Resources and Tools to Increase Your Understanding of the Land
Written by Faren Rajkumar & Wynne Weddell
When we verbalize or write the original Indigenous names of the lands beneath our wheels or feet, we are attempting to access and empathize with the generational trauma & grief felt by Native communities for centuries. We are momentarily paying respect, mourning, and showing evidence of an effort to unlearn colonial legacy.
But the moment can pass, as quickly as a tribal name rolls off the non-native tongue and a road sign blurs in the rearview mirror. Does that mean Indigenous liberation is forgotten? Another social activism trend with a short-lived fate?
Social media and internet resources make it easier than ever to foster educational and activist efforts that can endure. There are no longer any excuses to do only the bare minimum.
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, here are some ways to extend your effort beyond land acknowledgements:
If you find yourself uninterested in reading further or going beyond a few words in an Instagram caption, then it is necessary to consider how performative your actions may be, and if you sincerely care about Indigenous rights & history, or if you are subscribing to a collective social afterthought.
Whose land are you on?
Native-land.ca is a go-to resource for quickly figuring out whose stolen land you are occupying. They have compiled a thorough interactive map that makes it easy to search the Indigenous name of the region you want to learn about. As stated on their website:
“Native Land Digital is a Canadian not-for-profit organization, incorporated in December 2018. Native Land Digital is Indigenous-led, with an Indigenous Executive Director and Board of Directors who oversee and direct the organization. Numerous non-Indigenous people also contribute as members of our Advisory Council [and it] was created in 2015 by Victor Temprano, a settler hailing from the Okanagan territory.”
Although reparations, monetary support, political action, and land justice will not arise from land acknowledgements, it’s an essential step towards acknowledging history and the struggles that Indigenous communities face. The Native Governance Center (nativegov.org) says this:
“We need to share in Indigenous peoples’ discomfort. They’ve been uncomfortable for a long time. Dr. Kate Beane (Flandreau Santee Dakota and Muskogee Creek) says: We have to try. Starting out with good intentions and a good heart is what matters most.”
After land acknowledgement:
After we learn the original name of the stolen land we might be camping or hiking on, the stage is perfectly set for action!
Search for websites or social media accounts for the local tribes’ land that you occupy or are exploring. COVID-19 has left these communities in especially difficult circumstances, and donations are always needed. Read words from their leadership and channel financial support to the appropriate places.
This can also happen through supporting local Indigenous businesses, creators, artists, activists, and grassroots movements. We’ve compiled a small list of some Native-owned businesses that nomads can support from anywhere:
Spread the word:
It is the moral responsibility of the awakened to help others finally open their eyes. We have to advocate for the original inhabitants of these lands.
As nomads, we frequent national and state parks that celebrate and preserve natural beauty while inappropriately excluding Natives and true history from their narratives. Refuse to participate in the erasure of culture, and push parks to include more Indigenous history and acknowledgment in their resources. Tag and mention parks in your social media posts, and contact the National Park Service with your thoughts here.
We can also use similar methods to push for Native culture and history inclusion in our universities, schools, online communities, and local associations. Encourage everyone to use land acknowledgments when they post online and follow up with tangible financial, educational, and supportive political action.
Conduct events with respect:
If you are organizing a meet-up or celebration, a portion of the proceeds should go to an Indigenous tribe or organization. Consider also providing educational resources about the land history and supporting the original peoples of that region.
Not sure where to acquire this knowledge? You can start by inviting local Indigenous people to your events, and also ask permission to use the land or space prior to planning.
Unlearning never ends:
Colonial historical records are white-washed and deeply ingrained in the minds of many non-Native folx, and it will take decades to peel away the layers of lies that erase and abuse Indigenous culture. But the work has been ongoing in Native communities for a long time, and this is the overdue era of non-Natives joining the fight.
- Familiarize yourself with the history of the lands you occupy, relevant treaties, and get up to date on current events.
- Read books, listen to podcasts, and watch films by Indigenous folx to gain real facts. Pay reparations where reparations are due.
- Carry forth what you learn and have conversations with friends and family.
Help others to see the true foundation of this country, so-called America, and unite to channel energy into tangible reparations and healing for Indigenous communities.
Remember these words:
“A land acknowledgement is performative by definition- its power lies in the action it motivates.” – Charlie Marks