Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
InfoGuides | Pepperdine Libraries

Land Acknowledgments

This guide is intended to provide information and resources on Indigenous Land Acknowledgments.

What is a Land Acknowledgment?

"An Indigenous Land or Territorial Acknowledgement is a statement that recognizes the Indigenous peoples who have been dispossessed from the homelands and territories upon which an institution was built and currently occupies and operates in. For some, an Indigenous Land or Territorial Acknowledgement might be an unfamiliar practice, but it is a common protocol within Indigenous communities in the United States and is a standard practice in both Australia and Canada. The terms 'Land' and 'Territorial' are not necessarily interchangeable, and the decision as to their use should be specific and local, pertaining to those Indigenous people who are being acknowledged as well as to those legacies and responsibilities of an institution that are also being acknowledged."

~From the Guide to Indigenous Land and Territorial Acknowledgements for Cultural Institutions

Why acknowledge Indigenous territory or land?

"Acknowledgment is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture and toward inviting and honoring the truth. Imagine this practice widely adopted: imagine cultural venues, classrooms, conference settings, places of worship, sports stadiums, and town halls, acknowledging traditional lands. Millions would be exposed—many for the first time—to the names of the traditional Indigenous inhabitants of the lands they are on, inspiring them to ongoing awareness and action."

~ From the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture Honor Native Land: A Guide and Call to Acknowledgment

Review the full guide here.

Tips for creating an Indigenous Land or Territorial Acknowledgment 

The following content comes from the Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement created by the Native Governance Center:

Start with self-reflection. Before starting work on your land acknowledgment statement, reflect on the process:

  • Why am I doing this land acknowledgment? (If you’re hoping to inspire others to take action to support Indigenous communities, you’re on the right track. If you’re delivering a land acknowledgment out of guilt or because everyone else is doing it, more self-reflection is in order.)
  • What is my end goal? (What do you hope listeners will do after hearing the acknowledgment?)
  • When will I have the largest impact? (Think about your timing and audience, specifically.)

Do your homework. Put in the time necessary to research the following topics:

  • The Indigenous people to whom the land belongs.
  • The history of the land and any related treaties.
  • Names of living Indigenous people from these communities. If you’re presenting on behalf of your work in a certain field, highlight Indigenous people who currently work in that field.
  • Indigenous place names and language.
  • Correct pronunciation for the names of the Tribes, places, and individuals that you’re including.

Use appropriate language. Don’t sugarcoat the past. Use terms like genocide, ethnic cleansing, stolen land, and forced removal to reflect actions taken by colonizers.

Use past, present, and future tenses. Indigenous people are still here, and they’re thriving. Don’t treat them as a relic of the past.

Land acknowledgments shouldn’t be grim. They should function as living celebrations of Indigenous communities. Ask yourself, “How am I leaving Indigenous people in a stronger, more empowered place because of this land acknowledgment?” Focus on the positivity of who Indigenous people are today.

Learn more about creating Indigenous Land Acknowledgements and what to keep in mind on the Native Governance Center's website.

Examples of Land Acknowledgments from Museums and Library Organizations:

Additional Resources: