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Land Acknowledgments. Please Stop or Please Do Much Much Better

Friday, June 9, 2023


Are you part of an organization (a school or business or religious community or another group) that wishes to act in thoughtful and just ways, and is "land acknowledgment" a practice you've adopted as a way to express your commitment to social justice? If so, I invite you to reflect on how you might respond to the questions I put to ChatGPT this morning about the practice of land acknowledgments. If you practice land acknowledgment in what has become a common manner, I invite you to cease the practice or do much much better (especially if you are an educator and thereby a model of ethical behavior).

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Carlos:

Are you familiar with the practice of "land acknowledgment?"


ChatGPT

Yes, I am familiar with the practice of land acknowledgment. A land acknowledgment is the act of recognizing and acknowledging the traditional Indigenous inhabitants of the land on which an event or gathering takes place. It is a way to honor and show respect for the Indigenous peoples who have been stewards of the land for generations.


Land acknowledgment typically involves acknowledging the specific Indigenous nations or tribes associated with the land, expressing gratitude for their ongoing connection to the land, and recognizing the history of colonization and the ongoing struggles faced by Indigenous communities. It is often performed at the beginning of an event, meeting, or public gathering as a way to create awareness and foster a sense of reconciliation and respect.


The practice of land acknowledgment has gained prominence as a means of acknowledging and centering Indigenous voices, promoting understanding of the history of the land, and recognizing the enduring presence and contributions of Indigenous communities. It is an important step towards reconciliation and can serve as a starting point for meaningful engagement and collaboration with Indigenous peoples.


Carlos:

Respond to the concern that land acknowledgments, whatever their intentions, amount to a hypocritical use of a euphemism ("land" acknowledgment) for what is actually theft, displacement, oppression, and unethical occupation acknowledgment. They are equivalent to someone taking someone's home by force, displacing the original residents to the sub-sub-basement, a shed out back, or who knows where, building a life in that stolen home, having an event there, and taking a moment at the start to let everyone there know that they are on someone else's property, without any expression of interest or intention to rectify the moral crime.


ChatGPT:

The concern you raise regarding land acknowledgments is an important one and highlights the need for deeper reflection and action beyond symbolic gestures. While land acknowledgments are intended to recognize the historical and ongoing injustices faced by Indigenous peoples, it is crucial to move beyond mere words and take meaningful steps towards rectifying the harm done.


Land acknowledgments should not be seen as a substitute for addressing the complex issues of theft, displacement, oppression, and unethical occupation that Indigenous communities have endured. Instead, they should serve as a starting point for dialogue, education, and the pursuit of justice.


To address the concerns you raise, it is essential to accompany land acknowledgments with tangible actions, such as:


Engaging in Reconciliation Efforts: Actively supporting initiatives that promote Indigenous rights, land repatriation, self-determination, and community-led development.


Amplifying Indigenous Voices: Providing platforms and resources for Indigenous communities to share their stories, perspectives, and cultural heritage in their own voices.


Collaborating and Supporting Indigenous-led Initiatives: Building relationships and partnerships with Indigenous organizations and communities, respecting their sovereignty and supporting their initiatives and projects.


Educating Yourself and Others: Taking the initiative to learn about the history, cultures, and ongoing issues faced by Indigenous peoples. Sharing this knowledge and raising awareness among others is crucial for challenging misconceptions and fostering understanding.


Advocacy and Policy Change: Supporting policies that address the needs and rights of Indigenous communities, including land rights, cultural preservation, and self-governance.


Reparations and Land Restitution: Actively supporting efforts towards restitution and returning land to Indigenous communities, recognizing that justice requires concrete actions to address historical and ongoing injustices.


It is important to remember that land acknowledgments are just one step in a broader journey towards reconciliation, justice, and decolonization. Meaningful change requires ongoing commitment, learning, and collaboration with Indigenous communities. By actively engaging in efforts to rectify historical and ongoing injustices, we can work towards building a more equitable and respectful society for all.


Carlos:

Draft a "land acknowledgment" statement that is clear and truthful about the situation.


ChatGPT

Certainly! Here's a draft of a land acknowledgment statement that aims to be clear and truthful about the situation:


"We acknowledge that this event/gathering is taking place on the traditional lands [or unceded territory] of the [Name of Indigenous Nation(s) or Tribe(s)]. We recognize that these lands have been the ancestral homelands of Indigenous peoples since time immemorial. We express our gratitude to the [Name of Indigenous Nation(s) or Tribe(s)] for their stewardship and continued connection to this land.


We acknowledge the ongoing injustices, theft, displacement, and oppression that Indigenous communities have faced throughout history and continue to experience today. We recognize that this acknowledgment alone is not enough to rectify the moral crimes committed against Indigenous peoples.


We commit ourselves to taking meaningful action towards reconciliation and justice. This includes amplifying Indigenous voices, supporting Indigenous-led initiatives, advocating for policy change that respects Indigenous rights and land sovereignty, and educating ourselves and others about the histories, cultures, and ongoing struggles faced by Indigenous communities.


We understand that true reconciliation requires more than words. We are dedicated to challenging systemic oppression, addressing the legacies of colonization, and working towards building equitable relationships with Indigenous peoples.


As we gather on this land, we encourage everyone to reflect on our collective responsibility to uphold the rights, cultures, and well-being of Indigenous communities. Let us strive for meaningful change, solidarity, and the ongoing work of reconciliation."


Please note that land acknowledgment statements should be adapted to specific contexts and regions, ensuring accuracy and respect for the Indigenous communities in that area.


Carlos:

Please do better. If you stole my house and had a party there and wanted to acknowledge that situation, I hope you wouldn't refer to my stolen house as my "traditional land" or "ancestral home." It's my house, my home, my land, and you are occupying it without my consent. Likewise, the bit about being grateful for my continued stewardship and continued connection to the thing you forcefully took from me?! Come on now.


ChatGPT:

I apologize for any insensitivity in my previous response. I understand the importance of acknowledging the gravity of the situation and respecting the experiences of those who have been directly impacted by land theft, colonization, and oppression. Here's an amended draft of a land acknowledgment statement that strives to address the concerns raised:


"We acknowledge that this event/gathering is taking place on the traditional lands [or unceded territory] of the [Name of Indigenous Nation(s) or Tribe(s)]. We recognize that these lands were forcibly taken from the [Name of Indigenous Nation(s) or Tribe(s)] through acts of colonization, displacement, and systemic injustice.


We humbly acknowledge the ongoing struggles and resilience of the [Name of Indigenous Nation(s) or Tribe(s)] and all Indigenous communities who have endured the consequences of land theft, cultural erasure, and oppressive systems.


We understand that mere words cannot rectify the profound injustices perpetrated against Indigenous peoples. We commit ourselves to actively engaging in the work of reconciliation, justice, and decolonization.


In our acknowledgment, we confront the historical and ongoing reality of dispossession and oppression. We strive to dismantle systemic barriers, challenge unequal power structures, and amplify Indigenous voices, knowledge, and perspectives.


We express our commitment to listening, learning, and taking meaningful action in collaboration with Indigenous communities. This includes advocating for Indigenous rights, supporting land repatriation efforts, and working towards dismantling the systems that perpetuate inequality.


We recognize that true reconciliation requires ongoing commitment, education, and introspection. We encourage all participants to reflect on their roles in the process of healing and to actively contribute to creating a more just and equitable society for all."


I hope this revised land acknowledgment statement better acknowledges the history of theft, displacement, and oppression while emphasizing the need for genuine reconciliation and action.


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