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Students Work for Florida State University Land Acknowledgement Approval

Published August 8, 2020

You may have noticed a new land acknowledgement on the Art History website. Land acknowledgments are respectful actions rooted in Indigenous cultural protocols intended to express gratitude to the host Indigenous Nations whose land you are visiting. A common practice in Canada, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia and within Native American Nations, verbal and written land acknowledgments are becoming more prevalent within universities, museums, cultural, civic and educational institutions in the United States.

We acknowledge that the William Johnston Building at Florida State University is located on land that is the ancestral and traditional territory of the Apalachee Nation, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. We pay respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to their descendants, to the generations yet unborn, and to all Indigenous people.

We recognize that this land remains scarred by the histories and ongoing legacies of settler colonial violence, dispossession, and removal. In spite of all of this, and with tremendous resilience, these Indigenous nations have remained deeply connected to this territory, to their families, to their communities, and to their cultural ways of life. We recognize the ongoing relationships of care that these Indigenous Nations maintain with this land and extend our gratitude as we live and work as humble and respectful guests upon their territory. We encourage you to learn about and amplify the contemporary work of the Indigenous nations whose land you are on and to endeavor to support Indigenous sovereignty in all the ways that you can.

Undergraduate students in Dr. Kristin Dowell’s spring 2020 course, Decolonizing the Museum, advocated to have land acknowledgements incorporated into publications and events at the FSU Museum of Fine Arts and across the university. Mageda Nader, Sara Canon, and Romina Palmero continue to promote FSU Student Senate Bill 93, which would enact the SGA Indigenous Land Acknowledgment Act of 2020. This act proposes to include a land acknowledgement on FSU websites and have it presented at the beginning of events. Paris Gilstrap, Sara Kuba, Kendal McDowell, and Gillian Boyce worked on the land acknowledgment posted at the Museum of Fine Arts and on the museum’s website. Paris, who is now in the Art History graduate program, writes:
The course Decolonizing the Museum with Dr. Dowell enhanced my understanding of how we as individuals can push for change in the art and cultural field. There are so many histories that for centuries that have gone unrecognized and need to be realized by contemporary institutions. The land acknowledgment that my group developed for the FSU campus meant that the institution was finally stating recognition of the people who inhabited and cared for the land before us.  The Apalachee Nation, the Muscogee Creek Nation, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida cared for the land long before colonizers built on these grounds. I hope that implementing the land acknowledgment at MoFA encourages the university’s administration to focus on dismantling the colonial model that is in place and setting forth on concrete actions to decolonize.

Land acknowledgments honor the Indigenous Nations whose territory one is on by disrupting the legacy of erasure enacted by settler colonialism. By acknowledging Indigenous lands in your classroom or before a presentation or public event, you can promote awareness of contemporary Indigenous presence and land rights. Each land acknowledgement brings visibility to the historical legacy and ongoing impact of settler colonial policies that led to racial violence and dispossession of Indigenous land. Land acknowledgments also speak to the resilience of Indigenous Nations who survived these policies and continue to thrive today. Land acknowledgments are a call to action to encourage us all to be proactive in supporting Indigenous sovereignty and cultural work. To learn more about the original inhabitants of your region, visit this interactive Native Land Territory Map. For a guide to preparing land acknowledgments, see this guide by the United States Department of Arts and Culture.