Nov. 17, 2020
Sarah Keeling, Ph.D.
NACA Director of Education & Research
November is National Native American Heritage Month and one way to recognize Indigenous people is to offer land acknowledgements. Before there were states, before Columbus landed on the continent, Indigenous peoples had territories. Land acknowledgements are a small way to recognize the traditional indigenous territories of the land you are on. Below are some tips for creating a land acknowledgement. These tips can be found on the Native Governance Center’s website, which is a Native American-led nonprofit organization.
Start with self-reflection. Consider why you are creating a land acknowledgement and who it may be benefitting. Remember that impact is more important than intention, so be thoughtful and thorough.
Do your research. Whose land are you currently occupying and what is the history of those Indigenous people? Go to www.native-land.ca, enter an address, and see what territory is given. Research the people, the history of the land and any related treaties. Are there folks living near you who are from these communities? Learn about them and how you can be ally and an advocate. Be sure to know how to properly pronounce the name of the Indigenous community.
Ask “How am I leaving Indigenous people in a stronger, more empowered place because of this land acknowledgement?” Don’t sugarcoat the past but be sure to include positive messages. Build relationships in your communities with Indigenous people to see how you can help them, do not put them on display as an attempt to make your event more “authentic,” and compensate them for their emotional labor.
Land acknowledgements should not be taken lightly or created because you think it’s trendy. Again, the list provided by the Native Governance Center is a great resource. I’ve listed some other resources below, as well at the NACA Land Acknowledgement.
NACA’s Land Acknowledgement
We want to acknowledge that we, as an Association, work and live on the traditional and Native land of the Congaree Tribe. The Congaree people were a small tribe who suffered heavy losses via tribal feuds and smallpox. After fighting against the colony of South Carolina in the Yamasee War of 1715, over half of the Congaree were killed or enslaved. Those remaining moved further north to join the Catawba. Congaree National Park and the Congaree River are vital parts of Columbia.
Sarah Keeling, Ph.D. serves as director of Education & Research for the National Association for Campus Activities and has over 20 years of higher education experience. Her Ph.D. in higher education administration is from the University of South Carolina.
Related Professional Competencies: Institutional History, Cultivating a Sense of Belonging