Health Equity Tip: Develop a Meaningful Land and People Acknowledgment Practice

Abstract gray map design overlaid with the text “You are on native land” in green.
We all have a role to play in combating the erasure of the Indigenous people of North America and addressing the health inequities created and perpetuated by colonialism, land theft, and environmental destruction. Graphic by Clara Liang.

Beyond the performative

Where to start:

  • Commit to learning about contemporary Indigenous issues, and make time and space for organization-wide discussion on how to support Indigenous justice.
  • For example, the exclusion of Indigenous people from public health data and the categorization of Indigenous people as “Other” in health datasets contribute to the erasure of Indigenous communities. Public health’s reliance on large datasets and sample sizes, which are often unavailable for Indigenous populations, also contributes to the field’s failure to provide comprehensive support for Indigenous people.
  • A land and people acknowledgment is a verbal or written recognition of the past, present, and future of Indigenous people on the land you occupy, accompanied by a concrete action plan to support Indigenous people and nations moving forward. Successful land and people acknowledgments are active and ongoing processes that require internal work. Land acknowledgments are not passive virtue signals — and they should not create extra labor for Indigenous people.
  • Many organizations involved in Indigenous sovereignty, like Native Governance and the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, have provided clear steps outlining how to successfully develop a land acknowledgment. And if you don’t already know, research whose land you are on at https://native-land.ca/.
  • We also found this video, “Beyond Land Acknowledgment” by the Native Governance Center, really important in our own land acknowledgment process.
  • Having trouble feeling deeply into the meaning behind the practice? Check out comedian and storyteller Michael Jr.’s moving segment, Know Your Why, which HIP staff watched together as a way to ground our practice.
Still from Break Time video, picturing a Black man seated in the audience, holding a microphone, while singing Amazing Grace
Still from Michael Jr.’s segment, Know Your Why
  • Land taxes are a form of reparations for the land you’re occupying. HIP pays the Shuumi Land Tax to the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust in recognition of our occupation of Ohlone land. Making room for a land tax in your organization’s budget is an important step in committing to the health and wellbeing of the Indigenous community. Read more about land taxes and why they’re important here.
  • Project Mosaic, an Indigenous consulting organization with a public health focus
  • Tewa Women United, founded and led by Native women in the ancestral Tewa homelands in so-called Northern New Mexico
  • Seven Directions, a center for Indigenous public health

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