Indigenous reconciliation

Waterloo is situated on the land traditionally cared for by the Haudenosaunee, Anishnaabe and Chonnonton Peoples.

We acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge and philosophies of the Indigenous People with whom we share this land today.

On this page

  1. Response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  2. Indigenous communities use of space
  3. O:se Kenhionhata:tie Land Back Camp
  4. National Indigenous History Month
  5. Canada Day

Response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission

In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released its findings and 94 Calls to Action to redress the residential schools legacy and advance reconciliation.

The Calls to Action are directed at all levels of government, the private sector and to Canadians as a whole.

City of Waterloo response

In 2019 city council responded to the Calls to Action and adopted a territorial acknowledgement that councillors and staff are encouraged to use at meetings and in written documents. Read the full response here (PDF, starting on page 115).

While offering a territorial acknowledgement is important, we remain mindful it is a starting place on a journey toward reconciliation. It requires that we engage in further learning, conversation and action or we risk simply reciting empty words. 

In August 2020, council approved a report that outlines next steps. These included:

  • the development of a Reconciliation Action Plan
  • the development of a policy to help Indigenous people use public spaces for cultural and ceremonial practices
  • waiving fees for rentals associated with Indigenous events

Read the full report here (PDF, starting on page 29).

Coordinating regional efforts

The City of Waterloo is an active member of the Reconciliation Action Partnership, a collaborative group of municipal representatives working to coordinate efforts to support Indigenous-centred initiatives across Waterloo Region.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day honours the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The City of Waterloo is committed to the important work of learning and unlearning that is required to move towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. While our offices and services remain open, staff will spend time reflecting and learning in recognition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Taking action on reconciliation

In the spirit of Reconciliation and National Indigenous History Month, the City of Waterloo commissioned three replica Wampum belts.

Kahlunyunti (Martin Powless) of Oneida Nation of the Thames, the artist who recreated the belts, presented the belts to Council on June 3 2024, and provided some teaching on their history. View the video recording of the presentation at the council meeting.

The three belts are:
  • Hiawatha Wampum
  • Two-Row Wampum
  • Dish with One Spoon Wampum

These belts are a physical representation of the oral history of treaties and settlement of the area around the Great Lakes Region extending along a portion of the St. Lawrence River, which we all call home. These are significant representations of our colonial history and are still seen to this day as a reminder to all of us of the responsibilities we hold as treaty people.

Indigenous use of public space

We're working with the City of Kitchener to make it easier for Indigenous communities to access public spaces.

We're waiving rental-related fees for using city spaces for eligible Indigenous cultural and ceremonial events.

Book a space

O:se Kenhionhata:tie Land Back Camp

In 2020 members of the Indigenous community gathered in Victoria Park (in Kitchener) and Waterloo Park. Both places are important to local Indigenous history and traditions.

Known as the O:se Kenhionhata:tie Land Back Camp, the group gathered peacefully to advance reconciliation actions.

For more information please visit the O:se Kenhionhata:tie Land Back Camp Facebook page.

National Indigenous History Month

June is National Indigenous History Month, an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. We honour the culture, resilience and contributions of Indigenous peoples, communities, and nations who have called and continue to call this area home. While this month is a time for all of us to deepen our understanding of Indigenous culture, activism, art, education and science, it is also a time for intentional reflection. We all need to face the hard truths of colonialism and recognize that racism and systemic barriers continue to exist for Indigenous communities.   

There are many Indigenous created or co-created resources available to support you on your learning journey.

National Indigenous Peoples Day

The city takes part in National Indigenous Peoples Day each year on June 21. Visit the event webpage for updates on this year's celebration.

We have partnered with local artist Maddie Resmer to create an original art piece on the surface of Waterloo Public Square. This artwork serves as a visual reminder of the territory and land on which our city was founded.

Canada Day

While a celebration for many in our community, it is important to note that Canada Day historically commemorates Canadian confederation and patriotism, often ignoring the colonialization of Indigenous peoples and cultures. The ongoing identification of hundreds of Indigenous children’s remains at former Indian Residential School sites is a tragic reminder of the traumas and injustices caused by the residential school system and Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people.

Mindful of the harm experienced by Indigenous people by ongoing colonialism and sensitive to the potential harm of a traditional Canada Day celebration, respectful commemoration must include a solemn acknowledgement of our full history. July 1 is not a day of celebration for everyone in our community and we recognize Canada’s unjust treatment of Indigenous peoples.

The city continues to mark Canada Day as an opportunity to come together as a community, remembering the past, and working together for a better Waterloo. We are committed to the work of reconciliation and a better future for everyone.