Design Community: Land Acknowledgement

We would like to begin today, the last day of Native November, by acknowledging that the University of Wisconsin-Madison is located on ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Ho-Chunk lands.

A land acknowledgement is a formal statement, often given orally at the beginning of organized events, celebrations, or other activities.

Acknowledgement of the Land on which we are situated is an important sign of respect, presence, assertion, and recognition of Indigenous self-determination and of the relationship between Indigeous people and the Land.

In a treaty signed on September 15, 1832, the Ho-Chunk Nation was forced to cede almost three million acres of land by the United States government.

That land cession included Teejop (DAY-JOPE), which is known to many of us today as Madison.

In addition to denying the rights of the Ho-Chunk people to hunt and grow crops on these 3 million acres, the treaty began more than four decades of attempted ethnic cleansing.

During this time, both the federal and state government repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, sought to forcibly remove the Ho-Chunk from Wisconsin.

The treaty of 1832 is a foundational document for everyone in this community, and is what allows non-Ho-Chunk people to reside in much of Teejop (DAY-JOPE) today.

And as Sharon Stein, a scholar of white settlement put it, there would be no higher education as we know it in the United States without the original and ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples and lands.

Just like there would be no United States.

We know that expropriated Indigenous land became the foundation of the land-grant university system.

30 years after the treaty of 1832, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act,  also known as the Land Grant College Act.

This bill distributed public domain lands to help establish and raise funds for new higher education institutions across the nation.

UW-Madison was one of 52 universities that benefited from this.

We recognize the enduring presence and territorial claim of the Ho-Chunk Nation, the custodians of the lands and waters on which we speak today, as well as that of the 11 other First Nations of Wisconsin.

We respect the continued connections to the past, present, and shared future in this ongoing relationship with Indigenous and other peoples in the Madison community.

And we also understand that offering a land acknowledgement does not absolve settler-colonial privilege.

And it does not diminish colonial structures of violence — at either the individual or institutional level.

We recognize that a statement like this must be preceded and followed by ongoing and unwavering commitments to First Nation communities.