Land Acknowledgement 101: Honoring Native American Heritage

School districts acknowledge numerous holidays, traditions, and observances throughout the year, but do we acknowledge the native land that our communities are on? One way to consider honoring Native American heritage throughout the year is to implement the practice of land acknowledgement at public functions. Kicking off school events and gatherings with acknowledgment of the traditional Native inhabitants of the land can be a simple, powerful way to show respect and a step forward in elevating the narrative around equity. As a leader in education, countering the “Doctrine of Discovery” by uplifting the native culture in name creates broader public awareness to inspire ongoing action in decolonization. 

For example, the Liberty High School Equity Club in Washington State partnered with staff and the Snolqualmie and Duwamish tribes to create a video explaining the purpose of Land Acknowledgements. The district Land Acknowledgement was presented to the School Board, who then adopted it to use at community events and continue a partnership with the Snoqualmie Tribe Ancestral Lands Movement.

Students may take away something from it as well, evidenced in the below tweet from indigenous Canadian artist Reneltta Arluk. Canada along with Australia and New Zealand, have policies to uphold land acknowledgement. 

Now that you know more about the practice land acknowledgment, you may be wondering how to go about it. Often, territory acknowledgements are concise, along the lines of: “I want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of [nation names].” Some people may also mention the name of a local treaty. To thoughtfully prepare an in-depth acknowledgement with time and care, reflect on research questions such as:

  • Why is this acknowledgement happening?
  • How does this acknowledgement relate to the event or work you are doing?
  • What is the history of this territory? What are the impacts of colonialism here?
  • What is your relationship to this territory? How did you come to be here?
  • What intentions do you have to disrupt and dismantle colonialism beyond this territory acknowledgement?

The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture provides resources like the below virtual Land Acknowledgement Guide to navigate the process virtually.  You can access the virtual resource pack here.