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Sustainability Newsletter - October 2020

Land Acknowledgements and Why We Make Them

"The land we gather on today is the traditional homeland of the Dakhóta and Anishinaabe peoples. We honor and respect the Indigenous peoples who were forcibly removed from, and are still connected to this territory.

There are over twenty Native and Indigenous students at our schools from different Nations. St. Ben’s Monastery and St. John’s Abbey used to operate boarding schools for Native children. Now, students, faculty, and staff are working to repair relationships with our Native Nation neighbors. There are well over 35,000 Indigenous people living in the Twin Cities metro area, including a diversity of nations. Centuries of genocide and forced assimilation have created a range of challenges for Indigenous peoples.
I open up this classroom as a space to discuss ways in which we can support Indigenous people in our area and enact a reparations framework – a framework that works to return land to Native people."

- Environmental Studies 275 Syllabus

Have you ever heard these words spoken at the start of an event or class on campus? It's called a land acknowledgement. It's a way of ackowledging historic damage and setting your actions, especially at large events, in the context of that history. It's a way to keep yourself thoughtful about the inclusion of Indigenous issues and peoples. They change depending on a few things:

WHERE: This is the big question. North America (and South America, Central America, Canada, Alaska, and more) was home to countless nations and groups of Indigenous people before White settlers got there. The campuses of CSB and SJU, for example, straddle the territories of Dakhóta and Anishinaabe peoples. To see whose land your home or college is on, use Native-Land.ca.

WHO: Who are you? CSBSJU has a lot of history (now being uncovered by Ted Gordon and his team of researchers!) of other harmful actions involving Indigenous peoples, including but not limited to establishing boarding schools that contributed to erasure of Indigenous culture in our area. 

WHAT: What more can you do about Indigenous rights than say a statement? Educators like Corrie Grosse (below) might affirm that they work to include Native issues in their curriculum. An institutional body like the Joint Faculty Senate (#4) has the power to commit to further action.

WHY: Land Acknowledgements are a call to action-- a call to keep Indigenous justice in your thoughts at events, gatherings, and in every email. You can recite a land acknowledgement at family dinners or gatherings-- Just use Native-Land.ca and historical records (I used Ecosia for example #5) to really dig into the history in your area.

EXAMPLES:

  1. CSB/SJU is on the ancestral homeland of the Dakota and Anishinaabe people.  Our campuses were once home to St. Benedict’s and St. John’s Indian Industrial Schools, which were part of a nationwide effort to force Native youth to assimilate through family separation.                                              -Native American Advisory Committee
  2. College of St. Benedict & St. John’s University occupies Dakhóta and Anishinaabe homelands. Through my research, teaching, and activism, I am working to honor and build relationships with my Native neighbors. Find out whose territory you live and work on.                        -Corrie Grosse, Environmental Studies Professor, email signature
  3. The CSB/SJU Archives are located on the original homeland of the Dakhóta and Anishinaabe peoples. We honor and respect the Indigenous peoples who were forcibly removed from and are still connected to this land.                          -Peggy Roske. CSBSJU Archivist, email signature
  4. We acknowledge that the very ground on which our institutions are built is the original homeland of the Dakhóta and Anishinaabe peoples. We honor and respect the Indigenous peoples who were forcibly removed from, and who are still connected to this territory, and we pledge, in every way possible, to make the facilities and resources of our campuses available to those peoples for appropriate ceremonies or events they may desire, and to make scholarships available for Native-American students.                              -Joint Faculty Senate statement on the killing of George Floyd.
  5. "Welcome to our Thanksgiving dinner, and thank you for coming. I just wanted to acknowledge that the land we gather on today in Minneapolis is the homeland of Chippewa and Sioux tribes. Our land was contained in Cession 243, made in 1837. As we are grateful and thankful for each other on this holiday, let's remember the traumatic history of Native peoples that were displaced and hurt due to colonial expansion. When we remember the first Native Americans that helped the pilgrims, let's not ignore the damage that happened then and still affects us here and now.

Create your Own Land Acknowledgement Email Signature

J. Doe (pronouns: They/Them)
GBUS Major | Environmental Studies Minor
The land we gather on today is the traditional homeland of the Dakhóta and Anishinaabe peoples. We honor and respect the Indigenous peoples who were forcibly removed from, and are still connected to this territory. Find out whose territory you live and work on.

CSBSJU students can use the italicized acknowedgement at the top of this article as an email signature. Just put it below your name or major, and remember to use it as an opportunity for thoughtful reflection. You can also add your own commitment or links if you wish-- like Peggy does in hers.

Land Acknowledgements are a good first step toward including justice in your everyday acts. The next step is to act on it! Bring up Native issues in board meetings and class discussions. Be an advocate and a curious learner when it comes to Indigenous issues. If you don't know something, Ecosia it and listen to Indigenous voices.