Campus Reform | Cornell is latest university to adopt Native American 'land acknowledgment' statement

Cornell is latest university to adopt Native American 'land acknowledgment' statement

A land acknowledgement statement was read at Cornell University’s commencement to signal that the school sits on former land of the Cayuga Nation.

Other institutions such as Yale, Princeton, and MIT utilize the statements.

Cornell University included a land acknowledgment in its 2021 graduation ceremony, the first time the Ivy League school did so in its history. 

The acknowledgement recognized that Cornell sits on former land of the Cayuga Nation. This statement represents the latest in a trend among American universities to adopt Native American land acknowledgements statements.

As defined by Northwestern University, a land acknowledgment statement “is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.” 

The statement is often listed in research papers and read before events as “an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory you reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial.”

Cornell’s land acknowledgment statement reads: 

"Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign Nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York state, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' people, past and present, to these lands and waters."

Likewise, the statement for the University of Connecticut, encourages students and faculty to read it before events and gatherings, says:

"We would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the territory of the Mohegan, Mashantucket Pequot, Eastern Pequot, Schaghticoke, Golden Hill Paugussett,  Nipmuc, and Lenape Peoples, who have stewarded this land throughout the generations.  We thank them for their strength and resilience in protecting this land, and aspire to uphold our responsibilities according to their example."

The land acknowledgment statement for MIT is similar:

"MIT acknowledges Indigenous Peoples as the traditional stewards of the land, and the enduring relationship that exists between them and their traditional territories. The land on which we sit is the traditional unceded territory of the Wampanoag Nation. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide and forced occupation of their territory, and we honor and respect the many diverse indigenous people connected to this land on which we gather from time immemorial."

Other prominent institutions of higher education with land acknowledgement statements include Yale University, Princeton University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Utah.

As universities across the United States grew increasingly bold in their endorsement of social justice following the death of George Floyd, many have turned to signaling support of Native American causes — particularly, as Campus Reform has covered in detail, by ceasing all public support of explorer Christopher Columbus.

For instance, University of Notre Dame hid murals depicting the life of Columbus with Native American-themed tapestries.

[RELATED: Christopher Columbus murals covered with Native American tapestries at Notre Dame]

Other universities replaced Columbus Day with “Indigenous Peoples Day.”

[RELATED: Colleges nix Columbus Day, instead host events for Indigenous Peoples Day]

Campus Reform reached out to Cornell to ask whether the school will return any of its land to the Cayuga Nation. This article will be updated with any response.

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