The land under and around us reflects our histories and affects how we feel and live. So while I have you, I'd like to take a moment to honor the people of the land you and I occupy. If you know the people of the land you occupy, acknowledge them now in your way. If you don't know the name of the native people where you are, find out here: https://native-land.ca/
I am deeply grateful to be hosted by the Indigenous guardians of the land along the Genesee River in upstate New York. The name Genesee came from the Seneca word Geneseo which means "the Great Valley." This is the unceded territory of the Seneca People, who are known as “Great Hill People” and “Keepers of the Western Door." As one of six nations of the Hodinöhsö:ni’ (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy, held together by the Great Law given to Hiawatha, they are part of rich history. Their words name our streets and buildings, yet they are still invisibilized.
Most of Western NYS was stolen from the Haudenosaunee by settler people in 1797 with the Treaty of Big Tree. By 1831, the small areas of reservation land that the Seneca kept in that treaty were claimed by white settlers, too.
This history of trauma affects the colonized and the colonizers. Let us keep it at the top of our minds so that we can hear the call to restorative action. Want to do something now?
- Remember that we are all connected to each other and to the land.
- Treat the Earth as a Temple.
- Stand up against oppression in all forms. If you do not understand it, spend time learning how and why it hurts people.
- Use fewer resources–subtly and not self-righteously–even when it is inconvenient.
- Make offerings and ask for permission.
- Walk outside (with friends!) Get inspired.
- Decolonize yourself: Deconstruct and let go of the limiting beliefs about your worthiness to Western standards of success.
- Avoid isolation.
- Donate time and money to good causes whenever you can.
- Plant seeds.
- Learn native plants.
- Stay up on current local events.
- Hire an Indigenous mentor.
- Read literature by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
- Ask Indigenous People what they want. Listen.
- Even strong people are tender-hearted. Be kind.
- Keep learning.
What is a Land Acknowledgment?
Land Acknowledgments are not new. They have always been a part of Indigenous protocols to honor and work with the Earth, rather than try to control her.
Now it means more. For non-Indigenous communities, a land acknowledgment is a powerful way of showing honoring the Indigenous Peoples of the land on which we live and work. They are just one part of a wider project of restitution, justice, and reparations that resist the erasure of Indigenous histories and bring awareness to Indigenous presence.
You are on native land. Right now. This land is not yours.
The acknowledgment of the land is a way of transforming and undoing the intentional erasure of the Indigenous people. By stating our name and talking about us, it makes [settler people] consciously think about the land that they’re standing on, and that they’re guests of this land.
~ Kimberly Morales Johnson, Gabrieleno Tongva.
If we think of territorial acknowledgments as sites of potential disruption, they can be transformative acts that to some extent undo Indigenous erasure. I believe this is true as long as these acknowledgments discomfit both those speaking and hearing the words. The fact of Indigenous presence should force non-Indigenous peoples to confront their own place on these lands.
~ Chelsea Vowel, Métis