Saturday, November 26, 2022

What is a Land Acknowledgement?


Caw Family Portrait

Some of you reading this may have attended a meeting during which someone read a Land Acknowledgement.  Others of you may not be familiar with the term.  Some of you may have been confused by hearing a recitation without understanding its purpose.  This blog will attempt to explain.

The origin of Land Acknowledgements may be traced to Australia and Canada, although more recently the practice has come to the United States.  A simple description of a Land Acknowledgement is 'acknowledgement in a formal statement that an event is taking place on land originally inhabited by indigenous peoples.'  The acknowledgements are supported by some and criticized by others who see them as an excess of political correctness or just empty gestures.

My husband often accuses me of having sandy loam running through my veins.  In retirement we  returned to the farm where I was raised, and we rescued a house that was in serious disrepair from having been vacant for many years.  I have written in this blog about picking sandhill plums to make jelly, following the traditions of my grandmother, mother, and now of myself.  I have written about the old cottonwood trees that I have tried to continue at the farm by planting seedlings.  In fact, many blogs have been about history and traditions.  Now I have published a book about the early homesteaders--Prairie Bachelor, The Story of a Kansas Homesteader and the Populist Movement.  There is little doubt about my own feeling of connection to the land and its history.

However, there were a different people who felt a connection to the land before my ancestors arrived.  I certainly understood the words of Mary Lyons of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, who wrote:  "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."  Her words touched me, because I feel that connection to the land and my own ancestors, a connection that I fear is waning among many young people.

But, why would someone like me have any reason to write a Land Acknowledgement?  I certainly do not feel personal guilt for the fact that my great-grandfather took advantage of President Lincoln's effort to settle the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase by allowing Union Soldiers a year's credit for each year of military service in the Civil War toward the five years necessary to secure a homestead.  Might I have any reason to compose a Land Acknowledgment?  While I am not proud of the horrible abuses of indigenous people as they were driven from their land and too often killed for the land they claimed, I did not personally do any of that.  Where is my responsibility? 

Here are some explanations for a Land Acknowledgement that I found online:

To learn the history of the land my ancestors settled, the specific indigenous people that were displaced, and the manner of their displacement.

To understand the emotional reality of the manner of displacement of specific indigenous people, such as treaties (both honored and ignored) and removal of children from their families to attend 'Indian Schools,'

To be more sensitive to offensive things like dressing up for Halloween as an Indian, school mascots, pretending to do Indian dances, using the 'tomahawk chop' at sports events, and teaching historic events inaccurately. 

To become aware of indigenous people in your area and what they are doing to perpetuate the history of their traditions to future generations.  

To learn about organizations in your area that are trying to help their people in a variety of ways and consider whether you might want to help.

Next week I will share some things I learned by following the suggestions I found. 


Anonymous said...

I now live on land originally inhabited by the Duwamish tribe.. they give wording suggestions here:

The Blog Fodder said...

We may not have participated but we continue to benefit from it. Same with slavery. I did not know this originated in Canada but I am seeing this acknowledgement on more and more websites and documents in Saskatchewan.