Rethinking Our Public Rituals, Acknowledging Our Past

Playing the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of sporting events — and the silent protests it sparked — drew its share of controversy in 2016. For some this ritual stirs deep pride in country, for others anger at injustice.

Australia has a very different tradition for beginning meetings and public events, the reading of a “Welcome to Country” statement. It honors the contributions of indigenous peoples. Here is one example developed by the group Reconciliation Australia:

“Reconciliation Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.”

A recent Op/Ed in the New York Times — What Does It Mean to Acknowledge the Past? — has an interesting take on the value of this ritual to the indigenous peoples of Australia — and what would it be like to consider such ceremony here in the United States.

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