Land Acknowledgments

What is a land acknowledgement?

Here’s the gist: in America (North and South), as well as Australia and other colonized nations, if you’re not an indigenous person, you live on stolen land. We start our meetings by, among other things, asking where people are from, and asking them to acknowledge the indigenous history of the land they live on. 

Why do we do them?

In order to remember, and recognize that the land we live on has been colonized. However, simply stating this isn’t enough - let’s do more!

What are we doing?

A blog post, where members of our community will each share a couple paragraphs of research that they have done on the land where they live. (and please share your sources).

Alanna Burke, Lenni Lenape Land | Pottstown, Pennsylvania, USA

The Lenni Lenape people lived in an area that covered Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania, Southeastern New York, and New Jersey when colonizers came in the 1600s. While most Lenape now reside in Oklahoma [1], there is still a tribe in New Jersey - the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenapes. The Nanticokes are ancestors of the Lenni-Lenapes, and the tribes are interconnected. “Our compound tribal name, a practice not uncommon among modern tribes, honors our ancestors from the two dominant ancient tribes which comprise our tribal nation [2].”

Despite living in their homeland, they are not federally-recognized. Federal recognition gives them tribal sovereignty - the ability to govern themselves. (In my research, there appeared to be some dispute over whether they were even state-recognized or eligible for any federal monies [3]).

There are still Lenape in Pennsylvania, too, though I struggled to find an organized presence online. One local woman, Uhma Ruth Py, speaks regularly at events and works with local museums to help preserve her heritage [4]. The Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania is a non-profit dedicated to increasing awareness of Lenape culture and history, and it recently helped to move the Lenape artifacts from The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to the Lenape Nation’s Cultural Center in Easton, PA [5].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenape#Oklahoma

[2] https://nanticoke-lenape.info

[3] https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-348

[4] https://www.readingeagle.com/life/article/lenni-lenape-woman-keeps-her-native-american-heritage-alive

[5] https://www.lenape-nation.org/2nd-project

Alex Laughnan, Ohlone Lands | San Francisco, CA, USA

As a resident of the Bay Area specifically San Francisco, I wanted to better understand the indigenous people that were disrupted, forced to give up the original lands that they had lived on during the colonization of America, and have been marginalized historically.

San Francisco and most of the Bay Area is on the land of the Ohlone people. “Today’s Ohlone/Costanoan people are the descendants of speakers of six related Costanoan languages that were spoken in west central California, from San Francisco Bay to Monterey Bay, when Spanish missionaries and settlers arrived in the 1770s.” (Milliken) While many thousands of Ohlone people were present upon the initial settlement from Spanish explorers, they were either converted via the missions or exiled and pushed into southern California.

In 1769, Spanish explorers entered the present-day San Francisco peninsula. “By 1801 all of the native San Francisco Peninsula people had joined Mission Dolores. Over the next few years, speakers of other languages — Bay Miwoks from east of San Francisco Bay and Coast Miwoks, Patwins and Wappos from north of the bay — joined Mission Dolores, swelling its population to over 1,200 people. They intermarried with its San Francisco Bay Costanoan speakers and with one another. Although most of the northerners returned home when missions San Rafael and San Francisco Solano were opened in the northern part of the San Francisco Bay Area, some remained at Mission Dolores. When the process of closing the missions began in 1834, the 190 members of the Mission Dolores Indian community included only 37 descendants of the original San Francisco Peninsula local groups.” (Milliken) Unfortunately, due to disease and colonization many members of the Ohlone/Costanoan tribes were wiped out. Historical policies and acts, as recent as the 1950s, from the United States federal government continued to disenfranchise the tribes through insufficient recognization and compensation for the land taken from them.

In present time, the term “Ohlone” is not unilaterally accepted in all indigenous communities on the San Francisco peninsula. Many, such as the Ramaytush, continue to push for better clarity around the different groups of people that existed in the area before Spanish settlement. “Today’s Ohlone/Costanoans are not a single community in either the social sense or the political sense. They do not gather as a united body for holidays or traditional ceremonies. They do not recognize a single Ohlone/Costanoan leadership or corporate organization.” (Milliken) Instead, the Ohlone people are often organized into groups each with a sense of community that their ancestors developed from shared experiences in the various Bay Area Spanish missions. “Most of the tribes continue to preserve and revitalize their cultural history through education, restoration of their native languages, and the practice of cultural storytelling.” (Cogswell)

References

Alex McCabe, Seminole lands | Orlando, FL, USA

The Seminole people are the result of unbowed resistance to hundreds of years of murder, war, and theft. Once part of the Mississippian culture that spanned much of the eastern portion of what is today known as the United States, invasions by Spain, England, and the United States killed or forcibly removed tribes from their ancestral homelands. The survivors fled south into Florida’s swamps, and mingled together with other tribes, eventually undergoing the process of ethnogenesis to become one tribe that the United States would come to know as the Seminoles [1][2]. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that the government of the United States ceased its efforts to remove the Seminole people from Florida [3].

At this point, Seminoles began to trade with white people. In 1907, the first Seminole reservation was created [3], but it wasn’t until 1957 that the Seminole tribe was officially recognized by the federal government, and even then it was at gunpoint - the Seminoles were forced to organize politically along the lines set forth in the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act [4].

Today, the Seminole tribe is very much alive, well organized, and financially successful. Tobacco and gaming bring in income [5], and in 2007, they closed on a deal that sold the international Hard Rock brand to the Seminole tribe [6]. They also operate museums, such as the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki museum [7], in order to preserve Seminole culture.

[1] https://www.semtribe.com/STOF/history/indian-resistance-and-removal
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminole#History
[3] https://www.semtribe.com/STOF/history/timeline
[4] https://www.semtribe.com/STOF/history/survival-in-the-swamp
[5] https://www.semtribe.com/STOF/history/seminoles-today
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_Rock_Cafe#Acquisition_by_the_Seminole...
[7] https://www.ahtahthiki.com/

Tara King, Pueblo Lands | Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque is on the land of several Pueblo peoples. There are 19 sovereign Pueblo nations in New Mexico, as well as three Apache tribes and the Navajo Nation.  

New Mexico was first colonized by the Spanish in 1540, when Coronado claimed the land on behalf of Spain.  Centuries of colonization, slavery, and genocide followed--everything from forced labor to "boarding" schools where children were separated from their families and cultural traditions destroyed.  Juan de Oñate led the Acoma Massacre of 1599 in response to rebellion at Acoma. During the Massacre, over 800 Acoma people died, many others were enslaved, and men over the age of 25 had one foot amputated. 

In 1680, the Pueblo Revolt succeeded against the Spanish, killing 400 Spanish and driving 2,000 settlers from the land. The revolt was coordinated by Popé (Ohkay Ohwingeh) from Taos Pueblo, though people from most Pueblos participated.  Pueblo control of New Mexico continued until at least 1692, and some Pueblos (such as Hopi Pueblo) never re-entered Spanish control. In 1706, Albuquerque was founded as a trading post between the Pueblo peoples and the Hispanos (descendants of the Spanish settlers).

In 1848, New Mexico became part of the United States after the Mexican-American War, though New Mexico was not granted statehood until 1912.  Between 1965-1975, the US Government built Cochiti Dam, an engineering project to control the Rio Grande river.  The dam not only altered the natural flow of the river, but it also destroyed sacred lands for the Cochiti people and flooded (then salinated) the historic fields that are central to Cochiti culture and survival. 

Thousands of Pueblo people live and thrive in New Mexico today.  To name just a few, Deb Haaland (Laguna) is one of the first two Native women elected to the US Congress.  Rebecca Roanhorse (Ohkay Ohwingeh) is the author of a very fun series of fantasy novels called The Sixth World.   If you visit Albuquerque, you can shop at Red Planet, possibly the world's only indigenous comic book store: https://redplanetbooksabq.com/ or visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, a museum dedicated to allowing Pueblo people to tell their own story: https://www.indianpueblo.org. Albuquerque is also home to the Gathering of Nations, North America's largest pow-wow: https://www.gatheringofnations.com/.

I work toward dismantling colonialism in Albuquerque and New Mexico by learning about Native history and sharing it widely, by respecting, learning about, and advocating for Native land-use practices, and by supporting Native-owned businesses.

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