Scott Hardie | February 12, 2020
Now that Taika Waititi has done one at the Oscars, what do you think of land acknowledgements?

Erik Bates | February 14, 2020
I may be a curmudgeon here, but I don't understand what the point of this is. Maybe someone can change my mind.

Scott Hardie | February 16, 2020
Well, I've heard cynics decry it as performative wokeness or virtue signaling, so that might be the point, depending on your attitude. I'm sure there are some people going along with it who don't actually care and are just going through the motions.

Among the true believers, I assume the rationale is something like this: Contemporary liberalism has a responsibility to fight perceived injustice. The taking of land occupied by indigenous people is one of history's largest injustices by scale. Returning that land now is impossible, but acknowledging the land's original owners is not. Thus, the least we can do is take a moment to mention the people from whom the land has been taken when we use it.

I doubt that an entire ceremony on the scale of what Waititi arranged on the set of Thor: Ragnarok is appropriate for every project, but that was his set and he could do as he liked with it. As for quick passing mentions, of the sort that Waititi did at the Oscars, I'm on the fence. I could see them becoming routine and meaningless. And I could see them accomplishing exactly nothing (which I interpret as your criticism, Erik), allowing us to feel like we did something good when we didn't.

But if they get people thinking and talking about injustice even a little bit, that can be good. And if they serve as a reminder of injustice still endured by native people today that people want to ignore because it's too difficult to address, then even better.


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