Many events these days begin with land acknowledgments: earnest statements acknowledging that activities are taking place, or institutions, businesses and even homes are built, on land previously owned by Indigenous peoples.
And many organizations now call on employees to incorporate such statements not only at events but in email signatures, videos, syllabuses and so on. Organizations provide resources to facilitate these efforts, including pronunciation guides and video examples.
Some land acknowledgments are carefully constructed in partnership with the dispossessed. The Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle describes this process:
“Tribal elders and leaders are the experts and knowledge-bearers who generously shared their perspectives and guidance with the Burke. Through this consultation, we co-created the Burke’s land acknowledgement.”
That acknowledgment reads:
“We stand on the lands of the Coast Salish peoples, whose ancestors have resided here since Time Immemorial. Many Indigenous peoples thrive in this place—alive and strong.”
Land acknowledgments have been used to start conversations regarding how non-Indigenous people can support Indigenous sovereignty and advocate for land repatriation.
Yet the historical and anthropological facts demonstrate that many contemporary land acknowledgments unintentionally communicate false ideas about the history of dispossession and the current realities of American Indians and Alaska Natives. And those ideas can have detrimental consequences for Indigenous peoples and nations.
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