Land Acknowledgements

I would like to ask everyone who is not a tribal member to stop doing land acknowledgements. Let me tell you why.

But first allow me to introduce myself and give you a quick framework for some things pertaining to American Indians/Native Americans. My name is Liz Cornell, daughter of Kathryn, daughter of Eva, daughter of Effie. I am a retired Math teacher, and was a DEI officer for my union. After retirement I attended a ministerial school and earned an D.Min in anthropological studies of ancient spiritual practices. My ancestors are Apache and Iroquois.

First, all native cultures are unique. There is no blanket statement of any sort that I can think of, at all that is true for all natives. Therefore unless you have studied a particular tribe and spent a fair amt of time with them, you cannot make assumptions about them.

Second, no single native person can speak on behalf of all native peoples. Each tribe has unique issues and tribes with similar issues may deal with them in unique ways.

Third, we all know people who go to parties and “name drop” famous people they have rubbed shoulders with, even if it is the twice removed, brother-in-law’s cousin, who used to live down the block from you. How boring is that?

When you mention someone, in this way, what is the purpose? Likes? Singling yourself out as “so cool”? Take some time to really identify what purpose it serves for you. Think about how the person you are talking about, will feel about being associated with you. Do you think it makes them happy?

I grew up in a town where half the population did not have running water until the early 80’s. When I asked my grandfathers about their boarding school experiences, it brought tears to their eyes. To see these brave strong leaders of my family, wither like a rose in her water, was indescribable.

Let’s say a burglar comes to your home and takes family heirlooms but leaves behind a neon sign in the living room, that mentions the theft and what was taken. And the sign flashed all day and night. You could not turn it off or take it down, would you be okay with that? My guess is no.

When you do a “Land Acknowledgement,” it’s like the inescapable neon sign, reminding us day and night of what your ancestors did. We don’t need to be reminded; or apologized to. Because if you really cared, you might do something more than give it lip service. And even when you do that, “something more,” is it ok to brag about it?

I don’t know when or where this custom of white people introducing themselves this way became popularized. I lived on the west coast my whole life and never heard anyone do this, there, nor in Arizona or in New Mexico where I have spent a lot of time. This conference is my first exposure to it and I find it pretty outrageous.You took everything from my people and now you want to keep reminding us about that? Really? Not only is it horribly disrespectful, it is painful to endure.

If a drunk driver ran over and killed your child, would an apology be satisfactory? Would his insistence that he meant no harm, be satisfactory to you? I think not. Your apologies and “acknowledgements” about stolen land, falls on deaf ears. When I see people living in squalor, lice-covered children, starving in a burned out trailer, in winter, with no running water, your good intentions mean nothing. I insist that all of you cease this practice, immediately.

Instead, pay someones light bill, help them get better housing, feed them. In the meantime, and at the very least, read these articles on the subject:

There are many more articles out there also. Use “What’s wrong with Land Acknowledgements?” as a search term.

Sincerely, Liz Cornell


thanks for sharing this perspective


Thank you for the labor of sharing all of that. In the BIPOC spaces, I’ve been in we’ve been pushing for them to change. I remember when they were first introduced to me and what I’ve been taught about them have all been by Indigenous People and how like many things non-Indigenous folks have taken them and made them performative and worse.

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Gosh, I certainly hope my church’s Land Acknowledgment is not seen as performative or appropriative.

I currently live in Central Kentucky and have spent most of my live in Kentucky. Growing up, we were taught in school that Native Americans did not live in Kentucky - not in the past and certainly not in the present. I needed to learn that was I was told about the history of my state was simply not true - that is what my church’s land acknowledgment meant to me. But my re-education as a Southern white woman should not be at anyone’s expense. Where can I learn more?

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Here’s how you’ll know:
Ask every person who does a land acknowledgement to tell what they personally have done for Native Americans. If there’s nothing, or nothing recent then it’s lip service, nothing more.

Liz Cornell


I can send you a whole list of resources, but I can only list two links at a time in this forum. You can send me your email and I will send them to you, or you can research online, using these terms: “What’s wrong with Land Acknowledgements?”


Thanks for this. We all know where good intentions lead. Land acknowledgements have been a practice in some spaces—colleges/universities, some activist spaces—for at least a few years now, was considered, I think, to be an antidote to the mainstream culture’s erasure of Indigenous folks and educational for folks who had not given thought to the preEuropean history of their land.

However, I posted elsewhere that a member of the Ramapough Lunaape (Lenape is the more usual spelling), at an event where one was given, commented that it was like having someone steal your car and then drive by saying, “Thanks for the great car.” So I have been thinking about whether these are appropriate.

Chronologically, between 2016 Standing Rock solidarity and the pandemic lockdown, I was able to connect with the Ramapough, first at their Split Rock Sweetwater solidarity Prayer Camp, through their court fights to get the right to religious ceremonies on their deeded land—and unfortunately that was something that I have lost since the pandemic; a couple of us occasionally cross paths at activist events, but the developing relationship sort-of withered.


Thank you, Liz for teaching me this. I appreciate your perspective.


Liz, eloquent, thank you. I’ve heard others say to stop using land acknowledgments but your explanation of why explains in greater depth and emotion, and it needs to be heard by many more than are reading it here. May I copy your comment and repost it on my UU Fellowship’s listserv, and send it to our minister and lay leaders?


Thank you Liz for taking the time to start this conversation. Our congregation is in relationship with the Neponset Band of the Massachusett Tribe and are in support of them as well as the larger indigenous legislative agenda for Massachusetts. From this perspective, we will continue to reference our land acknowledgement we developed together with our commitments to actions. I agree that land acknowledgments without relationship or commitments to justice and direct actions are lip service.


That would be wonderful!

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Well consider this, could you continue the support without doing the land acknowledgment? Is doing it a way to publicly get credit for your efforts? To bring as much attention to yourselves as the tribe? These are deep questions, that will take some soul searching.


I have heard some other indigenous folks say they think land acknowledgements aren’t enough but they still do want them and think they’re an improvement on nothing (in my last congregation, an indigenous woman led a workshop on them and asked that we do them)…but also that that approval is only for sincere from-the-heart acknowledgements that are not made by rote, are not just part of your introduction, and are only made periodically, and of course, if the indigenous people present are hurt by that then we need to 180.

Thank you for lifting up all of these issues, and I’m sorry you had to repeat yourself multiple times, that the moderator said not to do them multiple times and so many people kept doing them when they shouldn’t have :sweat_smile::people_hugging:


This is totally other topic but I can’t figure out where to post it. How do I find the Ware Lecture? It’s tonight, right?

Not sure if this was the case in their congregation, but in another congregation who spoke today, they were specifically asked by their local indigenous group they were in relationship with to do land acknowledgements when they speak. It was following the indigenous group’s request, rather than to try to take credit or draw attention to themselves. In cases like that I think we should respect the wishes of the local indigenous people directly involved, even if, as you lift up, in other cases people adamantly don’t want them and we should also respect that.

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Kitty you can find the link in whova, under the agenda.

There are many interconnected issues here. One is that few people recognize NA’s as sovereign nations, independent from each other. What goes for one does not go for all. There is also the issue of speaking on behalf of others without being asked to do so, as just another form of appropriation. Speaking for Others | The Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Finally, the trickle down of generational trauma makes it difficult for some people to advocate for themselves and because they have more important battles to fight, they may not be willing to waste time with things like this. Please do not assume that their politeness or lack of response is implied consent.


For sure, like you I was lifting up that each indigenous group and culture is different from one another, which is why we can’t say they all don’t like something.

I was not speaking of cases where I took a lack of response as consent though, because I agree with you that there are plenty of reasons why that is deeply problematic - I was referring to cases where the local indigenous group specifically requested that a land acknowledgement be spoken. That happened in my last congregation (completely their idea; one of them who was part of our congregation started the conversation), and in another one that was mentioned here.