For the last several months we have included this statement at the top of our worship bulletin:
We acknowledge we are gathering on land where Miami, Osage, Shawnee, and other Indigenous peoples have lived and worked and loved. We continue to work and pray for justice and conciliation.
The inclusion of such statements is a growing practice for institutions, and at the beginning of conferences, meetings, and worship services. Several of us at CMC had experienced gatherings where this was included and were moved by its power. We’ve also attended workshops such as the Doctrine of Discovery presentations through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
Just this morning – after I had already begun writing this – I flipped through the Fall/Winter Goshen College Bulletin magazine at the church and saw a page dedicated to a land acknowledgement. It reviews the history of the land where Goshen College in Indiana is located. It mentions Miami and Potawatomi peoples, the 1828 treaty through which they ceded their land to the US government, and the settlers who purchased the land up to Goshen College’s beginnings 125 years ago.
Statements of land or territory acknowledge are primarily for non-indigenous persons. They are a way of calling to mind the history of a place, the peoples who have called it home, and the ongoing responsibility to live in right relationship.
CMC’s current statement was discussed within Worship Commission and Leadership Team before appearing in the bulletin. We’re unclear how long it will be included. It is intended as a starting point. It’s an invitation to awareness of place and peoples, a summons to “continue to work and pray for justice and conciliation.” That final word is intentional since reconciliation implies a prior state of right relationship to restore.
This Sunday, our Thanksgiving service, we’ll read the statement aloud. And it has been given a slight update. A member passed along this book summary which argues that “a failure to acknowledge the roles of warfare and violence in the lives of indigenous North Americans is itself a vestige of colonial repression – depriving native warriors of their history of armed resistance.” So, upon further consideration, the same group of pacifists who affirmed the first statement are affirming this update:
We acknowledge we are gathering on land where Miami, Osage, Shawnee, and other Indigenous peoples have lived and labored, fought and loved. We continue to work and pray for justice and conciliation.