by Cara Michelle Silverman
Why Land Acknowledgments?
In this web of community, we collectively name, honor and attempt to hear the voices of those who have been silenced – both human and more than human. The travesties of ecological destruction and climate chaos share roots with the travesties of genocide, refugee crises, food insecurity, lack of access to education, clean water and health care…and so much more. Underlying all of this lies the cancer of conquest, white supremacy, and colonization. The ideas that one life is worth more than another, that land can be parceled, sold, and bulldozed, that Indigenous people’s lifeways are less “civilized” or less “productive” than “Western” society all contribute to the ecological loss that so many of us mourn. It is therefore vital that we acknowledge the Indigenous ancestral lands and peoples in the places where we practice the Work That Reconnects.
It is therefore vital that we acknowledge the Indigenous ancestral lands and peoples in the places where we practice the Work That Reconnects.
A Land Acknowledgment For This Moment in Time
Note: I started and stopped multiple times trying to compose a land acknowledgment from a future generation. I couldn’t do it. I eventually realized my writer’s block came from my feeling that, as a settler, Indigenous futurities are not mine to imagine. It is my job to listen and learn, and to use my role as an educator to amplify Indigenous voices. This land acknowledgment is therefore my own voice, in the here and the now. May the futures that Indigenous people imagine come true as brilliantly as a rainbow after a rainstorm.
I write this land acknowledgment from the hills east of the Kwinitekw, within the traditional territories of the Nipmuc and Sokoki Abenaki. I acknowledge the Massachusett and Wampanoag to the east, the Mohican and Pocumtuck to the West, the Mohegan and Pocumtuck to the south, and the Pennacook (Abenaki) to the north. I am grateful for the female leader Weetamoo’s strength and strategic acumen in staving off colonial settlers within Wampanoag lands prior to King Philip’s War. I recognize the lasting impact of the massacre at Peskeomskut in 1676, during which thousands of Indigenous women and children were slaughtered. I am grateful for David, Diane, Pam, Brent and others at the Nolumbeka Project for how they invite people to more accurately understand pre- and post-contact Indigenous life in this place, and for how they directly engage the community in repairing relationships, healing land, and celebrating the future.
How To Craft A Land Acknowledgment
Within whose ancestral homelands do you live, work, and play? Perhaps your own! If not and you are uncertain, www.native-land.ca is a helpful resource for finding out.
Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo) offers this guide for thoughtfully preparing a land acknowledgment: https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2019/03/are-you-planning-to-do-land.html
Before diving further into this issue of Deep Times, and perhaps every morning when you wake up, I invite you to say aloud the names of the Indigenous peoples whose homelands you dwell within. I invite you to learn about the historical and contemporary leaders of those nations, and to learn to say their names correctly. I invite you to learn Indigenous place and river names, and to use them in colloquial conversation. I invite you to learn about what projects the Indigenous communities where you live are working on, and to ask if and how you can be helpful. (Settlers especially, please remember the if here.) I invite you to feel in your body what it means to be a guest in someone else’s home, and how you might be the best guest you can be. I invite you to give gratitude for the people who have stewarded land for thousands of years. They are still here.
Cara Michelle Silverberg
Cara Michelle Silverberg is a somatic educator, camp director, writer, mover, and herbalist living in Nipmuc and Abenaki homelands (also called Western Massachusetts). She is enthusiastic about fostering community experiences that help people to explore and express themselves, their relationships with place, and their relationships with each other. Dedicated to trauma-informed experiential learning and wholistic leadership, Cara aims to co-create a more just, caring, courageous, and playful world. She designs and facilitates curricula for environmental/agricultural educational initiatives, land healing projects, and leadership development programs. Cara works in both Jewish and secular communities, with both youth and adults. Her favorite times of year are autumn, maple sugaring season, and the Jewish period of time called the Omer in early Spring. She was a member of the first Earth Leadership Cohort in 2014. You can check out some of her writing atwww.onthefringesofplace.com.