Constructing Land Acknowledgements in Kansas
The Office of Native American Initiatives, as members of the Kansas Association for Native American Education, spent several months in 2022 developing a toolkit for those interested in constructing a land acknowledgement in a more accurate, appropriate, and responsible manner.
A Toolkit for Educational Institutions from the Kansas Association for Native American Education
Given the legitimate criticisms that have been raised nation-wide about how land acknowledgement practices can be shallow, under-researched, and/or simply performative in nature, with little substantive action tied to Indigenous nations, communities, and peoples, this toolkit was created.
As such, land acknowledgements should prioritize building relationships and a knowledge-base rather than simply creating a static statement. This toolkit, like the land acknowledgement you might create, is an evolving document that will likely be updated in the future as we all try to refine this relatively new practice in our institutions of education.
Frequently Asked Questions
A land acknowledgement explores the history of the land you currently occupy and should be viewed as an educational tool to advance a more accurate understanding of Indigenous nations, communities, peoples, and places. As Haskell Indian Nations University professor Daniel Wildcat (Yuchi, Muscogee) explains, “Indigenous peoples…refers to peoples or nations who take their tribal identities as members of the human species from the landscapes and seascapes that gave them their unique tribal cultures.” As implied here, the socio-cultural worldviews of Native peoples have always been inherently tied to the land, and land is therefore more than a commodity to be bought, sold, or exploited for resources.
This is why Kaw Nation Vice Chairman James Pepper Henry has recently argued that land acknowledgements should in fact function as “people acknowledgements.”
The University has taken steps to actively listen to our Native community and leaders on campus about our commitment to the Native and Indigenous community. Many folks have expressed complex feelings about the institution having a blanket land acknowledgement statement, while others find land acknowledgements as representation at KU. As such, the Office of the Provost - in community with the Offices of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging and our office, Native American Initiatives - is exploring ways that KU can demonstrate a commitment to Native and Indigenous people through both words and, more importantly, actions.
You should begin by reading the KANAE Land Acknowledgement Toolkit [PDF] and follow their recommendations, as it is important to ask critical questions of your motivations, and what you or your institution are hoping to accomplish, such as:
- What are my/our personal goals in developing the land acknowledgement?
- What are the goals of my group/institution in creating a land acknowledgement?
- What do I need to learn or understand about our local history before composing a land acknowledgement?
- How do I go about educating myself on these topics, and not automatically place that burden on Native American community members?
- How will I go about educating my group/institution about what I have learned?
- Where will this land acknowledgement publicly reside?
- How will the land acknowledgement inform and improve our institutional culture through words and actions?
There are also helpful resources available in the toolkit.
All land acknowledgements should include action steps. This toolkit challenges you to go beyond a simple statement and instead engage with and respond to Native peoples. Such action steps include:
- Engage in listening sessions with your Native students, families, nations, and communities, and generate strategic action plans as a result.
- Create programs and pathways that respond to the unique cultural needs of Native nations and peoples.
- Build mutually beneficial partnerships with Native nations and institutions and/or create positions that allow your institution to do so.
- Examine and reflect on your school data with a focus on Native students in your institution.
- Hire Native faculty and staff.
- Create or provide scholarships for Native students.
- Create infrastructure for Indigenous culture and language coursework.
- Create Indigenous studies units, courses, etc.
- Host and/or attend professional development opportunities which help individuals learn from, and with, Indigenous communities.
- Create opportunities for mentorship and networking specific to Native students, staff, and faculty in your area.
It is important to reflect on your land acknowledgments so that they do not become static statements.
If you follow the guidelines in the toolkit and use the resources in the toolkit, you do not need someone to review your land acknowledgement. But it is important that your land acknowledgement be reviewed and updated as your action steps are accomplished and more are added.