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Land Appreciation Statements: Their Importance and How to Craft Them

By Renaldo Wilson posted 07-14-2022 13:51

  

Now more than ever, it is crucial that we acknowledge the Indigenous People whose land we occupy. However, in order to be transformative, it is important to move away from “performative” acts, as Megan Red-Shirt Shaw in her essay “Beyond the Land Acknowledgment; College “LAND BACK” or Free Tuition for Native Student,” into a mindful way to show awareness, create accountability, and actively disrupt colonial structures.

As public health professionals, we must use our expertise to elevate the health of Indigenous People. We can do this by:

  • Establishing relationships with tribal entities, health councils and members
  • Advocating for policies and legislation that address land, air and water rights
  • Supporting Tribally led Health Initiatives
  • Addressing opportunities to deconstruct systems of racial bias and oppression
  • Providing technical and educational opportunities through Conference and event Forums

An ideal Land Appreciation Statement will do all five of these. This can be seen in this NMPHA Indigenous Peoples Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement Statement (please note that this statement is for the entire state of New Mexico, and as such, it acknowledges every Tribe whose land falls within the borders of New Mexico; your statement will only require acknowledgment of the Tribe(s) whose land you are currently occupying at that moment, not every Tribe in your state):

“We ask that you pause to reflect on, honor, and acknowledge that we in New Mexico are on the

stolen homelands of the Dine, Pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe,

Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara,

Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zuni and Zia, and the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, the Jicarilla

Apache Nation and the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Indigenous Peoples comprise 14.5 percent of

our entire state’s population, having lived here for thousands of years. However, many of our

Indigenous communities were forcibly removed from their lands through genocide and ethnic

cleansing by prior Spanish and Mexican settlers and governments, the State of New Mexico and

United States Government. Indigenous Peoples are still here, persisting despite ongoing

colonialism and oppression. We see you, we hear you, and we vow to continue working with

you to dismantle systems of oppression that inhibit health equity throughout the State of New

Mexico.”
 

So, how do you write your own Land Appreciation Statement? The first step is to learn the history of the land that you are on, which can be done via the Native Land Digital tool. Take note of which Tribal lands you are on and connect with someone in the Indigenous Communities where you live, if possible. Determine knowledge gaps and your personal privilege. Show your Land Appreciation Statement to someone that you trust and ask for honest feedback. When in doubt, consult the Guide to Land Acknowledgement by the Native American Institute at Michigan State University. 

As Members of an antiracist public health organization, it is essential that we honor and recognize the Indigenous People whose land we occupy. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message here or email me at rwilson_ic@chronicdisease.org.

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