Cornell University officially offered its first-ever “land acknowledgement” statement at this year’s commencement ceremonies.
According to The Cornell Daily Sun, the acknowledgement, “an important step in the right direction for the University,” came about after more than ten years of development.
The acknowledgement was developed by the school’s American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program in conjunction with the Gayogo̱ hó꞉nǫ’ tribe.
Cornell’s efforts were started by Native American professor Jolene Rickard who told The Sun “I thought it was an important gesture by institutions to signal their awareness about several ongoing conditions of settler complacency, or settler innocence, to how the spaces that we work in and live in, in countries like the United States, actually came into existence.”
Rickard added the land acknowledgement process was “jumpstarted” last summer by the re-emphasis on Black Lives Matter.
On April 9, 2021, the ten traditional Gayogo̱ hó꞉nǫ’ leaders and clan mothers approved the land acknowledgment with no further revisions. Since the approval, the University has committed to delivering the statement at significant events. According to vice provost for engagement and land-grant affairs Katherine McComas, it encourages academic units to raise awareness for the Cayuga Nation’s contemporary and historical presence.
[Current American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program Director Kurt] Jordan stated that an awareness of the Cayuga Nation’s historical and current presence in Ithaca should become a central, expected part of Cornell’s culture. As a next step, he suggested giving the Gayogo̱ hó꞉nǫ’ a larger role in Cornell events and historical projects.
“We need to actually see and hear from the original owners of this land,” he said. …
Rickard and Jordan both emphasized that the land acknowledgment should act as a first step, inspiring further action to improve the relationships between the University, the Cornell community and Indigenous people worldwide.
“I hope it inspires the recognition that almost every place you go in the world,” Rickard said, “there are Indigenous peoples that need to be taken into consideration in terms of how you’re working in development and how you’re planning.”
According to the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program’s website, Cornell has a “particular obligation” to the land acknowledgement, which it says should be read prior to university gatherings and special events. Faculty and staff should take care to make the acknowledgement “respectfully” and not treat it as a “routine.”
The full text of the acknowledgement (again, a decade’s worth of development) is as follows:
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.