CU System Land Acknowledgment

In October, 2020, CU President Mark Kennedy issued an official Land Acknowledgment statement – a first for the CU System. The text of that statement can be found here.

University of Colorado Boulder Land Acknowledgment

The University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado’s flagship university, honors and recognizes the many contributions of Indigenous peoples in our state. CU Boulder acknowledges that it is located on the traditional territories and ancestral homelands of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Ute and many other Native American nations. Their forced removal from these territories has caused devastating and lasting impacts. While the University of Colorado Boulder can never undo or rectify the devastation wrought on Indigenous peoples, we commit to improving and enhancing engagement with Indigenous peoples and issues locally and globally.

 We will do this by:

  • Recognizing and amplifying the voices of Indigenous CU Boulder students, staff and faculty and their work. 
  • Educating, conducting research, supporting student success and integrating Indigenous knowledge.
  • Consulting, engaging and working collaboratively with tribal nations to enhance our ability to provide access and culturally sensitive support and to recruit, retain and graduate Native American students in a climate that is inclusive and respectful.

Best Practices in Public Presentations
Best Practices: Confronting Native American History and Trauma as an Outsider with Sensitivity and Respect

A positive trend in American life is that more and more majority individuals are interested in learning about the often ignored, hidden or suppressed histories of minority individuals and peoples in the US and internationally. In many cases, these histories include times of trauma, tragedy, and loss, in addition to times of survival or thriving. Majority individuals and majority-based groups, institutions and organizations rightly want to hear these histories from the perspective and voice of the minority individuals themselves. This is completely understandable, because the voices of these people have been ignored or suppressed for so long. However, the call for these voices to be heard must not come at the cost of a series of recurring unpleasant moments or even re-traumatizations for minority individuals.

Where minority individuals actively seek to engage in dialogue or share their experiences, they should be given the opportunity and encouragement to do so. However, seeking out or calling on individual speakers to orally and publicly re-tell their own personal or group histories of trauma, suffering, genocide, exclusion and abuse in person should not be done casually or lightly, and indeed, should really only be done in special circumstances. Moreover, when this is done, consideration should be given for the events to be recorded and posted publicly (providing very clear permission is given) to avoid the necessity of repetitions. There are already innumberable sources, both written and oral, in libraries, bookstores, on the internet, and so forth, that amply document things like racism, sexism, oppression, massacres and other forms of discrimination and suffering in the voice of minority individuals. There are many more excellent publications, websites and the like produced by sensitive and capable majority scholars, which amply document the same histories. These sources should be the default for majority learning about traumatic pasts. One of the most common refrains from African-Americans in the context of the George Floyd murder and BLM has been that they are tired of having to constantly tell their stories, especially their negative stories and memories, to educate majority audiences and convince them of truths that are so obvious for anyone who looks. The same feelings have been expressed widely by Native Americans. Many minority people are tired of being asked to individually, personally revisit the trauma of the past, especially in front of majority audiences, where they are forced to perform vulnerability, pain and sorrow in front of people often unknown to them, who have not experienced the same histories.

Majority audiences should not need to see personal trauma and suffering in person, in the present, to grasp that it has happened widely in the past, and continues to affect minority individuals in the present. The demand for this kind of public interaction is itself indicative of a form of majority privilege, where overwhelming documentary evidence is apparently still not “enough” to convince the majority of historical inequity and oppression, and instead, further public suffering of minority individuals, before the gaze of the majority, is required.

                                                                        Andrew Cowell, Director, CNAIS

Additional Resources

Your Personal Land Acknowledgment

At CNAIS, we also believe that a meaningful Land Acknowledgment statement must address historical wrongs and inequities, not just the fact that others once occupied the land. In recognizing these wrongs, you should commit to concrete actions to address continuing inequities. If you are non-indigenous, what are you going to do to acknowledge the benefits you have received in exchange for the unjust ways that lands were occupied and acquired, as well as the continuing negative effects on the previous occupants and their descendants? This could include commitments of your time, money or service to organizations that serve indigenous peoples in your area. 

We believe that these should be significant commitments, not just token amounts. As an example, if you donate money, and you are an established professional, consider at least 1% of your annual salary as a donation on a one-time basis. Or if you are not in a position to donate financially, consider the equivalent of at least 1% of standard work hours (160 hours a month > 1.6 hours a month of service) for a year.

Worthy organizations are many, including: