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Acknowledging Where We Stand

Acknowledging whose land we stand on, and how we came to be on this land, is an important part of creating space to do something about how we treat that land, the peoples who lived on it, and others who live on other lands. Sharing this acknowledgement at the beginning of gatherings and events is an important way of sharing awareness and education. To that end, I've written this land acknowledgement, which I'll be using to open gatherings I participate in here in Missouri. I challenge you to write your own, about the place where you live. You might be amazed what you'll learn.

Before we begin we wish to acknowledge that we are, in this moment, standing within boundaries imposed by settler-colonizers who claimed and re-named this land as the State of Missouri. In so doing, they took land which once belonged to seven tribes who lived on this part of Turtle Island, on land bisected by one big river and bordered by another. The tribes whose land was taken by force and broken promises include the Chickasaw Tribe, the Illini Tribe, the Ioway Tribe, the Missouria Tribe, the Osage Tribe, the Otoe Tribe, and the Quapaw Tribe. None of these tribes, whose land we are occupying and whose names linger as the names of our states, cities and regions, now have a home within the borders of the State we call Missouri.

We also wish to acknowledge other Indigenous peoples who have not called this land home, but who passed through in the between-space that was the forced march from their ancestor’s land of lush mountains and the new land of dry prairies. We acknowledge the Cherokee, Tsa-la-gi, “The People”, who passed through the lands that had belonged to the Chickasaw, the Quapaw, and the Osage during their removal. We remember the people—my people—who died in the in-between place between here and there, part of which is now called the State of Missouri. We remember also the Sac and Fox, the Potawatomi, the Ottawa Shawnee, the Miami and the Kickapoo, who passed through this land when forced to leave their homes by the great waters and re-settle on the land-locked plains now called Kansas.

The Internet tells us that there are no federally recognized Indian tribes in Missouri today. This may tempt us to believe that Indians do not live here, or do not exist today at all. But I speak today to acknowledge that we Indians are still in this land called Missouri, moved here by powers both beyond our control and, now, within our control. We know ourselves and we name ourselves even, as in the case of the Northern Cherokee Nation, when we are not recognized by the government which has used its power to move us and has attempted to name us, regulate us, control us and break us. We stand on indigenous land, and indigenous people continue to exist. May we remember them, acknowledge them, and listen when they speak. And may we stand against governments and policies which attempt to repeat the violence of the past, in the present.

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