“When we talk about land, land is part of who we are. It’s a mixture of our blood, our past, our current, and our future. We carry our ancestors in us, and they’re around us. As you all do.” — Mary Lyons, Leech Lake Bank of Ojibwe
Native American Heritage Month
November is Native American Heritage Month, which the National Congress of American Indians describes as a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people.
The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Duwamish, Puyallup, Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.
-University of Washington land acknowledgement
One way to begin to honor Native people is through land acknowledgement, a formal statement that pays tribute to the original inhabitants of the land you occupy. At the University of Washington, it is common to hear a land acknowledgement shared at the start of a meeting or as part of a unit’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion work.
Developing a meaningful land acknowledgement takes some considerable effort, education and self-reflection. As Kanyon Sayers-Roods, a Mutsun Ohlone activist in Northern California, told Teen Vogue, “The acknowledgment process is about asking, What does it mean to live in a post-colonial world? What did it take for us to get here? And how can we be accountable to our part in history?”
Indigenous Territories Map
Native-Land.ca is a digital map that “strives to map Indigenous lands in a way that changes, challenges, and improves the way people see the history of their countries and peoples.” This is a resource that has been developed to help non-Indigenous people around the world understand the rich and diverse cultures that have evolved from the land on which you live.
However, your education doesn’t end at simply finding your location and learning the names of your local Tribes. According to the Native-Land.ca teaching guide, “This map must be used critically. Maps potentially function as colonial artifacts and represent a very particular way of seeing the world – a way primarily concerned with ownership, exclusivity, and power relations.”
Honoring Place Training
At the University of Washington, the UW Tribal Relations group is another excellent resource for guidance on how to develop and share a land acknowledgement. We’re proud to partner with the UW Tribal liaison Iisaaksiichaa (Good Ladd) Ross Braine for an Honoring Place training scheduled for Wednesday, December 2 at 12:00 p.m. This presentation, open to everyone at UW, will share pathways to UW land acknowledgement as well as research partnerships with Tribal nations.
Whether or not you decide to develop a land acknowledgement statement, it’s important to remember that honoring Indigenous people is an ongoing journey that lasts beyond any one month.