What is a land acknowledgment statement?
A land acknowledgement is a formal statement – often presented at the beginning of public events and gatherings – that recognizes and honors Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of the land. Land acknowledgments offer a simple way of resisting the historic and ongoing attempted erasure of Indigenous histories and communities.
Why do we do this?
Chelsea Vowel, a Métis writer and educator from manitow-sâkahikan (Lac Ste. Anne) Alberta, residing in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton), offers an important interrogation of basic land acknowledgment practices:
“Often, territorial acknowledgments characterize non-Indigenous peoples as ‘guests’… Maybe now it is time to start learning about your obligations as a guest in this territory. What are the Indigenous protocols involved in being a guest, what are your responsibilities? What responsibilities do your hosts have towards you, and are you making space for those responsibilities to be exercised? To what extent are your events benefiting your hosts?… Moving beyond territorial acknowledgments means asking hard questions about what needs to be done once we’re ‘aware of Indigenous presence’. It requires that we remain uncomfortable, and it means making concrete, disruptive change. How can you be in good relationship with Indigenous peoples, with non-human beings, with the land and water?”
From ‘Beyond Territorial Acknowledgments, https://apihtawikosisan.com/2016/09/beyond-territorial-acknowledgments/
“Acknowledgment by itself is a small gesture. It becomes meaningful when coupled with authentic relationships and informed action. But this beginning can be an opening to greater public consciousness of Native sovereignty and cultural rights, a step toward equitable relationship and reconciliation.”…
“Acknowledgment is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture and toward inviting and honoring the truth.”
U.S. Department of Arts and Culture
“To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory you reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. It is important to understand the long standing history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history.
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.”
From Goshen College’s Land Acknowledgement Statement