A land acknowledgement statement, also known as Indigenous land acknowledgement, are formal statements used to spread awareness and understanding of the longstanding history of the Indigenous population genocide that occurred on the land that we reside on. They can be verbal or visual: signage, short theater presentations or simple spoken-word greetings before large events such as conferences.
“When we talk about land, land is part of who we are. It’s a mixture of our blood, our past, our current, and our future. We carry our ancestors in us, and they’re around us. As you all do.” Mary Lyons (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe)
Land acknowledgements do not exist in a past tense, or historical context: colonialism is a current ongoing process, and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation. It is also worth noting that acknowledging the land is Indigenous protocol.
Why are land acknowledgement statements necessary?
Land Acknowledgement Statements became popular in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. These countries started these statements for various reasons, for example in 2008, Canada launched a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that included 94 recommended calls to action created by First Nation people to address the historical harm done to their communities.
Land acknowledgements started in the United States’ from within the arts community due to the direct call to action from the North Dakota Pipeline protests starting in 2016. The US Department of Arts and Culture launched a social media campaign called #HonorNativeLand and provided a resource on Indigenous People’s Day 2017 (October 11): ‘Honor Native Land: A Guide and Call to Acknowledgment.’ Soon after, higher education institutes started providing statements. The first university to provide an official land acknowledgement statement was in 2018 by Northwestern University (NU) read at commencement, printed in programs, and published online. Due to the growing popularity of these statements on college campuses and the spark of the Black Lives Matter movement, this demanded that organizations take a look at their practices and traditions.
These statements and movements led to the historic name change of the NFL Washington Football Team. Why is that important? It may seem like a small change, but the term “redskin” is considered a slur by Native American activists and has been used since the 18th century. This slang was used by the first colonists settlers and utilized to label Native Americans (or known as “Indians” during that time) as lower than white people. Some historians say that the term “redskin” could be reference to when Native Americans were scalped when they were hunted for bounty in the 1800s. Since the 1960s, activists have tried to encourage the NFL to change the mascot and name of the Washington team. Land acknowledgements and civil rights movements help to bring awareness and hold large corporations like the NFL accountable.
How to Use Statements
In order to spark awareness, you can have a simple statement at the end of your emails such as this one:
“In the spirit of healing, I acknowledge and honor the Piscataway and Nacotchtank Tribes, and all of the original Indigenous peoples of the land upon which Children’s National Hospital stands. / Whose land are you on?”
The link provided shows the historical territories of Native American tribes throughout the United States. Links like this can be provided or another education link regarding land acknowledgements.
In the spirit of healing, CHAI has created a land acknowledgement statement. Children’s National Hospital has not established an official statement yet, but we encourage you all to spread awareness. You may utilize this statement for your own needs during appropriate times before large gatherings or in need of reflection regarding racial equity topics. If you do choose to use this statement, please reach out to Lin Chun-Seeley at email@example.com to ensure you are using the statement appropriately.
Our Example: CHAI Land Acknowledgement Statement
The Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children’s National Hospital acknowledges that Washington, DC is the traditional territory of the Nacotchtank/Anacostan and Piscataway people. This land acknowledgement is read to recognize and honor the Indigenous peoples and the genocide, forceful removal and displacement of their elders whose lands and territories were stolen from them. We acknowledge their legacy and find inspiration in their great stewardship of the region for generations.
The CHAI recognizes and celebrates the resilience, strength, and enduring presence of Indigenous people in Washington, DC and in all communities around the world. We have a shared responsibility to acknowledge the history and legacy of colonialism in our history as a community, as a nation, and as an institution. We commit to supporting the Indigenous members of our community as we educate ourselves on Indigenous histories, cultures, and issues.
In the spirit of reconciliation, healing, and collaboration, please join us in a moment of reflection to acknowledge the injustices of our past and present as we work to dismantle the ongoing legacy of colonialism. Land acknowledgement is only one small part of supporting Indigenous communities. We hope our land acknowledgement statement will inspire others to stand with us in solidarity with Native nations.