“We live on Duwamish tribal land,” I told Brendan. His teacher’s husband came to the class to explain more about his own Duwamish heritage, and he had a lot of questions at dinnertime. 

Because November is Indigeneous People’s Month and coincides (read: directly relates to) Thanksgiving, here’s a brief rundown on what land acknowledgements are, and why you may consider adding one before grace this holiday season. 

A land acknowledgement is a statement usually said at a gathering which intends to recognize the history of the land you’re on at that present moment. It acknowledges the American Indian and Alaska Native people who came before you, and helps create awareness of the erasure of indigenous culture that has come to pass in the time since what we now know as the US was colonized.

Acknowledging the land brings gratitude to the territory you’re residing on, as well as the indigenous people who may have come before you and lived, worked, or walked on it. In understanding the long history of the land, and the context of your standing on it, it recognizes that colonialism is an ongoing process, and brings mindfulness into everyday life. 

To determine what indigenous land you may live on, try out this interactive map from Native Land. Here in Seattle, I’m living on land belonging to various tribes, as listed in this Washington guide.

How to Craft A Land Acknowledgement of Your Own

In considering the language of your land acknowledgement, be sure to do research on the tribes you wish to acknowledge, and understand their history. It’s essential to look up an accurate pronunciation for the names of the tribes and other details you may include. As with any mindfulness practice, put your best intentions into the land acknowledgement. Even if you don’t do it totally right on the first time, if you’re offering it with the right spirit, you’re still making strides. 

Additional tips include using correct language, such as genocide, ethnic cleansing, and stolen land. NativeGov.Org recommends not sugarcoating history. Furthermore, be sure to use past, present, and future tenses in your words, as many Native people are thankfully still living, and not “a relic of the past.”

For examples of land acknowledgements, search YouTube or TikTok for how some creators craft their messages. One you may be interested in seeing is this land acknowledgement from by Korina Emmerich at the Study Hall Climate Positivity at Scale event from 2020. 

Going Forward…

As we work together to help make our culture more inclusive and kind to all those past and present, remember that the most important impact you can make is in your own community. Work to know and befriend your indigenous neighbors, support native business, and donate to indigenous nonprofits. The First Nations Development Institute has great ideas for donations, and The Native American Rights Fund is another great option to consider. 

The photo used in this post is owned by Ali Kazal.

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