Reflections on Honoring Original Indigenous Inhabitants through Land Acknowledgement

A few years ago, I had the tremendous opportunity to be mentored by three Native American women who were part of a project funded through the US Department of Education called the Native American Parent Technical Assistance Center (NAPTAC). NAPTAC provided training and technical assistance to Parent Training Information Centers (PTI) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRC) nationwide on providing effective, culturally responsive services to Native American families of children with disabilities, as well as youth with disabilities. I was selected to join a cohort of leaders from other PTIs and CRPCs to learn and to be mentored so we could serve Indigenous communities more effectively.

During my time with them, I was introduced to the practice of Land Acknowledgement. Land acknowledgment is a traditional custom that dates back centuries in many Native nations and communities. Today, land acknowledgments are used by Native Peoples and non-Natives to recognize Indigenous Peoples who are the original stewards of the lands on which we now live.

In my time with my mentors, I learned that this practice has significant meaning, and it is important that it is practiced with a spirit of honoring truth and humility. Engaging in this practice and being in a relationship with my mentors taught me just how much un-learning I had ahead of me. I had such a misunderstanding of who the original inhabitants of this land were, and the role that colonization had in shaping the great inequity that we see across our nation today.

In Washington State, we are witnessing increasing numbers of non-Native individuals, agencies, and local governments engage in this practice. It is important that this practice is done with a spirit of humility and in relationship with Native communities. It is also true that not all Indigenous peoples agree on their efficacy or even on how they should be done. In the end, it is best to keep growing in learning the history of our Indigenous people and to be in relationship with communities to keep authenticity and humility at the center.

Resources to learn more about our Native American Communities and Land Acknowledgement: