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Across the U.S., indigenous land acknowledgements have picked up popularity as a best practice in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) space. A land acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of the land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.* One of the main goals in doing an indigenous land acknowledgement is to respect and honor Indigenous People and their Tribal Nations and acknowledge the indigenous traditional lands where we do our work. However, one begs the question – is this enough; is it performative?
After having very open and honest discussions with Indigenous partners, I learned that like anything else establishing a land acknowledgement depends on context. In general, in any equity practice, we must first and foremost always follow the direction of tribal nations and their governments to determine when and how this process should begin. In this case, tribal nations are the priority populations with lived experience, and hence the direction we follow in equity work.
Below are some of the understandings I had to remind myself of in doing this work as a DEI champion with fourteen years of experience:
If you are using an indigenous land acknowledgement, you may want to ponder on the discussion points above and reconsider whether pushing for a land acknowledgement honors your original goal or creates performative work if not done equitably. We hope this motivates you to understand that we are all lifelong learners and teachers in this work.
I am committed to continued learning and transparency… Till the next one.
*Recognizing place: Indigenous land acknowledgments. (2021, July 15). Audubon Vermont. https://vt.audubon.org/news/recognizing-place-indigenous-land-acknowledgments
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