The Municipality of Anchorage recognizes the Dena’ina people as the past, present, and future caretakers of Anchorage’s land.
ACKNOWLEDGING DENA’INA 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.
For more than five hundred years, Native communities across the Americas have demonstrated resilience and resistance in the face of violent efforts to separate them from their land, culture, and each other.
Acknowledgment is a critical public intervention, a necessary step toward honoring Native communities and enacting the much larger project of decolonization and reconciliation.
— Melissa Shaginoff
It’s simple. And also not so simple. In some cases the traditional inhabitants of a place may be clear. In other cases whom to recognize is much less so. Do your research. While the act of naming traditional inhabitants may not take much time, moving into right relationship requires preparation.
This page doesn’t offer the one right way to acknowledge. What’s offered here is not a comprehensive checklist or set of universally acceptable protocols. There are currently 567 federally recognized tribal nations, each with its own history and protocols for welcome and acknowledgment. There are also state recognized tribes and peoples, including Native Hawaiians who reside on six islands. There is no one way of doing this.
Acknowledgment is made meaningful through specific context and relationship. Whenever possible, the best entry point into the practice of acknowledgment is through relationship and dialogue with Native communities in the area.
The practice of formal welcome and acknowledgment of land is not new. Acknowledgment has long been practiced—typically in much more nuanced, formal, and ceremonial ways—within Indigenous communities. Many artists, activists, presenters, academics, and others have been starting events with acknowledgment for decades. By publishing this guide, we hope to draw on these histories to help spark a movement to make acknowledgment commonplace.
Acknowledgment is but a first step. It does not stand in for relationship and action, but can begin to point toward deeper possibilities for decolonizing relationships with people and place.
- Melissa Shaginoff