What is a Land Acknowledgement?
A Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.
Why is Dickinson doing this?
The request for an official Dickinson land acknowledgment comes from the knowledge that land acknowledgements are valued within Indigenous communities as well as in non-Indigenous communities as sentiments of honor and respect for the Indigenous peoples and communities that precede and continue to live within a given place. They have been recommended to be used by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the UN, and the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. Land acknowledgments serve as a point of resistance, and they attempt to reverse the trend within American culture and institutions to erase and “historicize” Indigenous peoples.
Dickinson College is in a geographic area that served as a central location and national and historical emblem for the extermination/assimilation project represented by the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS). There are very few other areas in the United States that served such a centralized location for the enactment of unethical federal policies targeting Indigenous peoples in the Americas at scale.
The Dickinson Land Acknowledgement Working Group members include its lead author, Darren E. Lone Fight (American Studies), enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, Donna Bickford (Women’s and Gender Resource Center/Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies), Espoir DelMain ’21, Jim Gerencser ’93 (Archives), Darren Lone Fight (American Studies), Greg Moyer ’06 (Admissions), Cody Nielsen (Center for Spirituality and Social Justice), and Susan Rose ’77 (Sociology).
Dickinson's Land Acknowledgement
Dickinson College was founded on the unceded territory of the Susquehannock peoples. We hereby recognize the prior status and enduring diversity of this land and the many Indigenous nations that stand in relation to it—particularly the thousands of Indigenous children from dozens of different nations forced or coerced into the reprogramming camp established at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS) in 1879. Dickinson endorsed and gave material support to these cultural eradication efforts. Turn of the 20th century presidents facilitated land acquisition and charitable donations, while others conferred honorary degrees to two CIIS superintendents. Dickinson faculty delivered lectures and classes both at CIIS and on campus.
This relationship represents our failure to have recognized in these peoples and their nations different but no less self-sovereign ways of thinking, living, and being. We recognize and take responsibility for the college's support for this attempted eradication of Indigenous peoples—a profound moral failing in stark opposition to our mission today.
No single acknowledgement is sufficient to the task before us. Accordingly, this living land acknowledgement is incomplete by design and under revision by necessity: it reflects our need and desire to learn from these histories and the Indigenous communities that carry them, to act consciously and responsibly with that knowledge, and to sustain our commitment to this process by regularly reviewing it. While our knowledge remains incomplete, the process of turning honestly toward our history continues to animate our acknowledgement today even as it orients us toward a more just tomorrow. The violence of settlement, the forced relocations of tribal nations, and the cultural erasure program of the CIIS are stories we must recognize, share, and attempt to reconcile with our own. Yet, these histories do not diminish the ongoing stories, continuing sovereignty, and enduring strength of Indigenous nations and people. The interrelated histories of this land lean firmly against easy characterization and the comforting simplicity of a single story; we thus offer this in-process living land acknowledgement with deep humility to the many and varied Indigenous nations and peoples who, by choice or force, called this land home.
The following condensed versions of Dickinson’s Land Acknowledgement statement can be read aloud or distributed by anyone who wishes at public or private events on college property.
Condensed Version I (Convocation, Commencement and other large-scale formal college events where a relatively brief acknowledgement is desired)
Dickinson College is on the unceded lands of the Susquehannock nation. We acknowledge the many Indigenous peoples that lived with these lands, as well as the thousands of Indigenous children forced into the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS) in 1879 as part of a federal cultural eradication effort.
Condensed Version II (for any event where discussion of the college’s support and responsibility for CIIS is desired, and the living land acknowledgement’s purpose is discussed)
Dickinson College is on the unceded lands of the Susquehannock nation. We acknowledge the many Indigenous peoples that lived with these lands, as well as the thousands of Indigenous children forced into the reprogramming camp established as the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS) in 1879. The College bears responsibility for the support and recognition it provided CIIS, a federal effort to culturally assimilate and eradicate Indigenous peoples. Accordingly, this living land acknowledgement is deliberately unfinished work. It will continue as a project dedicated to helping our entire community better understand our shared past, present, and future.
Condensed Version III (a version focusing more on the purpose of the living land acknowledgement).
Dickinson College is on the unceded lands of the Susquehannock nation. We hereby recognize the prior status and enduring diversity of this land and the many Indigenous nations that stand in relation to it—particularly the thousands of Indigenous children from dozens of tribes forced into the reprogramming camp established at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS) in 1879. Dickinson College supported this agenda of cultural eradication in both word and deed. Turning honestly toward that shameful past animates this acknowledgement and gives orientation to our desire for a reconciled future. Accordingly, this Living Land Acknowledgement is intentionally incomplete, a reflection of the ongoing process it represents: to learn respectfully from the stories of this land and the peoples that carry them, to think reflectively about the injustice in our shared past, and to act responsibly with that knowledge today to inspire a more equitable tomorrow.
Condensed Version IV (for more informal events like athletic games, etc.)
Dickinson College is on the unceded lands of the Susquehannock peoples. We hereby recognize the prior status and enduring diversity of this land and the many Indigenous nations that stand in relation to it.