Beyond Land Acknowledgements

Indigenous Peoples Day 2022

How do we come to the circle? At AMI/USA we are intentional about how we hold space for our collective work. On this Indigenous Peoples Day, we recognize that we are on Indigenous land and give gratitude for the original stewards of the land. Moving beyond land acknowledgements is a journey of deep listening and reflection. Today we turn to AMI/USA Human Rights and Social Justice Advisor, Sheri Bishop, as she shares her journey with us.

This excerpt is from our recent Montessori Regional Conference in the Missouria Nation, home to the Osage and Niutachi tribes, also known as Kansas City, MO.

Indigenous People and Land Acknowledgement

AMI/USA Regional Conference
Kansas City, MO

I thank you for the opportunity to guide you to a disposition of reverence as we honor the Indigenous nations and land now known as Missouri. The two original and most powerful tribes to hold the lands, the Osage tribe and the Niutachi tribe that were a part of the Missouria nation and about 7 other tribes, reigned on millions of acres between the time the Europeans arrived and the 1830 Indigenous Relocation Act. Today and there is not one Native reservation in the state.

We know that the land was stolen using intentionally misleading and fraudulent treaties and land deals. We should also recognize that racism, actions that were perpetuated by greed, and the intentional destructive laws in five crucial areas destroyed this Native community. Native economies were devastated, Native cultures were dismantled, Native spiritual practices and worship sites were stamped out, children were separated from their parents and sent to residential boarding schools to be acculturated and assimilated, some to never return. Tribal powers of self-government and self-determination were eradicated.

I respect the nations of Indigenous People who presently live on this land and in area…the Chickasaw, Delaware, Illini, Kanza, Ioway, Otoe-Missouria, Quapaw, Sac & Fox, and Shawnee tribes that spent time here protecting and nurturing the land, waters, and all of nature for the generations that were destined to follow. I respect the roughly 26,000 Indigenous people (4% of the population) now living in Missouri that continue to honor the earth.

Intellectually, I know that Land Acknowledgements are only a basic, first step on the way to addressing the ongoing inequities, systemic injustice and genocide faced by Indigenous people. The only true justice that follows an acknowledgement is Land Back action. As an individual I do not yet know how I can amplify and support Land Back efforts. I will start by routinely donating even a small amount to Indigenous organizations that drive this cause. Today I ask you to do the same. I also know that all over this country, upon the unyielded lands of the Native people are buildings and great wealth built by the hands and resting on the backs of the stolen labor from my people, my African and African American ancestors. The only true justice that can right this reality are fair and equitable reparations. I recognize that as in the past, true freedom is linked to the collective liberation of all Native and African American people in this country. I yearn for the day that honor and morality will rise to right the wrongs that have oppressed and disenfranchised us. My hope is that my Indigenous land acknowledgment will be coupled with my motivation to continue to interrogate, reflect, and act on ways that I can move in solidarity with the Indigenous People.

Sheri Bishop, M.Ed.
Human Rights and Social Justice Advisor

Click here for further reflection on this work.