From the lands of the Myaamia and Peoria to the lands of the Setalcott, the learning journey continues...
In 2014, I was kindly and lovingly invited by Debbi Clairmont, a Muscogee Creek medicine woman, to join a sweat lodge ceremony in Bloomington, Illinois. Ever since my world view has shifted in ways that bewildered me. The ontology, epistemology, and axiology of ancient Indigenous philosophies embarked me on a journey that I never I imagined could ever be possible. Debbi helped me see the unseen and realize the beauty that can only be recognized though the eye of the heart. I am deeply indebted to her kinship, love, and teachings.
Land Acknowledgement - Northeast
In the summer of 2023, I came to the Northeast of Turtle Island* to join Stony Brook University which is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Stony Brook (zip code 11794) sits on the ancestral Native lands of Setalcott Indian Nation, one of thirteen Indigenous tribes in Long Island. Seltacott tribal land is surrounded by lands that belong to and are the birthright of the Corchaug, Shinnecock, Unkechaug, Secatogue, and Nissequogue Tribes. In acknowledging the Seltacott people, their land, and the surrounding Indigenous nations, I know that I have the duty to learn their longstanding history, seek them out, and work in solidarity with them, to uplift and serve their communities.
The brutal colonial history of the United States utilized genocidal and ethnic cleansing policies to wipe out nations and ancestral traditions, steal land, brutally force people out, and change the landscape. Yet Indigenous communities have strived, survived, and invested tremendous effort to bounce back and thrive.
Stony Brook University (SBU), in two lines on its website footer, acknowledges that it “resides on the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the aboriginal territory of the Setauket or the Setalcott tribe. We acknowledge federal and state recognized tribes who live here now and those who were forcibly removed from their homelands. In offering this land acknowledgement, we affirm indigenous sovereignty, history, and experience”.
It is not clear, yet, what SBU is actively doing to affirm this history and experience whether in courses it offers through its different departments, programs it provides, events it organizes, centers it has established, scholarships it offers being designated precisely to assist Indigenous students, institutional support it has in place for Indigenous faculty, staff, and students, and official relationships it has with the Setalcott and neighboring tribal nations in Long Island. It would be great to realize how active SBU is in recruiting and sustaining Indigenous experts, and in inviting Native students and faculty to join its programs.
As member of a public settler colonial institution, I acknowledge my responsibility not only to understand the history of the thirteen Indigenous nations in Long Island but also to actively confront the ways in which colonial policies and thinking continue to exist in the professional life and programing of SBU. To a large extent, academia has been complicit and even instrumental in misrepresenting and marginalizing Indigenous people and cultures. It is time to work to end these atrocities and bring about the change that will return the rights to its peoples.
Labor Acknowledgement Much of the economic progress and development anywhere in the United States resulted from the unpaid labor and forced servitude of People of Color - specifically enslaved African labor. What enslaved Africans and their decedents endured for centuries without recognition or any compensation should be not be forgotten; it should be a reminder that we have a long journey to walk to bring justice to the many generations who made the wealth of this country with their own sweat and blood.
During my tenure at Illinois State University (ISU), a wonderful group of Indigenous students namely Darcy Allred and Ayimikimaiya/Nitakechi Muckintubee the founders of TRIBE, helped me recognize the importance of Land Acknowledgement. They worked vehemently hard to push ISU to recognize the theft of their ancestral lands and resources. They did everything in their capacity to call out ISU for the discrimination that Indigenous students and faculty faced at ISU. The Land Acknowledgement below is part of their precious teachings.
Land Acknowledgement - Central
Gratitude is extended to the nations and tribe who lived in the city of Bloomington and town of Normal, of those the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Kaskaskia, Peoria, and Myaamia. Honor is also expressed to those Indigenous peoples who might be excluded due to euro-centric historiographical inaccuracies.
These lands and the wealth they provide, in central Illinois, are the birthright of Indigenous peoples who were, and many of their living descendants still are, forcibly displaced and dispossessed due to centuries of invasion, assault, genocidal policies, and complacent/complicit settler values that adhere to the very core of the U.S. government’s colonial goal to erase Indigenous peoples in order to more successfully take their lands.
I would like to sincerely thank Darcy Allred (Wyandotte) for the statement above, Nitakechi Muckintubbee (Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Meherrin, founder of First Nations Union) for his leadership, and both for their insight, steadfastness, and resilience. I would like to also express gratitude to Muscogee Creek medicine woman Debbi Clairmont who kindly and elegantly served as my spiritual teacher, Dr. Shannon Epplett (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa), Dr. Agela Haas, and others who taught me aspects of their living Native traditions.
Acting on Land Recognition
It is not enough for people to recognize the land without actively working to support, uplift, and serve Native communities. This can be achieved in different methods and capacities. I have been an avid supporter of the work of White Earth Ojibwe activist Winona LaDuke who founded Honor The Earth Organization (honorearth.org). Check the website out if you are moved to support Indigenous causes. The are many other projects led by other Indigenous tribes and nations throughout Turtle Island.