we are standing on indigenous land

connect to where you are and uplift indigenous experience by practicing land acknowledgements in your family and communities

For all of us living in the United States and other settler colonial contexts, expanding awareness and acknowledging indigenous inhabitants past, present and emerging is vital. Many folks in Canada and Australia and New Zealand have been doing a far better job of offering Land Acknowledgements at public gatherings for years. This practice is growing in the U.S. only recently. While this practice cannot stand in for actual decolonization work, it is an important step in recognizing the continual displacement and violence perpetrated against indigenous people and cultivating a practice of awareness.

Acknowledgement matters. I know for example as a person with Jewish heritage, when I’m traveling in Germany I find it hugely important that the holocaust is acknowledged regularly and publically and without defensiveness. This short video from the #honornativeland initiative at UC Davis explains why acknowledgement matters:

Acknowledgement and appreciation are powerful tools and underutilized renewable resources. Why not use them more?

While it is only a first step of course, the act of acknowledgement expands our awareness particularly if we take time to dwell with what is being said and what it means in our communities. As you start to acknowledge that the land you are on belongs to people who are still here, you can move toward clearer intentions that can support more more meaningful direct action and equity.

Acknowledge and Act.

Acknowledge and Act.

Acknowledgement matters because frankly, in the U.S., it is still quite startling for many folks to even realize they are “standing on indigenous land.” Try it at your next gathering. Simply acknowledge that “we are standing on indigenous land” and notice the cognitive dissonance and momentary surprise that will sweep through the room. It is a powerful wake up call for many and certainly was for me when I first experienced it at events in Canada. The next steps include doing your homework, uplifting indigenous organizations and voices, and giving financial support. All part of the the “turning toward” practice I write about in other posts.

Can you name the indigenous peoples of your region? Do you know who and where they are now?

Start practicing land acknowledgements

Your local university or native-led organizations will have land acknowledgements you can use or guidelines for creating your own.

The Native-led organization NativeGov.org offers a step by step guide that is super clear and helpful and includes.

Here are first three steps they recommend:

  1. Start with self reflection
  2. Do your homework and use the right language and pronunciation. Keep it in the present tense!
  3. Make your acknowledgement a celebration of indigenous people while not sugar coating historical and present day injustice.

From there, it is a process akin to any meaningful anti-racist work: build real relationships, do the work, don’t ask indigenous folks to inform you or do the labor, support indigenous organizations with your time and money, uplift indigenous voices and causes and commit to reparations. In the case of indigenous people, that means committing to returning the land and taking the time to really understand displacement.


I have been exploring my own practices of land acknowledgement over the past couple of years, ranging from simply saying “we are standing on indigenous land” in all of my public talks, to creating a version for our family to use at the dinner table as part of our gratitude practices each evening, and more detailed acknowledgements and ritual practices for Livable Futures gatherings. I’ve been working with colleagues at work to develop a land acknowledgement practice there and making a point of centering indigenous voices in the media and messages I consume (if you want a few fun places to start, check on the incredible collection of Indigenous Cinema at the National Film Board of Canada, or Emily Johnson’s decolonization rider for presenting creative work, then share what you find in the comments!).

I encourage you to make your own land acknowledgements, recitations or incantations for indigenous people past, present and emerging. Explore this as a contemplative practice perhaps or look for ways to integrate it into what you do every day at home and at work.

winter landscape with sun behind the trees and snow on the ground

I offer this incantation to honor indigenous rights and acknowledge the times we are in. I say it often for myself before starting a project and at the beginning of gatherings of all kinds. I find it helps connect me to where I am and renew my commitment to indigenous rights and anti-racist activism.

We are standing on indigenous land
We are living in extraordinary times

We arrive into this place, this moment, this body, this breath
And acknowledge that
We are standing on indigenous land
We recognize the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories
We pay our respects to ancestors, elders, and relations past, present and emerging
And acknowledge that
We are living in extraordinary times with great capacity for change

We turn toward the seemingly insurmountable crises we face
the holistic breakdown and severity of our global predicament
the ongoing legacies of colonialism and the African slave trade
We turn toward our present-day involvement in the pervasiveness of oppression and inequity
And we choose love

We recenter around the infinite possibilities of Blackness
And renew every day, our commitment to fighting for Black lives and
Cultivating in every moment, anti-racist thought and action
We orient toward open migration and immigration patterns
and uplift the enduring struggles for human rights
And the lives of our more-than-human animal and plant kin

We are standing on indigenous land
We are living in extraordinary times
And we dance today for the futures that are emerging
the lines of flight and as yet unknown possibilities that
we create with each choice we make in the present

Note: I am grateful to the many authors and ancestors who are speaking in these passages and I used italics where it is a direct reference to the work of Terry Patten, adrienne maree brown, Audre Lorde, Deleuze, Rebecca Solnit, and DeRay McKesson, Candace Thompson Zachery, the anti-racist working group and indigenous studies groups at The Ohio State University. I currently live in the lower plateau of the great lakes region, home to the Shawnee, Delaware, Ottawa, Miami, Seneca-Cayuga, and Wyandot peoples past, present and emerging in what is now called central Ohio.

Learn more about where you stand and how to get involved:


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