Sep 04, 2018, 09:12 am »
KMC - it isn't really virtual signaling in Canada, where first nations have far more clout.


For those outside of Canada who may not understand the practice of land acknowledgement in that country, here's a bit of a quick primer at CBC.

loebtmc

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Re: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« Reply #3 on: Sep 04, 2018, 06:10 pm »
At Native Voices, which is a First Nations (union) theatre company in LA on the grounds of Griffith Park's Autry Museum of the SouthWest, the top of each show includes appreciation to the land, to the elders, and to the indigenous local tribes. I love this practice, and when I produced the Diversity Awards for the west on behalf of AEA and then AEA/SAG/AFTRA, I always made sure this was included at the top of the show by someone from the Native community regardless of where we held the event. It's such a great thing to remind people that, well, they were here first.

Mac Calder

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Re: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« Reply #4 on: Sep 05, 2018, 12:19 am »
Talk to the local native council or similar if it exists - where I am, in Perth Australia, the traditional "Acknowledgement of Country" would be along the following lines:

Quote
The <Insert Show Name Here> company wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on, the Whadjuk people. We wish to acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

It is not generally done before performances except where there is some special significance (ie a performance for high level dignitaries as part of a special gathering) or if the performance is of cultural significance. However in these circumstances it is far more common to have a local elder perform a Welcome to Country.

AndyS

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Re: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« Reply #5 on: Sep 05, 2018, 05:05 am »
@KMC In my experience (which - I'm getting from your response - is not your experience, so there's more diversity on this point than I was aware of) pretty much every company does a land acknowledgement before each performance. The big stodgy civic theatres do a fairly preemptive one ("we are grateful to perform on the traditional territory of Coast Salish people"), while the smaller companies tend to do a more involved one with a stronger political stance (more like mine).
There are hold-outs, but they are the subject of social censure - one of the city festivals' producer decided he wanted to insist his company Not do a land acknowledgement, but it was kindof a scandal.

@Mac Calder - would you potentially ask an aboriginal cast member to make the acknowledgement, or is this someone outside the production? And how would you approach someone and ask that they welcome you?

Mac Calder

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Re: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« Reply #6 on: Sep 05, 2018, 07:43 am »
Yes, I have had a cast member perform the welcome. Basically if it is performed by an aboriginal, it would generally be a Welcome to Country which is a bit more grandiose - an acknowledgement of country can be done by anyone - generally we would record a VO if we were doing a cultural performance and just play it at the top of show straight after killing house lx.

The Australian Aboriginals are tribal - so it is a bit sensitive in that the Whadjuk people's traditional lands cover just under 7,000m2, and we were lucky in that this cast member was openly a member, actively supporting the community.  So in this case we were sure that we were not asking someone from the wrong tribe to perform the welcome. After that I contacted the local elders and explained the event and the nature of the performance. Upon getting their go ahead, just asked the question... it went along the lines of

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Me: "Hey Johnny, you know how we are doing the special showing on Tuesday, would you open to performing the welcome to country on behalf of yourself and your elders. We thought it would be more meaningful coming from a member of the company - the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council have given it the go ahead if you are open to it?"
Johnny: "Yeah, sure."
Me: "Cheers."

Out communications with SWALSC generally also involved us ensuring an allowance was paid for the cast member for performing the Welcome to Country as if an elder came to do it we would have to pay the elder for their time - usually around AU$500-AU$1000 - so we would pay a couple of hundred to the cast member (seeing as they were already there so the burden on them was a bit lower) and to "prove" we were not trying to be exploitative. And it generally came as a surprise to the cast member when it showed up in their pay.

Personally I find the whole exercise a little bit sad - especially as the acknowledgement in particular is to tick a box on the event organisers political correctness guideline sheet and is read word for word from a piece of paper with no real meaning behind it.
« Last Edit: Sep 05, 2018, 07:54 am by Mac Calder »

leastlikely

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Re: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« Reply #7 on: Sep 07, 2018, 03:18 am »
I'm located in the Washington DC area. I have seen land acknowledgements in programs once in a while, though it's really not typical here. If a company is doing a play about indigenous people/culture they will probably include an acknowledgement but other than that it's pretty uncommon as far as I've noticed. I don't believe I've ever heard a verbal announcement, but I've seen it printed in some programs. It's possible that I'm forgetting hearing a verbal announcement at a show I attended, but I know it's never happened for anything I've worked on.

This was published in a program for a show I saw earlier this year: "Arena Stage is built on the land of the Piscataway people of the Algonquin-speaking tribes, as well as the lands of the Native American people of the greater Anacostia, Potomac and Tidewater regions." This was only included for one production that was explicitly about Cherokee people and history. I checked another more recent program from the same company and found that it does not have this acknowledgement.

bex

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Re: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« Reply #8 on: Sep 10, 2018, 09:08 pm »
Wow, this is a fascinating topic. I've never heard of this practice before! I gather it's common in Canada and Australia, then? Do other events or businesses do this as well, or is it something unique to the arts?
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Mac Calder

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Re: Pre-Show Speech - Land Acknowledgements
« Reply #9 on: Sep 12, 2018, 03:28 am »
In Australia, it is more an events thing than an arts thing. Many gov't departments require a welcome to country or land acknowledgement.

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