Opinion | Land Acknowledgments should be required in all UI classrooms

To begin the conversation of historical and present injustices toward indigenous people, land acknowledgments need to be present in University of Iowa classrooms.


Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan

The Old Capitol building is seen on March, 6, 2021.

Grace Hildahl, Opinions Contributor

November, Native American Heritage Month, is a time to recognize the considerable contributions, traditions, and culture of the first Americans, as well as the injustices they suffered and continue to face. It is also a time to understand the historical relocation and termination of Indigenous people by the U.S. government, and a time to realize this discrimination still exists today.

Land acknowledgments should be required in all University of Iowa classrooms this November to initiate awareness and therefore conversation regarding Indigenous lands and people. 

To start this necessary recognition, we must begin by understanding the land we live on through land acknowledgments.

A land acknowledgment is an official declaration that acknowledges the land that native tribes were forced off of, often violently, to be used by white European settlers.

The UI’s land acknowledgment notes that it stands on the homelands of the Ojibwe/Anishinaabe (Chippewa), Báxoǰe (Iowa), Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Omāēqnomenēwak (Menominee), Myaamiaki (Miami), Nutachi (Missouri), Umoⁿhoⁿ (Omaha), Wahzhazhe (Osage), Jiwere (Otoe), Odawaa (Ottawa), Póⁿka (Ponca), Bodéwadmi/Neshnabé (Potawatomi), Meskwaki/Nemahahaki/Sakiwaki (Sac and Fox), Dakota/Lakota/Nakoda, Sahnish/Nuxbaaga/Nuweta (Three Affiliated Tribes), and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Nations. The following tribal nations, Umoⁿhoⁿ (Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa), Póⁿka (Ponca Tribe of Nebraska), Meskwaki (Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa), and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska) still exist and operate in the state.

Carrie Schuettpelz, vice president of the UI Native American Council and enrolled member of the Lumbee Indian Tribe, explained the significance land acknowledgments hold and their potential for change.

“It’s important that, as we live and study at the university, that we understand the ground on which we are standing,” Schuettpelz said. “Thinking about the fact that the land has a history of its own, particularly for the 67 tribes who once called Iowa their home and the four that still have land here in Iowa.”

Land acknowledgments act as resistance to the erasure of Indigenous history and help to counter illusions of the “discovery” of America through colonialism.

“Often native issues are relegated to the past, and the message we are trying to get across to people is that we are still here and that these issues still persist,” Schuettpelz said. 

Land acknowledgments can help students, faculty, and the Iowa City community reconceptualize their relationship with land. By placing themselves in relation to the first Americans through recognition, non-native populations are reminded that they are settlers on Indigenous land.

However, recognition is simply not enough.

Land acknowledgments are not a solution to past and present Indigenous discrimination, but rather the first step to advocating for change against injustices.

“I think land acknowledgments are an interesting sort of phenomenon, but I think what is more important is that people try to engage with issues more critically and more meaningfully and try to push for what native people themselves want,” Schuettpelz said. “So, educating yourself on the land you’re on, but also what those tribes are advocating for and what change they are pushing for.”

However, the lack of land acknowledgments on campus discourages such conversations and engagements.

Although it stands on Indigenous ground, the UI falls short in recognizing its historical Indigenous connections. Even though the university has a land acknowledgment, it is scarcely used or promoted.

As a senior at the UI, I was only introduced to the concept of a land acknowledgment a few months ago. Since then, I have kept an eye out for land acknowledgments and haven’t seen or heard a single one.

“The biggest strength of the land acknowledgment is that it can start a conversation,” Schuettpelz said.

Land acknowledgments can also be implemented into class syllabi and introductions to meetings, sports events, and performances across campus. However, it is vital that land acknowledgments are not viewed as a satisfactory recognition, but rather as the spark that will fuel meaningful conversation and change.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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