November is American Indigenous Peoples Month/Native American Heritage Month. It is also when many U.S. families celebrate Thanksgiving, a harvest festival, the origin of which as we learned in elementary school, was a feast that included Wampanoag people and Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1621.
In American Indian cultures across this land, there are perspectives on Thanksgiving that reflect the broader historical and devastating consequences that resulted from this shared feast and subsequent deadly conflicts between colonizers and Indigenous peoples. (See the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian “Thanksgiving” resources and “Transforming Teaching and Learning about Native Americans” resources, part of the Native Knowledge 360° Education Initiative.)
Land Statement Acknowledgments
In 2020, a growing number of non-Indians are recognizing the fact that the land on which we live belongs to the Indigenous people who lived on this soil long before White arrival.
As an acknowledgment of that fact, many individuals and organizations are developing land statements. There are websites that help land statement writers examine their motives, their minds, and their hearts as they compose an acknowledgment that honors and shows respect for the Indigenous history of the land on which they live and work.
When I crafted a land statement for this blog and when I collaborated with members of the Arizona Library Association (AzLA) to create one for the organization, we used the guidance found on the Native Governance Center’s “A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement” website and in the case of AzLA feedback from the tribal members of our association.
I live in Tucson sixty miles from the Mexican border. Today, the Tohono O’odham American Indians live on approximately 3 million acres to the west and south of Tucson. Their reservation extends into northern Sonora, Mexico and is larger than the state of Delaware. O’odham also live off reservation throughout Arizona and in communities across the country.
This is the land acknowledgement you will find on the About page of this blog:
Land Statement Acknowledgement: I post to this blog and share information from my home in Tucson, Arizona, which is built upon the traditional homelands of the Tohono O’odham and their ancestors the Hohokam. Their care and keeping of this land allow me to live here today.
The Tohono O’odham
Our Tucson community is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and culture. Ten percent of the students at Elvira Elementary School, where long ago I served my first year as a school librarian, were Tohono O’odham children who were bussed into Tucson from the nearby San Xavier District of their reservation. This was a first-time experience for me teaching and learning with and from American Indian students and families. That year at Elvira made a lasting impact on my teaching, writing, and my life. (See 12/18/29 “Gifts of Windows and Mirrors” blog post.)
The Tohono O’odham are not well known outside of the Southwest. Some years ago when the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC first opened, I had the opportunity to visit and was pleased to see O’odham culture and art included in an exhibit.
I have since followed other NMAI events that have included O’odham culture and knowledge like this lecture by Terrol Dew Johnson, founder of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), “Living Earth 2019.” In his talk, he shares native food ways and how TOCA guides O’odham people in reconnecting with traditional farming, harvesting, processing, and preparing local food.
Indigenous Peoples and Climate Justice
Last September 12, 2020 on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Smithsonian hosted a Virtual Indigenous People’s Teach-In: Food and Water Justice. Teaching for Change offers a webpage devoted to a recap of the keynote, workshops, and teaching resources that grew out of this professional development opportunity.
In collaboration, the Zinn Education Project offers a lesson plan for middle and high school students: “Stories from the Climate Crisis: A Mixer.” The Zinn Project also has a book of resources and activities titled A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis.
The NMAI also offers “American Indian Resources to Environmental Challenges” resources to share projects today’s Indigenous peoples are leading to continue their stewardship of the land.
As you consider your blessings at this time in our shared history, I hope you will pause to acknowledge and give thanks for the land on which you live and work. As school librarians, I hope you will also recommit to teaching and coteaching with classroom teacher colleagues for social and climate justice and enlist young people in learning about and caring deeply for our Earth and its peoples.
Ulleo. “Corn.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/photos/corn-harvest-food-ornamental-corn-3663086/