Mount Holyoke College Land Acknowledgement Policy

Date Established: September 8, 2021
Last Revised:
n/a
Approved by: College Cabinet
Responsible Office: Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Responsible Administrator: Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer

Statement

Mount Holyoke College is committed to understanding and acknowledging all aspects of College history (Anti-racism Action Plan, 2021). Land acknowledgements name the long history of the land on which the College is situated and express gratitude to —  and affirm the human dignity of — the Indigenous peoples who have lived and continue to live in the region. By integrating land acknowledgements into regular practice at the College, this Policy exists to cultivate an environment that recognizes accountability within our community particularly as it relates to our engagement of Indigenous peoples in the past, present and future.

Scope/Responsibilities

All employees, students and volunteers of the College who host public events must comply with Mount Holyoke College’s Land Acknowledgement Policy.  This policy applies to all individuals, whether they are on- or off-campus for their event(s). All College-affiliated individuals and representatives should adapt land acknowledgement language appropriately when delivering College-sponsored events or programming. Concerns about compliance with this policy should be referred to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Policy

Introduction

Originating from Indigenous praxis, land acknowledgements are statements that recognize the ongoing relationship between the land, its Native and Indigenous stewards, and all guests gathered on that land. Regular and consistent practice of land acknowledgement aligns with the College’s anti-racist action goal to understand and be accountable to its history and role in settler colonisation of the Kwinitekw (KWIN-IH-TEK-WUH) Valley. This policy is only one of many steps towards building stronger relationships with Indigenous communities and shifting narratives that continue to erase Native and Indigenous peoples. Members of the Mount Holyoke College community are encouraged to participate in this ongoing relationship-building by reflecting on and adding further context to the core land acknowledgement according to the themes and purposes of their events. 

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Mount Holyoke College consulted with individuals affiliated with the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, the Five College Consortium, and faculty and students from a class entitled the Peoples and Cultures of Indigenous Australia (Anthropology 216), co-convened by MHC anthropologist Sabra Thorner and Indigenous Australian artist/curator Maree Clarke (Mutti Mutti / Wemba Wemba / Yorta Yorta /Boonwurrung).

The land acknowledgement will be regularly revisited by the History, Legacy and Memory Task Force, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee to ensure that the statement is iterative and reflective.

Historical Context

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts derived its name from the existence of the Massachusett, a Native American people who are acknowledged as having lived in the areas surrounding northeast, southern Massachusetts. Mount Holyoke College is situated in Western Massachusetts in the town of South Hadley.

We recognize the existence of settler colonialism as an ongoing process that has historical and contemporary consequences for Indigenous people of the area who experienced violence, racism and oppression.

Mount Holyoke has previously held the human remains of an Indigenous person. We have worked to repatriate the remains through a relationship with the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and the Stockbridge Munsee tribe. The travesty of this act is one that we continue to work on redressing through our action steps in our anti-racism action plan. We believe that Land Acknowledgements that affirm our stated commitments and action steps are critical to moving forward on our journey towards becoming an anti-racist community.

Policy statement 

This policy provides specific support to Mount Holyoke College employees, students and volunteers in their development of inclusive opening remarks for public events. All Mount Holyoke College public events must be opened with a verbal land acknowledgement. A land acknowledgment may also be included as part of written print and/or digital content, including websites, programs, brochures, syllabi and other materials.

Policy Violations

Concerns about compliance with this policy should be referred to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Appropriate resources and training may be provided to best support policy compliance.

Procedures

Standards for policy

All land acknowledgements must recognize, as specifically as possible, the Native and Indigenous peoples who have an ancestral relationship with the land on which the public event is taking place. Additionally, acknowledgements must express both awareness of past histories as well as present and future efforts towards reflection and action.

Procedures for compliance

The required components of policy procedure are outlined below. Departments can develop additional internal language relevant to their business processes that support compliance with this policy. Review and approval of internal procedures by the policy administrator is recommended.

Verbal Land Acknowledgement

This statement should be read as part of any opening remarks delivered at a Mount Holyoke College-sponsored event:

“Mount Holyoke College begins each event in the life of the College by acknowledging that those of us in Western Massachusetts are occupying the ancestral land of the Nonotuck people.

We also acknowledge the neighboring Indigenous nations: the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohegan and Pequot to the South, the Mohican to the West and the Abenaki to the North. We encourage every member of our community to learn about the original inhabitants of the land where they reside. The impact of settler colonization contributed to the displacement, removal and attempted genocide of Indigenous peoples.

This land acknowledgement seeks to verbalize Mount Holyoke’s commitment to engage in shared responsibility as part of our collective humanity. We urge everyone to participate in action steps identified by Indigenous community based organizations.”

Written Land Acknowledgement

An abbreviated version of the Land Acknowledgement is an an option for those who may want to list it on syllabi, email signatures and other print/digital media spaces where a slightly shortened version of the land acknowledgement reads as followed: 

“Mount Holyoke College is located in Western Massachusetts on the ancestral land of the Nonotuck people. It is also important to acknowledge the neighboring Indigenous nations who continue to be connected to this land: the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohegan and Pequot to the South, the Mohican to the West and the Abenaki to the North.”

Land Acknowledgements Off-Campus

When an individual is presenting content off-campus in their capacity as a Mount Holyoke representative,we encourage individuals to adapt the land acknowledgement to recognize the land and Indigenous peoples of that region. Many academic and professional organizations have begun to adopt land-acknowledgement statements; when possible, refer to the hosting body for protocol surrounding land acknowledgements. See more in “Notes on Terminology.”

Guidelines for policy

Notes on Terminology

Utilizing appropriate terminology is foundational to delivering a meaningful and authentic land acknowledgement. That being said, terminology referencing Native and Indigenous peoples can vary according to the groups and individuals involved. The information and resources provided below can serve as a guide and starting point to providing and developing informed context for individualized land acknowledgements.

Indigenous Nations of the Kwinitekw Valley

“The northeast region’s Kwinitekw (Connecticut River) Valley sits at a crossroads of Indigenous nations and continues to be a central gathering place for Native American and Indigenous Studies scholars as well as for Native American and Indigenous leaders, artists, writers, and activists.” (Five Colleges in the Kwinitekw Valley)

Note: the names and pronunciations of nations shared below have been anglicized from their original Indigenous/Native pronunciations. 

The Nonotuck (NON-NO-TUCK) people lived historically in the region at the midpoint of the Kwinitekw, near the oxbow (Bruchac, 2004).

The Nipmuc Nation (NIP-MUCK) is one of the largest Native groups that shares geography with the New England region. Historically, the Nipmuc people lived in villages throughout what is now called central Massachusetts, from the New Hampshire and Vermont borders to the southern coast of Connecticut. 

Several tribes of Wampanoag (WAHM-PUH-NOG) people share geography with the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Several of these groups include the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe, Assawompsett-Nemasket Band of Wampanoags, and Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe

The Mohegan (MO-HE-GAN) Tribe is a sovereign nation sharing geography with the state of Connecticut. 

The Eastern Pequot (PEA-KWAHT) and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nations share geography with the southern edge of the state of Connecticut. 

Mohican (MO-HE-KN) peoples lived historically in the upper portion of the valley formed by the Mahicannituck (known by the settler name of the Hudson River), before “Indian Removal” policies pushed many westward. 

The Abenaki (A-BUH-NAA-KEE) First Nation peoples were part of the Wabanaki Confederacy and shared geography with Quebec as well as northern portions of New England. 

Definitions

These definitions apply to terms as they are used in this policy. 

Term Definition

Land Acknowledgement

A statement that respectfully recognizes the historic and ongoing relationship between the land and its Native and Indigenous stewards.

Public event

Any college sponsored events of the Mount Holyoke College community. Examples include professional/academic conferences, lectures, panel discussions, performances, sporting events, Commencement ceremonies, etc.

Indigenous Peoples

Often utilized in global, transnational or international context, this term refers to groups of people who share collective ancestral ties to the lands where they live or from which they have been displaced.

Native Peoples

This term refers broadly to groups of people who originate from/are the first inhabitants of a particular place. The term does not denote any one single culture. This term may hold negative connotations for some. If referencing a specific cultural or ethnic group, it is considered respectful to use the term or name that is claimed by that group. 

Related Information

References & Resources