“[Faith Spotted Eagle] was saying, for Native people, talking about these things is important to a process of healing. For me, I think it’s not just healing. I would add to that a sense of justice, being heard. And then, on the other hand, she said for non-Native people, hearing and listening to these narratives, these histories, and engaging in a conversation — it is not about guilt, and it’s not about shame. It is about…freedom from denial. It allows a liberation.”
–Layli Long Solider, an Ogala Lakota poet
The power of land acknowledgments derives from their repetitious use in the life of an institution. In keeping with best practices, DIAC recommends using the short acknowledgment as part of the routine life of the college.
We gather on the land of the Council of the Three Fires – the Ojibwe, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi. Indigenous nations of the Great Lakes region are also known as the Anishinaabe (Ah-nish-nah-bay), or original people, and their language is Anishinaabemowin (Ah-nish-nah-bay-mow-in). We acknowledge the enduring relationship that exists between the People of the Three Fires and this land.
The power of land acknowledgments derives from their repetitious use in the life of an institution. In keep with best practices, DIAC recommends using the long acknowledgment at ceremonial and public facing events and occasions.
We gather on the land of the Council of the Three Fires – the Ojibwe, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi. Indigenous nations of the Great Lakes region are also known as the Anishinaabe (Ah-nish-nah-bay), or original people, and their language is Anishinaabemowin (Ah-nish-nah-bay-mow-in).
“Kalamazoo” itself is derived from the Anishinaabe word meaning to surround with smoke, and reflects the way the mist rises off the Kalamazoo River. Kalamazoo College rests on Potawatomi land – specifically, on the traditional land of Match-e-be-nash-she-wish and his people.
The United States began seeking land cessions in Michigan after the defeat of the British and their Anishinaabe allies in the War of 1812. Southwest Michigan was ceded in the 1821 Treaty of Chicago with small tracts of land reserved at the sites of prominent Potawatomi villages, including a three-mile square area for Match-e-be-nash-she-wish in present-day Kalamazoo. Under the 1827 Treaty of St. Joseph, the U.S. government did away with four of the five reserved areas, including the one in Kalamazoo, in an attempt to consolidate the Potawatomi as a precursor to removal west. Although many Potawatomi were forcibly removed in 1840, some bands found ways to remain, including the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish band. Their descendants belong to the sovereign nation known as the Gun Lake Tribe. The Tribe has never been compensated for the loss of their Kalamazoo reserve.
We acknowledge the enduring relationship that exists between the People of the Three Fires and this land.
Rationale & Responses to Feedback
What is a land acknowledgment?
A land acknowledgment is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous peoples as stewards of the land and the enduring relationship – historical and current – that exists between Indigenous peoples and their territories. Such statements are made routinely as a matter of protocol at public gatherings.
Why do we recognize the land?
Using land acknowledgment statements to open public gatherings was one of the recommendations made to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (DIAC) in the spring of in 2018, and President Gonzalez and DIAC members agreed that this was a high priority. It is important to understand the history that has brought us to reside on this land, and to seek to understand our place within that history. Because of the social and historical erasure of Indigenous peoples in the United States, many of us are unaware even of the names of the original peoples of this land, their culture, and the languages they speak. Land acknowledgment statements help begin to redress this history of erasure and are the first step in building healthy, reciprocal relationships with local Indigenous people. Because colonialism is an ongoing process, land acknowledgements are done in the present rather than past tense. It is also worth noting that acknowledging the land is Indigenous protocol and that land acknowledgments have become commonplace in Canada and Australia.
Overview of the changes made in the updated acknowledgments
*Grammatical changes were made to both acknowledgments to move sentences from a passive construction to a more forceful and accurate voice.
*A sentence was added to directly name the United States government as the actor who sought land cessions in Michigan.
*Language was changed to remove the word “reservation.”
Why did you choose to use the language of “cessions?” Can land cessions be valid when the Anishinaabe of this region were under existential threat?
We used the language of land cessions because it is what happened. By using that language we do not mean to imply that the 1821 or 1827 treaties were just or that the Potawatomi or other Indigenous peoples of the region wanted to cede their land.
Length of the Acknowledgments
Responses were divided nearly equally between wanting the acknowledgments to be longer or shorter.
Where and when you suggested we should use these statements
on syllabi, at commencement, at convocations, in faculty meetings, at public endowed lectures, in the introductions to speakers, at performances on campus, at plays, recitals, and on written text at art exhibitions, at student organization meetings, and a student hosted public events…
Isn’t further action necessary? Is acknowledgment enough?
No. We understand the land acknowledgments to be a first step. The land acknowledgment group was tasked with taking this first step and we are hopeful that more will follow, particularly as the community begins to publically and consistently acknowledge our location on indigenous lands.
I want to use the acknowledgments but am not confident on how to pronounce Anishinaabe, Anishinaabemowin, Match-e-be-nash-she-wish.
Where can I learn more about this history?
Adapted from Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group “Know The Land Territories Campaign” and Canadian Association of University Teachers’ Guide to Acknowledging First Peoples & Traditional Territory.