What is a land acknowledgement?
A land acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects the Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of this land, the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous peoples and their traditional lands. This is an act of conciliation that makes a statement recognizing the traditional land of the Indigenous people who have called and still call the land home before and after the arrival of settlers. It is critical that a land acknowledgement does not merely frame the presence of Indigenous people in their ancestral territory in the past tense. A land acknowledgement must recognize their continued presence and relationship to their ancestral lands since time immemorial.
Why do we recognize the land?
To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose homelands you reside on and a recognition of the original people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. All of California is Indian land. Unfortunately, the legacy of genocide has contributed to the erasure of California Indian people throughout the state. It is important to realize the longstanding history that has brought you to reside on the lands and to seek to appreciate your place within that history. Land acknowledgements do not exist in past tense or outside historical context. They are significant to creating a meaningful and lasting relationship with Tribal representatives whose lands you currently share. They create opportunities to elevate Indigenous voices, perspectives and expertise in these shared spaces. Colonialism is an ongoing process, and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation. The use of a land acknowledgement statement also encourages individuals to think about what it means to occupy space on Indigenous lands and what actions can be taken to move towards reconciliation. It is also worth noting that acknowledging the land is Indigenous/Tribal protocol and the practice establishes a respectful routine to increase visibility of Tribal members and descendants within their own homelands.
Approved California Community Colleges Systemwide Land Acknowledgment Statement
The below is the California Community Colleges systemwide land acknowledgement developed in partnership with California Tribal Chairpersons’ Association. It is important that each college develop relationships with tribal entities on whose land their campus occupies to work collaboratively in developing individual campus land acknowledgement statements.
California Community Colleges honors and acknowledges that our 116 campuses throughout the state of California are located in the unceded territories of the 109 federally recognized tribes and the dozens of tribes throughout the state who are seeking recognition. We are committed to supporting the ongoing relationships between these tribes, their ancestral territories and the resilience, strength and sovereignty that continues to be demonstrated by California’s first peoples. We affirm our intentions for ongoing relationships with American Indian Tribal Nations and communities whose ancestral lands and students we educate. A land acknowledgement is a critical step towards working with Native communities to secure meaningful partnership and inclusion in the stewardship and protection of their cultural resources and homelands. Our institutions were founded upon exclusions and erasures of Indigenous peoples. We honor and are grateful for the land we occupy and recognize the ongoing damage of settler colonialism.
We commit to pursuing continuous collaborations with the Tribal Nations of California. We strive to strengthen our awareness of historical and contemporary issues in California to reckon with our institutional legacy and its impact on the people, lands, waters of this place, which are, and always will be, inextricable.
Successfully developing a Land Acknowledgement
We encourage all of our 115 colleges to consult with their local tribal leaders to develop Land Acknowledgement statements unique to their campuses. To get started, read our Land Acknowledgement toolkit for guidance on tribal consultation and important things to know when developing a statement.