Stolen Land Acknowledging

And an additional step for POC solidarity.

Photo by Yura Sapi

What is a “Stolen Land Acknowledgement”? In a Guide to Indigenous Land and Territorial Acknowledgements for Cultural Institutions, a land acknowledgement is described as “a statement that recognizes the traditional Native inhabitants of the land who have been dispossessed from the homelands and territories upon which an institution was built and currently occupies and operates in.”

Land acknowledgement is about asking, “Whose land are we on?” and acknowledging the answer.

“Acknowledgment is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture and toward inviting and honoring the truth. In countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and among tribal nations in the U.S., it is commonplace, even policy, to open events and gatherings by acknowledging the traditional Indigenous inhabitants of that land.” — U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, Honor Native Land Guide

Additionally, a crucial part of land acknowledgement is leading into the “now, what?” aspect of acknowledging history. Acknowledging the past and present (Native/Indigenous/First Nations people are STILL HERE) and also looking towards what we can do differently for the future.

For me, land acknowledgements take the form of a spoken moment during the first part of my facilitation of shared learning spaces. Sometimes “shared learning spaces” are affinity groups of color or LGBTQ+ groups, for example. Sometimes they are facilitated discussions I give over a particular topic. Sometimes they are billed as “presentations” I give on a topic too. All in all, one of the first steps I take verbally to decolonize a space is to open with acknowledging the land we are on, the tribes and groups of indigenous people who were here first and still are here today, and how we can take steps to heal from settler colonialism within the particular group of folks I’m talking with. This can be radically different depending on who I’m talking with — a group of Stage Managers of color for example vs. a group of white LGBTQ+ folx vs. a Spanish & English speaking group of Latinx theatre makers…

Additional step for POC solidarity:

I have also added another aspect of acknowledgement to my opening land acknowledgement moments.

As I find myself gravitating towards more POC led spaces in my realignment of my efforts towards collective liberation, (See: “Why I’ve Changed My EDI Philosophy”) I find it incredibly important to include land acknowledgements as many folks may not realize the implications of settler colonialism that POC take part in. Additionally, I have also found it important to add on an additional acknowledgement of the land we are on; the acknowledgement that slavery happened on this land and anti-blackness exists to this day, everywhere. “Stolen People on Stolen Land.”

By adding this anti-blackness exists acknowledgement, I believe we are able to uncover more truth and correcting of more practices of erasure of history. We aren’t aiming for an oppression olympics and we are thriving off our “Yes, And” theatre artist culture. We also are able to enter into our decolonized and liberated shared learning spaces with a stronger reference point of how we can move forward in the future that is impacted by the past, which is all living in the moment.

Sources/ Further Reading


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