Acknowledging indigeneity while foreclosing settler colonialism: Theresa Stewart-Ambo, K. Wayne Yang, ‘Beyond Land Acknowledgment in Settler Institutions’, Social Text, 39, 1, 2021, pp. 21–46


Abstract: What does land acknowledgment do? Where does it come from? Where is it pointing? Existing literature, especially critiques by Indigenous scholars, unequivocally assert that settler land acknowledgments are problematic in their favoring of rhetoric over action. However, formal written statements may challenge institutions to recognize their complicity in settler colonialism and their institutional responsibilities to tribal sovereignty. Building on these critiques, particularly the writings of Métis cultural producer Chelsea Vowel, this article offers beyond as a framework for how institutional land acknowledgments can or cannot support Indigenous relationality, land pedagogy, and accountability to place and peoples. The authors describe the critical differences between Indigenous protocols of mutual recognition and settler practices of land acknowledgment. These Indigenous/settler differences illuminate an Indigenous perspective on what acknowledgments ought to accomplish. For example, Acjachemen/Tongva scholar Charles Sepulveda forwards the Tongva concept of Kuuyam, or guest, as “a reimagining of human relationships to place outside of the structures of settler colonialism.” What would it mean for a settler speaker of a land acknowledgment to say, “I am a visitor, and I hope to become a proper guest”? Two empirical examples are presented: the University of California, Los Angeles, where an acknowledgment was crafted in 2018; and the University of California, San Diego, where an acknowledgment is under way in 2020. The article concludes with beyond as a potential decolonial framework for land acknowledgment that recognizes Indigenous futures.

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