Land acknowledgements: A way to respect the first peoples of the land
What is a Land Acknowledgement?
A Land Acknowledgement is a statement recognizing the traditional territory of the Indigenous people who called the land home before the arrival of settlers, and in many cases still do call the land home.
Land Acknowledgements reflect the indigenous cultural practice of protocol — acknowledging and appreciating that one is on the land of another.
Why do we do Land Acknowledgements?
The Health Care Authority, like all Washington State agencies, is guided by the Centennial Accord and chapter 43.376 RCW to respect and affirm the sovereignty of the Indian Nations while working with the tribal governments throughout the state in government-to-government partnership. Part of that partnership is to remember the complex and often fraught history between the federal and state governments and the Indian Nations. By starting HCA-hosted meetings and events with a Land Acknowledgement when appropriate, we take a small step toward reconciliation and better relations with our tribal partners.
While there is no official mandate to start our meetings with a Land Acknowledgement, it reminds us that we live in a history-driven present. Our policies and programs need to be informed by that history in order to serve everyone in the state in a meaningful and effective way. Remembering the role of that history today can help us avoid making policy mistakes which, even if inadvertent, can have devastating consequences. Land Acknowledgements remind us to be intentional in our relations with the land and with the people indigenous to the land.
How do I create a Land Acknowledgement?
Land Acknowledgements can be as diverse as the people who give them. In some instances, they are concise, along the lines of “I want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of [nation names].” In other instances, they may include more intention and detail. You may find it helpful to reflect on and research questions such as:
· Why are we doing this Land Acknowledgement?
· How does this Land Acknowledgement relate to the event or meeting?
· What is the history of this territory? How has the history affected the health and well-being of the native people today?
· What can we do in our own work to help people heal from that past — and to learn how not to inflict new wounds today?
Examples of different styles of Land Acknowledgements
Example one — simple Land Acknowledgement
“We acknowledge the land we are on today as the traditional territory of the ____ and ____ Tribal nations, under the Treaty of ____, signed in ___. We also acknowledge the Tribal governments and their roles today in taking care of these lands.”
Example two — detailed Land Acknowledgement
Welcome to the Health Care Authority monthly meeting. We start today with a land acknowledgement. We are meeting physically in Olympia, on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people, specifically the Nisqually and Squaxin Island peoples. Olympia and the South Puget Sound region are covered by the Treaty of Medicine Creek, signed under duress in 1854. The employees of the State of Washington here in the room and participating by webinar are guided by the Centennial Accord and chapter 43.376 RCW — respecting and affirming tribal sovereignty and working with our tribal governments throughout the state in government-to-government partnership.
Resources for creating a Land Acknowledgement
· This tool allows you to look up the tribes whose land your meeting or event is held.
o Remember: Borders were more fluid and based on seasonal uses and historical understandings.
· Remember: Legal canons of construction led courts to interpret these treaties in favor of tribes.
· Remember: You need multiple viewpoints to get a more accurate view of history.
If you have specific questions surrounding Land Acknowledgements, please contact Tribal Affairs at TribalAffairs.hca.wa.gov.