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Monday, November 14, 2022

Your Land Acknowledgment Is Not Enough

Joseph Pierce
Originally posted 12 OCT 22

Here is an excerpt:

Museums that once stole Indigenous bones now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Organizations that have never hired an Indigenous person now admit the impact of Indigenous genocide through social media. Land-grant universities scramble to draft statements about their historical ties to fraudulent treaties and pilfered graves. Indeed, these are challenging times for institutions trying to do right by Indigenous peoples.

Some institutions will seek the input of an Indigenous scholar or perhaps a community. They will feel contented and “diverse” because of this input. They want a decolonial to-do list. But what we have are questions: What changes when an institution publishes a land acknowledgment? What material, tangible changes are enacted?

Without action, without structural change, acknowledging stolen land is what Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang call a “settler move to innocence.” Institutions are not innocent. Settlers are not innocent.

The problem with land acknowledgments is that they are almost never followed by meaningful action. Acknowledgment without action is an empty gesture, exculpatory and self-serving. What is more, such gestures shift the onus of action back onto Indigenous people, who neither asked for an apology nor have the ability to forgive on behalf of the land that has been stolen and desecrated. It is not my place to forgive on behalf of the land.

A land acknowledgment is not enough.

This is what settler institutions do not understand: Land does not require that you confirm it exists, but that you reciprocate the care it has given you. Land is not asking for acknowledgment. It is asking to be returned to itself. It is asking to be heard and cared for and attended to. It is asking to be free.

Land is not an object, not a thing. Land does not require recognition. It requires care. It requires presence.

Land is a gift, a relative, a body that sustains other bodies. And if the land is our relative, then we cannot simply acknowledge it as land. We must understand what our responsibilities are to the land as our kin. We must engage in a reciprocal relationship with the land. Land is — in its animate multiplicities — an ongoing enactment of reciprocity.

A land acknowledgment is not enough.