Much like praying and singing “O Canada,” Indigenous Land Acknowledgements have become a daily occurrence in our schools. As with those practices, it’s essential to ensure that students understand the meaning behind the observance. One way to do this is through dance.
OCSB Arts Consultant Bernie Leger has begun promoting the idea of movement-based Land Acknowledgements. These are movement pieces that students develop together and can perform instead of reciting a text.
Guided by their teacher, students work together, discussing the Land Acknowledgement text and contributing their ideas about the meaning associated with it and how to interpret it. This process has led to many conversations about the history connected to some of the words used in the Land Acknowledgement and embodying some of the emotions associated with the text. For example, students have talked about changes in the climate and how that should be acknowledged in the piece. Older students recognize that we are on a journey of unlearning and learning and look for ways to represent that through movement and gesture.
Students do not mimic or copy an Indigenous dance form but use movement to express the text from their understanding.
When the piece is created, and students review the movements, the teacher uses cue words from the Land Acknowledgement to help students remember the movements. This also helps to reinforce the importance of the text.
Mr. Leger has done sessions in movement-based Land Acknowledgements with students of all ages, from Kindergarten to high school dance and theatre classes. He’s also introduced it to teachers through various professional development workshops and will continue visiting schools for the remainder of this year and into the fall.