This land recognition statement is created by the Indigenous NH Collaborative Collective in consultation with local Tribal leaders and Indigenous peoples elsewhere. This statement is dynamic and may change depending on the changing goals of the Collective. At this time, we fight the invisibility of Indigenous peoples in the state of NH and call on you to join us in adopting this statement or creating your own that reflects local Indigenous peoples’, past and present, lasting connection to and stewardship of the land and waterways in what we now refer to as the state of New Hampshire. Further, since we aim to participate in lifting up local Indigenous cultural heritage, we adopt some Abenaki (a dialect of the Algonquian language family) terms in the statement. This is a current proposed version:
“This talk/event/performance/etc. takes place on (or this library/school/theater/etc. is located on) N’dakinna, which is the traditional ancestral homeland of the Abenaki, Pennacook and Wabanaki Peoples past and present. We acknowledge and honor with gratitude the land and waterways and the alnobak (people) who have stewarded N’dakinna throughout the generations.”
You can also add (1) that some of these peoples are currently lacking federal recognition; and (2) that this land continues to be unceded. We strongly encourage you to research Indigenous names of the land and waterways you reside on and explore their meaning. To customize the land acknowledgement to your specific town or region, you can include a description of the Indigenous meaning of the place name(s). See our post “Place-names Divide Indigenous Communities in New England” for more information on the significance of place names. See this helpful website for identifying Indigenous lands you reside on. Acknowledging the land is always an educational opportunity.
For a printable Land Acknowledgement for your office or classroom, download here!
For variations on a “We Are On Indigenous Land” printable sign, download here!
Important: “Land acknowledgments are not harmful, we believe, if they are done in a way that is respectful of the Indigenous nations who claim the land, accurately tell the story of how the land passed from Indigenous to non-Indigenous control, and chart a path forward for redressing the harm inflicted through the process of land dispossession.” Hence, any Land Acknowledgment has to be accompanied by actions – it should not be a token or a symbolic gesture! By themselves only, Land Acknowledgments may “communicate false ideas about the history of dispossession and the current realities of American Indians and Alaska Natives” and be “detrimental consequences for Indigenous peoples and nations.” Read this. It is good to know, as the authors remind, that “[i]f an acknowledgment is discomforting and triggers uncomfortable conversations versus self-congratulation, it is likely on the right track.”
Several institutions in the Seacoast NH area have created their own Land Acknowledgements:
Portsmouth Public Library: The City of Portsmouth is on the homelands of the Abenaki people, who have ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to this area.
According to Tribal oral tradition, Abenaki people have lived in the place now called New Hampshire for more than 12,000 years—since before Tribal memory.
The Abenaki are part of a larger group of Indigenous people who called themselves Wabanaki or “People of the Dawn,” and form one of many communities connected by a common language family.
Here at the Portsmouth Public Library we are committed to acknowledging and honoring the human history tied to this land.
University of New Hampshire: As we all journey on the trail of life, we wish to acknowledge the spiritual and physical connection the Pennacook, Abenaki, and Wabanaki Peoples have maintained to N’dakinna (homeland) and the aki (land), nebi (water), olakwika (flora), and awaasak (fauna) which the University of New Hampshire community is honored to steward today. We also acknowledge the hardships they continue to endure after the loss of unceded homelands and champion the university’s responsibility to foster relationships and opportunities that strengthen the well-being of the Indigenous People who carry forward the traditions of their ancestors.
Exeter Historical Society: This talk/event/performance/etc. takes place in M’squamscook, now called Exeter, in N’dakinna, the traditional ancestral homeland of the Abenaki, Pennacook and Wabanaki Peoples past and present. We acknowledge and honor with gratitude the aki (land), nebi (water), olakwikak (flora), awaasak (fauna) and the aln8bak (people) who have stewarded N’dakinna throughout the generations.
Read more about the #HonorNativeLand movement and the call from the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture to open public events and gatherings with acknowledgment of the traditional Native inhabitants of the land: https://usdac.us/nativeland
Read more about the importance of and some problems with land acknowledgments: https://apihtawikosisan.com/2016/09/beyond-territorial-acknowledgments/ “If we think of territorial acknowledgments as sites of potential disruption, they can be transformative acts that to some extent undo Indigenous erasure. I believe this is true as long as these acknowledgments discomfit both those speaking and hearing the words. The fact of Indigenous presence should force non-Indigenous peoples to confront their own place on these lands.”
More information about the cartographic erasure of Indigenous peoples, Euro-American map-making as a contribution to colonization and dispossession, and the importance of “maps by Indigenous Peoples, for Indigenous Peoples… that support Indigenous data sovereignty and visibility.” https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/arcnews/putting-indigenous-place-names-and-languages-back-on-maps/ (Accessed Jan. 26, 2021)
“[C]olleges and universities in the U.S. often occupy land that was once home to Native American communities.” The acknowledgement of the native tribes that were dispossessed of their land is a step toward changing college campuses’ colonial environments by rewriting an existing colonialized history of any campus and, sometimes, honoring the Indigenous peoples by erecting buildings referencing their heritage with an intention of researching ancestral cultures and languages of these indigenous communities. https://www.insightintodiversity.com/acknowledging-native-land-is-a-step-against-indigenous-erasure/ (Accessed March 13, 2020)
“Maybe every Canadian needs to write her own acknowledgment. Maybe we all need a personal rendering of the atonement we impossibly dream of attaining.” Sometimes land acknowledgments can be empty gestures since a very little attention or respect given to the actual Indigenous peoples whose lands are supposed to be recognized (e.g., Canada). https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/canadas-impossible-acknowledgment (Accessed March 13, 2020)
Violations of Indigenous peoples’ rights are widespread and systematic. The UN Rapporteur investigates international leaders’ views on indigenous rights and whether they believe their countries have policies in place to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples. https://www.un.org/press/en/2010/hr5016.doc.htm (Accessed March 13, 2020)
Land acknowledgement “has to go beyond just a tokenized gesture.” What does land recognition really mean? The action itself can be empty and insignificant, because Native peoples are still disrespected by mispronouncing their names and, more importantly, through a dominant colonial narrative of historical events. This article reviews some ways people can make land recognitions more meaningful. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-has-indigenous-land-acknowledgment-at-public-gatherings-become-an/ (Accessed March 13, 2020)
Canada has been making land acknowledgements references in their national anthem and within public schools and popular sports. Yet, these could be empty gestures. The non-indigenous communities aren’t understanding the meaning of these gestures and are merely following along in an effort of complacency. Although land acknowledgments are meant to bring attention to issues facing native communities indigenous to the land, but this is rarely the case. https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2017/12/27/are-indigenous-acknowledgements-a-step-forward-or-an-empty-gesture.html (Accessed March 13, 2020)
Bates college is dealing with ethics of land acknowledgements. Land acknowledgement statements can help the Bates to relinquish responsibility its role in colonization, settler colonialism and subsequent wrongdoings. https://thebatesstudent.com/2020/02/05/does-bates-deserve-a-land-acknowledgement/ (Accessed March 13, 2020)
“Chances are you have heard land acknowledgements recited at many of these universities, formal statements that recognize the Indigenous peoples who formerly possessed the lands those colleges now stand on. What many of these statements miss is that land-grant universities were built not just on Indigenous land, but with Indigenous land. It’s a common misconception, for instance, that the Morrill Act grants were used only for campuses. In fact, the grants were as big or bigger than major cities, and were often located hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their beneficiaries.” https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.4/indigenous-affairs-education-land-grab-universities (Accessed March 30, 2020)
“There are many important questions or ideas to consider:
- Reflect on why you are doing a Land Acknowledgement. What’s the goal? Why is it important to you and your institution?
- Who is in the group or committee devising this Land Acknowledgement? Who isn’t at the table?
- Whose land are you on? Who are the First or Indigenous Peoples? Who are the federally recognized (state) tribal nation(s) in the area you are referencing? Is the Indigenous community not recognized but still there? Who can you invite from these communities to acknowledge the land and their relationship to this place over time?”
https://www.tomaquagmuseum.org/belongingsblog/2020/3/22/a-guide-for-land-acknowledgements-by-lorn-spears (Accessed April 10, 2020)
“Land acknowledgments have been used to start conversations regarding how non-Indigenous people can support Indigenous sovereignty and advocate for land repatriation. Yet the historical and anthropological facts demonstrate that many contemporary land acknowledgments unintentionally communicate false ideas about the history of dispossession and the current realities of American Indians and Alaska Natives. And those ideas can have detrimental consequences for Indigenous peoples and nations.” https://www.sapiens.org/culture/land-acknowledgements-soverignty/ (Accessed October 22, 2021)