What to consider when acknowledging you are on stolen indigenous lands

Indigenous panel on Land Acknowledgement Statements held at Metro State on Indigenous Peoples Day. From left to right: Mary Lyons, Rhiana Yazzie, Kate Beane, Rose Whipple, Cantemaza.

Kate Beane, Director of Native American Initiatives for the Minnesota Historical Society, recalled sitting in her apartment a year ago, wishing she owned her own home with her husband and two little girls.

“I was so frustrated,” said Beane (Flandreau Santee Dakota and Creek). “I wanted a big garden and a dog. … I worked so hard for a doctorate. I wanted a home. We couldn’t have that.”

She recalled getting an email one day that summer from a man who owned a new condo development in Bloomington. He wanted Beane to come and give a land acknowledgement to welcome all the new condo owners.

It was a deeply hurtful email.

Land acknowledgement statements honor the land’s original indigenous inhabitants. Such statements are common practice in Australia and Canada, and have made their way to the United States. If done well, they can serve an important educational purpose. They also can do harm. In Beane’s case, she was being asked to welcome new homeowners on her family’s ancestral lands, lands where she couldn’t afford to own a home herself.

This past Indigenous Peoples Day, Beane and other Native American leaders participated in a panel discussion on the value of Land Acknowledgement Statements and what makes a good one. Continue reading