What Is Land Acknowledgement? Why Are Land Acknowledgements Important?

What Is Land Acknowledgement?  Why Are Land Acknowledgements Important?

By now, most of us have heard of some university or corporation having a land acknowledgment ceremony but what exactly is land acknowledgment?

According to Northwestern University:

Land acknowledgement or territory acknowledgement, is a formal statement that recognizes the indigenous people of that land. Furthermore, it highlights the existing ties Native people have to land as the rightful stewards. It’s a custom that dates back centuries to remind others that this land was given to us by the Creator and have a responsibility to respect it and take care of it.

From the National Museum of the American Indian:

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. Before public events and other important gatherings hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian, a speaker offers this acknowledgment displayed in the quote container on behalf of everyone present.

Sadly, after centuries of displacement and dispossession, land acknowledgment is tricky at best.

Connection to land is sacred and our culture, language, and traditions stem from the land. The ceremonies give a glimpse to the public of how indigenous people are vitally connected to the land and are thriving. Land acknowledgment should be treated with respect, not a token photo-op. It can be a way to recognize the history of colonialism and the impact it’s had on the land and people.

Furthermore, appropriate measures should be taken to include important members and elders of the Native community. The institution or organizations should disseminate content that is culturally accurate and consistent with the beliefs of the Tribal Nation.

Indigenous land acknowledgements, their purpose, and how to make them meaningful | CBC Kids News

Things to consider when acknowledging land:

  • Include Indigenous people who currently live in the area
  • Don’t sugarcoat the past – Indigenous people are still here and thriving. People should be aware of this and not treat Tribal Nations as relics.
  • Be authentic about the relationship a university, organization, or corporation has with Native people. For example, what’s the average of indigenous students on campus or what is the retention rate of indigenous people in the corporation etc.
  • Compensate Indigenous people for the emotional hardships. For example, starting a school program to increase indigenous youth in a medical program or donating to causes that are important to the Native American community.

Some feel land acknowledgment is nothing more than a fancy gesture to avoid the real issues that need to be addressed which include appropriation, racism, slaughter and dispossession. It’s a mere bandaid for issues that are never addressed and the people are not respected. The stiff and pompous speeches don't help heal the wounds of the past but add to the problems. In reality, most land acknowledgments provide a false sense of understanding and respect towards Tribal Nations and have zero connection to indigenous people.

Land acknowledgment will continue as most universities, companies, and organizations tap themselves on the back for being inclusive but rarely do the real job to include us.

In Our Voices: Land Acknowledgement


About Jeanette Centeno

Jeanette Centeno (Taíno) is a nurse with 18 years of experience, ranging from Spinal Cord Injury patients to case management. She is committed to advocating for adequate healthcare and proper intervention for all people. Centeno currently works at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, one of the leading acute care hospitals in treating Spinal Cord Injury.

2 Comments on “What Is Land Acknowledgement? Why Are Land Acknowledgements Important?”

  • Avatar for Nilsa Rivera

    Nilsa Rivera


    Thank you so much for this article. I’ve been internally debating if the college I attended was acknowledging natives and the land properly. The statement at the beginning of a zoom meeting seems superficial and inadequate when the college’s student body and culture don’t represent the acknowledgment’s sentiment. It always rubbed me wrong.

  • Avatar for Vicky Hughes

    Vicky Hughes


    I enjoy the land Acknowledgment.
    I feel so close to the land it’s in my soul . As a young girl I would ride my horse through the trees in the pasture around the pond a beautiful feeling.LIKE that’s where I belong .

    Thank You

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