An email was sent out on Feb. 16 by the Office of Inclusion and Equity announcing a land acknowledgment statement. The email said there is a task force of about 25 members that include faculty, staff and students working to create the statement. The task force will be holding events open to the campus community in order to receive feedback, the email said, and there is a Google Form for those who are unable to attend the events.
Assistant professor of Sociology Colleen Wynn said that this acknowledgement is for all tribes with ancestral ties to Marion county. Wynn said there is no physical marker acknowledging the Indigenous land yet, but it does cover the entire University of Indianapolis campus.
The proposed land acknowledgment statement said, “The University of Indianapolis acknowledges that we live, work, and learn on the traditional homelands of the Miami, Shawnee, Peoria, Potawatomi, Kickapoo and Delaware peoples. We recognize that we, as a community, are beneficiaries of the United States government’s removal of these tribes from their homelands. Furthermore, we recognize that this land remains a significant part of the Miami, Shawnee, Peoria, Potawatomi, Kickapoo and Delaware heritage landscapes today and that we, as a campus community, will care for the land in a manner that honors their traditions.”
Wynn said that the task force wants the land acknowledgement to be the first step and not the last step in better recognizing Indigenous contributions, both historically and contemporarily in the campus community. She said the land acknowledgement is to recognize the importance of the land and the cultures. The task force hopes to create more engagement on campus for the indigenous groups, according to Wynn.
“Hopefully, in the future, the university will also be able to build out some actions that will embody the spirit of the land acknowledgement,” Wynn said.
Sophomore exercise science pre-physical therapy major Emma Moore said the land acknowledgment statement is just the first step for recognizing Indigenous land and how to move forward. Moore said she joined the task force to give a different perspective and see if anything needed to be added.
“We are creating the land acknowledgement to give respect to the tribes that were here originally,” Moore said. “And from here, once we get this established, then we’ll be able to take action steps.”
Wynn said the university hopes this is the first step in doing a better job of understanding and respecting indigenous people and their cultures. One thing they hope to gain from this is more engagement with Indigenous people, as individuals and groups, she said.
“We hope that it might help us to strengthen ties that we already have with the tribal groups,” Wynn said. “…I think it’s an important step in terms of equity and inclusion on campus.”
Moore said that this is a big step for the university as it shows that UIndy has a respect and understanding for the Indigenous population on campus. She said she thinks that it will bring awareness to those populations, and then attract more students to attend. Moore said the task force is open to feedback.
“I strongly encourage everyone to read the acknowledgement act and reach out to anyone who may be on the task force just to see what they can do in the upcoming action steps that we’re going to be taking,” Moore said.