DePaul University officially has adopted a Native American land acknowledgment after almost a year’s worth of “researching, meeting with stakeholders, vetting with shared governance.”
According to The DePaulia, the area around DePaul’s home, Chicago, Illinois, was once “occupied by the indigenous tribes […] who maintained deep connections with this land where they lived, worked and worshiped.”
The acknowledgment, courtesy of DePaul’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, was created by a group composed of Native faculty and students.
Religious Studies Professor Lisa Poirier said the land acknowledgment is an “important first step” for (white) settlers to come to terms with the people and land they’ve occupied for over 200 years.
“Native people are usually located in the past,” Poirier said. “They’re treated as historical artifacts rather than as present-day communities.”
Indeed, the document doesn’t hold back from blasting the Catholic Church, Europeans and capitalism, pointing to the disastrous effects of the “Doctrine of Discovery”:
We acknowledge that these sacred homelands were ruptured by the European invasion of the Americas. In 1493, Pope Alexander VI promulgated the Doctrine of Discovery, which seized Native lands and resources with impunity. This doctrine has been used by countries throughout the Americas, including the U.S., to legitimize colonial policies of displacement and genocide toward Native peoples and to justify colonial legacies of white superiority and global capitalism.
The director of DePaul’s Center for Religion, Culture and Community said the Church deserves it.
“We thought it was important that we hit straight on the Catholic Church’s complicity in land acquisition and the takeover of Native communities,” Chris Tirres said. “[W]e need to be very clear about that […] and own up to it.”
But it’s also important, Tirres added, to note that “we want to work through this” in the spirit of the school’s namesake, St. Vincent de Paul.
Land acknowledgments have become trendy over the last year or so. In late 2020, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities put forth a statement similar to that of DePaul, while the University of Maryland mandated that professors note that they’re on “stolen land” in their syllabi.
And in a demonstration of the emotions involved with the issue, early this year a Native female artist claimed a Montclair State University administrator’s refusal to adopt a land acknowledgment was akin to raping her.
IMAGE: YouTube screencap