A topic that I have been thinking about recently is Land Acknowledgement, also known as Territory acknowledgement in some places. If you are not familiar with the term, land acknowledgements are an honest and historically accurate way to recognize the traditional First Nations and Indigenous people of a place. They can be a sign, a statement, or a short presentation. The formats vary but the goal is to commemorate Indigenous peoples’ kinship to the land, and that they have not and cannot be erased from our collective mother earth. Land acknowledgements are a starting place to change how we see and talk about land and place. They are a standard practice in Australia and Canada, and a growing practice here in the United States.
Last summer I attend the conference of DIAKONIA of the Americas and Caribbean (DOTAC) that was held in Vancouver, B.C. The conference theme was “Respecting Covenant – Risking the Journey toward Reconciliation” and was looked at through the themes of Indigeneity, Eco-Justice, and Global Migration. We were people gathered from Canada, the United States, Brazil, and Caribbean, and included guests from Australia. From how the conference began with acknowledgement of the land we were gathered on, to some of the discussions and the blanket exercise we did, I was moved by what I was experiencing. One of the biggest things I noticed throughout the conference was the way people (mostly from Canada) introduced themselves. When noting where they were from they also noted which Treaty area it was or the First Nations people of the land. This struck me as I realized I knew some of that information about the land where I grew up in New York (the land of the Haudenosaunee and Mohawk peoples) and of where I live currently in Boise (the land of the Shoshone-Bannock peoples), but I had never thought about including that information when naming where I am from, naming my place. I left that conference feeling inspired and wanting to learn and do more about this in the United States, where we are a bit behind our Canadian neighbors in actually acknowledging our past, and present, atrocities toward Indigenous peoples. I am sad to say that as I returned and got back into my routine of life this never really went any further.
However, I was recently re-inspired by two people I know from Canada and Australia through Land Acknowledgement statements that are included in each of their email signatures. These email signature Land Acknowledgement statements have given me a tangible first step for myself in this process of naming and recognizing those Indigenous people whose home land I live on. I am still working on it as I want to be intentional as I write and acknowledge, but I now have a first step in this journey. As I was talking with a friend about this process of writing a land acknowledgement statement I also mentioned my thoughts about awareness and in that moment I made the connection between land acknowledgement and our awareness issues in the US. Last week I wrote about how I feel that our awareness issues are related to how our culture uplifts individualism and through that we are becoming disconnected from each other. I think this disconnection goes even further to a disconnection from place and history. By uplifting individualism, we have not only disconnected ourselves from each other as human beings, we have disconnected ourselves from our history as we tell only what make us as an individual/country look best, and we have disconnected ourselves from knowing where we live as a place and not just a location. From really knowing the land and its story.
This can be a hard and divisive thing to talk about, to claim and name our history and teach both sides of stories and to acknowledge that to create this country we displaced the Indigenous people who were living here. This is a process that takes time, to learn and hear stories, to learn about where you live as a place and connect to the history of that land. But it is a process that is important on the journey of growing our awareness and reconnecting to each other and seeing we are part of a bigger whole. The journey away from individualism and back toward God’s shalom.
This reflection is mostly meant to help start some conversations around Land Acknowledgement and our awareness or lack thereof around Indigenous peoples and their connection to the places we live. I have plenty to learn myself.
If you want to learn more about Land Acknowledgement you can check out these resources: