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Land & Labor Acknowledgements: Land Acknowledgements

An introduction to land and labor acknowledgements, their purpose, and examples

About Land Acknowledgements

What is a land acknowledgement? 

This page provides resources to help you learn more about the importance of land acknowledgements and how to craft a land acknowledgement. 

A land acknowledgement serves to recognize and honor Indigenous Peoples and their relationship to the land. Learn more from this short video by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture's #HonorNativeLand campaign. 


What is the purpose of a land acknowledgement?  

A land acknowledgment can have a range of purposes. They strive to counter the erasure of Indigenous Peoples. In this way, they can be a tool that educates or brings awareness of Indigenous Peoples (past, present, and future) to non-Indigenous people. Because land acknowledgements tell the truth about genocide and ongoing violence against Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. and globally, they prompt uncomfortable feelings for people descended from settlers. Acknowledging the land and the people also acknowledges the harm that has been done and continues to be done. 

Meaningful land acknowledgements often include a call to action or further learning and conversation to foster recognition of harm and move toward reciprocal relationship building.

"Land Acknowledgements demonstrate a commitment to counter the Doctrine of Discovery and to undo the ongoing legacy of settler colonialism."

- The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness

What is the Doctrine of Discovery? 

In brief, the doctrine of discovery or discovery doctrine offered legal and moral justification for Christians to colonize land and resources occupied by non-Christians. The concept purported that white American and European Christians were divinely entitled to land and resources, regardless of who was already living there. The U.S. led the effort to embed this idea in public international law, in the late 1700's and early 1800's. Learn more about this concept from the books, articles, and podcast linked below.

Tips for creating a land acknowledgement

  • Research first. Learn whose land you are on, their histories, and pertinent treaties or historical events that have impacted Indigenous Peoples in the region. Native Land Digital's online map can be a helpful starting place. 

  • Avoid "blessings" or taking Indigenous practices, rituals, or songs out of context.

  • Speak the truth. Land acknowledgements name the harm and lasting impacts of colonization. Words like genocide, ethnic cleansing, and force removal are appropriate to use. 

  • Learn and practice the correct pronunciation of living Indigenous nations. One way to do this respectfully is to look up the Nation's phone number and call after hours to listen to their answering machine. You can also look to see if the Nation has a YouTube channel or other recordings where you can listen to the names.

  • Include a call to action that can prompt your audience to further their learning and support living Indigenous Peoples, i.e. share a book title, a current event impacting Indigenous people and how someone can take action, an upcoming community event, or how someone could donate their time or money to Indigenous Peoples, etc.

  • Consider critiques and opinions regarding the intention, delivery, meaning behind land acknowledgements. See tab labeled "Critiques".

“It's one thing to say, ‘Hey, we're on the territory of the Mississaugas or the Anishinaabek and the Haudenosaunee.’ It's another thing to say, ‘We're on the territory of the Anishinaabek and the Haudenosaunee and here's what that compels me to do.’"

- Hayden King, Anishinaabe, from ‘I regret it’: Hayden King on writing Ryerson University's territorial acknowledgement

For more tips and ideas:

Examples of Land Acknowledgements 

From the The College of the Holy Cross Counseling Center:

"With deep respect, we formally acknowledge that the land we work, learn, and gather on was originally inhabited by the Indigenous people of the Nipmuc tribal nation. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide, slavery, and being forced onto reservations. We hope this small gesture helps to honor the Nipmuc people and the ongoing connection they have with the land. 

The Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council is located at 25 Main Street, South Grafton, Massachusetts. Social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and website."


From the Land Acknowledgement Statement for the Digital Commonwealth:

"As part of Digital Commonwealth’s mission to support the creation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage materials, we must acknowledge Indigenous Peoples as the traditional stewards of the land, and the enduring relationship that exists between them and their traditional territories. We acknowledge that the boundaries that created Massachusetts were arbitrary and a product of the settlers. We honor the land on which the Digital Commonwealth member institutions sit as the traditional territory of tribal nations. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide and forced removal from their territory, and other atrocities connected with colonization. We honor and respect the many diverse indigenous people connected to this land on which we gather, and our acknowledgement is one action we can take to correct the stories and practices that erase Indigenous People’s history and culture." 


From the Land Acknowledgement from the 2021 Phoenix Zine Fest

"I acknowledge that I primarily live and work on occupied Akimel O'odham/Pee-Posh lands. We pay respects to our Yavapai and Navajo neighbors. We pay respect to their elders, past and present and thank them for their continued stewardship of the land. We recognize that land acknowledgement is simply one tiny step towards reconciliation, building right relationships with Native people and Native lands towards Land Back. If you would like to get to know more about this work and find out more about whose land you’re on to begin building relationships, check out the NDN Collective Land Back Campaign."

"Land acknowledgments should not be feel-good maneuvers. If an acknowledgment is discomforting and triggers uncomfortable conversations, it is likely on the right track."

-Lambert, Sobo, Lambert

American Anthropology Association

Learn More About the Doctrine of Discovery

Podcast: Mapping the Doctrine of Discovery 

Presented by the Indigenous Values Initiative and American Indian Law Alliance and hosted by Prof. Philip P. Arnold and Sandy Bigtree (Mohawk Nation), this Podcast aims to help identify systems of domination that have been sustained by greed and power, through the subjugation of human beings and the natural world. Following 15th century Christian imperialism, through to the 19th century formulation of US law, we are able to identify today, how the Doctrine of Christian Discovery continues to be utilized all over the world by multi-national corporations. Corporations who continue to justify resource extraction through the seizure and destruction of Indigenous lands, and who perpetrate cultural genocide through the 15th century fiction of “terra nullius”— empty land, and under the guise of economic development.