Recognizing Indigenous People & Land

We owe Indigenous People in our state and nation a debt far more substantive and long-lasting than a single act of acknowledgment. These resources will assist the TU community in ongoing education, conversation, reflection and action. We hope that each of us will commit to identifying meaningful and authentic ways to acknowledge, recognize and act.

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day

In 1977, the United Nations held the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas in Geneva, Switzerland. This was the first U.N. conference with Indigenous delegates and the first time that Native peoples were invited to participate. A resolution proposed by a delegation of Native nations was passed to recognize “International Day of Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.”

Today, more than eight states and 100 cities, towns and counties across the country have officially recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Baltimore City will recognize it as a legal holiday for the first time this year. We ask that our entire TU community join us in recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In TU’s inaugural Diversity Strategic Plan released last year, we stated that part of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion involves acknowledging that this work “has its roots in a past rich with complex stories of success, pain, accomplishment, struggle and, ultimately, hope that TU will continue to move forward with a reconciled and more inclusive history.” The goal is to tell a more complete, complex and reconciled history of the land and native peoples of our region and state.

An acknowledgment of the land is rooted in indigenous practices. At least eight known nations or groups of American Indians are native to Maryland including the Susquehannock and the Nentego (Nanticoke). Today, the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs serves the following Maryland Indigenous communities: 

  • Accohannock Indian Tribe
  • Assateague Peoples Tribe
  • Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians
  • Piscataway Conoy Tribe
  • Piscataway Indian Nation
  • Pocomoke Indian Nation
  • Youghiogheny River Band of Shawnee Indians

The Office of Inclusion & Institutional Equity will continue to provide resources and opportunities for our entire TU community to reflect, converse and identify meaningful ways to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, acknowledge the land now occupied by Towson University and continue this work throughout the year.

Supporting Indigenous Communities

Before looking for land acknowledgment language, or taking time to craft your own, first create a long-term plan of action to support Indigenous communities in the future.

Begin with a Self-Assessment

  • explore the ways you may be inadvertently appropriating Native culture and causing additional harm
  • examine how often you are hiring or supporting Native entrepreneurs, businesses, artists and other vendors
  • research how your local legislators, candidates and municipalities prioritize and advocate for Native nations near you
  • explore how you can adventure more responsibly
  • plan your itinerary in a way that respects Indigenous sacred sites and Native nations’ sovereignty and helps protects fragile ecosystems
  • research any boundaries, rules and guidelines to avoid harming Native nations and the land

Develop a Concrete Plan of Action

  • identify concrete and realistic steps, turn them into achievable goals
  • be willing to share your plan with others while also making time and space with colleagues, friends, family, neighbors and others to share plans of action
  • keep your plan with you, where it is easily accessible
  • track your progress, hold yourself accountable and focus on progress, not perfection
  • make an ongoing commitment to do better

Personalizing the Indigenous Land Acknowledgment

The Indigenous Land Acknowledgment is not something you “just read.” It is an opportunity for the entire TU community to increase their awareness of the history of the land on which TU resides and the Native peoples of this region.

“ Every moment spent agonizing over land acknowledgment wording is time that could be used to actually support Indigenous People. ”

Native Governance Center

The following guidelines are meant to assist with the preparation and delivery of the indigenous land acknowledgment.

  • Your prepared text should be clear and concise.
  • You have researched and confirmed the specific names of relevant indigenous nations, tribes, groups and/or sub-groups. You have confirmed proper spelling and have practiced pronunciation in advance.
  • You have researched any competing Indigenous claims to specific areas and any of the local Indigenous groups in other locations.
  • Your text should acknowledge that occupied land was not freely nor willingly given.
  • Your acknowledgment should have a personal component; it is an opportunity for you to model reflection and action, moving beyond simply reading boilerplate language repeatedly.

OIIE leadership is working with a coalition of local institutions, nonprofit organizations, and state agencies in meeting with and compensating local elders for their guidance on indigenous acknowledgments. As this work continues, the language below will be updated.

Suggested format for using TU's Indigenous Land Acknowledgment:

Introductory language:

[Consider incorporating here a personalized introduction where you share your own thoughts and reflections of what acknowledging indigenous people and the land TU occupies means to you.]

TU's acknowledgment language:

Towson University seeks to cultivate relationships with Native American and Indigenous communities and nations through academic pursuits, partnerships, historical recognitions, community service and enrollment efforts. These communities and nations include the Susquehannock, Nentego (Nanticoke) and the Piscataway people, who consider the land that the university currently occupies part of their ancient homeland.

Conclusion language: use the following as a guide, consider including a connection to the specific event you are convening.

We hereby acknowledge the ground on which we reside so that all who come here know that we recognize our institutional history and our responsibilities to the peoples of that land, and that we strive to address that history so that it guides our work in the present and the future.

Research and Resources

The following research and resources provide guidance and education, while also strengthening community relationships with Indigenous populations.

Key components

  • Do your homework to ensure you research all of the following:
    • the Indigenous People to whom the land belongs
    • the history of the land and any related treaties
    • Names of living Indigenous People from these communities. If you are presenting on behalf of your work in a certain field, highlight Indigenous People who currently work in that field. 
    • indigenous place names and language
    • correct pronunciation for the names of the Tribes, places and individuals that you are including
  • Use appropriate language and do not sugarcoat it, but also don’t make it grim but instead celebratory.
  • Use past, present and future tenses.
  • Do not ask an Indigenous person to deliver the statement.
  • Alone a land acknowledgment is not enough, how are we supporting Indigenous populations moving forward now?

Native Governance Center

  • Native Governance Center is a Native-led nonprofit organization that serves Native nations in Mni Sota Makoce, North Dakota and South Dakota. They support Native leaders as they work to rebuild their nations through the leadership development and Tribal governance support programs. They believe that strengthening governance is a direct pathway toward improving quality of life for Native people.

American Indians in Children’s Literature

Baltimore American Indian Center

  • The Baltimore American Indian Center (BAIC) is an organization in which TU can partner with to connect to Indigenous populations in our area and show support.
  • What they aim to do: “prioritize cultural heritage preservation and education programs, with health, housing and employment-related services provided on an ad hoc basis.”

Teachers and Researchers United

  • Teachers and Researchers United (TRU) is a movement of graduate student workers unionizing at Johns Hopkins University working to win improvements in our working conditions, and more importantly to build a powerful voice for graduate workers.

Intentional Acknowledgment Sample (VIDEO)