I’ve been in more and more spaces over the past few years where people are opening their meetings, retreats, and conferences with land acknowledgments. If you don’t know what that is, read the Native Governance Center’s guide to learn about them.
As I was learning about doing land acknowledgments in my role as a facilitator, I read something by a native person who said that if a person does one, they should understand what meaning they are giving it; what meaning it has for them. Without that context, it could feel like it’s just the cool thing of the moment. I gave some thought to that and it’s helped me deepen my understanding of why a land acknowledgment is deeply significant to me.
When I was in elementary school in the 1970s (I was probably about nine or ten years old), I was at the kitchen table doing a homework assignment for a Social Studies class. The task was to read a chapter and answer questions at the end.
Question one: “Who discovered America?”
I wrote Christopher Columbus, as the chapter stated.
My mother came by the table, looked over my shoulder, and told me that Christopher Columbus did not discover America. “How could he have when there were people already here? The book is wrong.”
So, at nine years old I had to choose between telling a lie and getting my homework “correct” OR telling the truth and dealing with the consequences.
What a land acknowledgement means to me at this time in my life is that I’m choosing the truth — not colluding with the falsehoods and omissions taught to us about the history of this country. I’m acknowledging genocide and rejecting manifest destiny. That’s where I begin, humbly as only a first step, knowing there is much more I can do to support indigenous people and educate others.
I am living on the lands of the Ohlone, Coast Miwok, and Graton Rancheria people.
I invite you to identify the native land upon which you sit today https://www.native-land.ca, reflect on what meaning a land acknowledgment might have for you, take action to support indigenous people, and educate yourself and others about the indigenous communities near you.
Photo by Mark Olsen www.unsplash.com