an essential link for land acknowledgments

In our booklet,

Land Acknowledgements, Historical Context, and Contemporary Inquiries

described by Prof Alanna Ojibway at the Vermont School of Law as *the* booklet

she recommends for anyone engaging with land acknowledgments,

we describe three forms of land acknowledgments:

1.) Formal

Carefully constructed by organizations, formal statements are often found on websites and read at important events.

2.) Conversational

Casual, everyday, group conversational statements, these are brief, informal, and varied. Ex: "I am from Mohican/Mahican territories aka the Hudson Valley in the contemporary state of New York."

3.) Grounding

These serve the particular needs of a group of people, serving to center and ground the collective, and can be ceremonial. They tend to orient in the heart-space, and are longer.

All of these can be shared in a rote, hasty, tick-box-y kind of way.

Or they can be opportunities to evoke a different kind of relationship and a different sense of history.

What makes the difference?







Greetings and salutations.

Rituals of acknowledgment, appreciation, and distinguishing one people-place from another. These are all reflected in our shared map, an imaginary space that shapes how we move around in the world, as well as the literal names of towns and hills and rivers. Geography and geology can and does literally ground and shape us.

But who are we in relation to that? And, critically, how are we helping the people who look to us for leadership, who are listening to us, shape their understanding of where they are? Of what it means to be a guest… and a host? A steward, and a traveler? A family member of an extended kinship network?

We refer to the process of going from a 2 sentence land acknowledgment to the purpose of gathering the act of BRIDGING. It is essential. It is part of what makes those 2 sentences meaningful and keeps them from being a tick-box. It is not obvious. It is not always easy. Bridging is a skill. It is also an art form. Bridging is something that you, as a facilitator, educator, leader, and speaker can learn and do and improve upon. It is a skill rarely taught and applicable to a wide range of situations.

There is also the art of what we think of as keeping that little tiny space that the land acknowledgment opens. How do we keep that window (to switch metaphors) open… So that something new can enter. So that the space can change? So that our relationship to land itself can shift.

There are a number of related aspects to enabling land acknowledgments to actually be the powerful shifters of social and ecological relationality that they can be… but which they often are not.

These include:

  • Creating opportunities for land acknowledgments to be integrated into embodied, community-specific rituals.
  • Evoking a multiplicity of lineages and histories.
  • Enabling different histories to be told
  • Throughlines and connective points

And, critically, creating different actions. By and large, the greatest request/critique that we hear from our indigenous colleagues around land acknowledgments is, ‘why bother if there aren’t actions attached to the words? We know you took our land; we don’t need to be reminded!’

How do we support institutions, neighborhood communities, and other spaces where we are active participants to take action? (And who can initiate/lead those conversations?)

Figuring out “action steps” is context-specific. What does that mean in a school district? An international organization? A shoe company? A church? A plant medicine organization?

Each context has its own set of possibilities; its own need for human-ecosystem healing.

The images above, of both Kristine and Sara Jolena, are at Olana, the home of painter Frederick Church. Sara Jolena and Kristine live next to Olana, and visit frequently. Historically, Church’s paintings shaped the American vision of nature/wilderness, both at home and abroad. Church rarely included Native peoples in his paintings. Re-positioning people as belonging in places is a critical aspect of the overarching healing of both people and places.

Hearing how others are and have been engaging with these ideas is helpful. Stepping outside of the Box of the Obvious (ie, ‘more scholarships’ for educational institutions) becomes possible when we work together.

This course is designed to support your skills and storytelling capacities. You bring your context to the course.

Each cohort is kept small. That is why we are offering two cohorts.

The bulk of our time together will be formed around real-life case studies, situational responses, and practical examples and possibilities from your life.

We will teach several concrete options for enhancing the rituals of the land acknowledgment for different groups, from circles to organizations.

As such, this is a participatory course. We seek to stir your imagination and your spirit, as well as to help you walk away with concrete, practical skills and initial solutions to some of the challenges of working deftly with land acknowledgments.

There will be some assignments. These will be primarily reflective and experimentative (ie, try this exercise at work, try this exercise in a conversation). That said, this course is designed for working professionals, parents, grandparents, philanthropists, and the many people out there who have a lot of pre-existing commitments. It is totally ok if you don’t do all the things.

Offering a substantial time between the third session and the fourth session (in May) is part of what makes this course so powerful - you have time AND support to try out new ideas in your work/ministry/life.

We are interested both in 'how to make a powerful bridge between the land acknowledgment and the purpose of the gathering' as well as, 'what different actions collectives can be taking as part of participating in a land acknowledgment'.

  • This is not a “101” course. We expect participants have already done at least some thinking about land acknowledgments, have already experimented with them, and have already run into some limitations.
  • This is not a ‘historical context’ course. That material, which has made our Throughline booklets so valuable to so many practitioners, networks, and organizations, can be somatically, intellectually, and heartfully experienced through Sara Jolena’s upcoming ReMembering Course, (and which Kristine, a former participant of the Course, enthusiastically supports).
  • If you are wondering if you are in the right place to take this course, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
  • All sessions will be recorded. They are only available for those who sign up for the course. It is ok if you miss a session.
  • This class is designed to complement our booklet on Land Acknowledgements; it builds on but does not replicate the booklet itself.
  • We welcome a variety of faith traditions. Based on the interest of the participants, we will go into the spiritual dimensions of these questions.
  • We will touch on questions around land back, land taxes, and changing histories… but keep in mind that this is a relatively short course. If you want to delve into these issues with us, please drop us a line, as we actively participate in these conversations both locally and nationally.
  • If you want to take this course as ‘listening only’, that is possible. Please contact us directly for options.
  • We take humor seriously.
  • A key question for us, as we design this class, is, “What is the Beaver’s perspective on both colonial history and current attempts of repair, of which Land Acknowledgements are only a tiny portion of a much larger network of actions towards restoration?”

Contact us

Rev Sara Jolena Wolcott

Kristine Marie Hill