The Importance of Land and Labor Acknowledgements

A best practice observed at meetings and events hosted by our colleges is to acknowledge the indigenous peoples who lived on the land before us and whose descendants still live here with us today as well as the labor that built our country.

Land Acknowledgement

On Wednesday, September 6, 2023, Chancellor Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap, the college presidents, and other members of Seattle Colleges attended the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges Puget Sound Government-to-Government Summit with Tribal Leaders at Renton Technical College.

Members of Seattle Colleges and 11 other area community and technical colleges had a round table discussion with tribal leaders from across Western Washington, which strengthened relationships during the day-long gathering.

The Government-to-Government Summit drew leaders from the Muckleshoot, Snoqualmie, and Suquamish tribes. During the summit we’ve learned from each other and explored opportunities for ways to increase the number of Indigenous and Native students within the SBCTC system. Most importantly, we discussed ways to create partnerships and trust with our tribal members. Dr. Denise Bill, executive director of Muckleshoot Adult and Higher Education, welcomed that by saying, “We really need each other. We can do this together.”

Concluding this summit, Chancellor Rimando-Chareunsap set forth a charge to the Seattle Colleges community to convene an “Indigenous Partnerships Roundtable” scheduled for Tuesday, October 17, from 1 to 3 p.m.

As we engage in processes of bringing together our colleagues doing various work centering on our Native and Indigenous communities, Seattle Colleges will pause on formally reading our land acknowledgements until we have convened the Seattle Colleges Community-Indigenous Partnerships Roundtable discussion. We encourage the community to provide information from this update and invitation as a replacement of a formal land acknowledgement.

It’s critical to not have our land acknowledgements become just a token gesture. Land acknowledgements are not meant to be static, scripted statements that every person must recite in exactly the same way. They are expressions of relationships we have with our tribal leaders and Native/Indigenous communities.

Therefore, Seattle Colleges will spend the '23-'24 academic year building tribal relationships with institutional actions. “Building relationships is about action,” said Lynn Palmanteer-Holder, director of Tribal Government Affairs for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. “These tribal relationships have to be real and authentic and have long-term reciprocal benefits.”

Our goal is to build tribal relationships with the original occupants and stewards of the lands where the Seattle Colleges gather: the traditional home of the Coast Salish people, the traditional home of all tribes and bands within the Duwamish, Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations.

While on our journey to build real and authentic tribal relationships, we encourage the Seattle Colleges community to consider their responsibilities to the people and land, both here and elsewhere, and to stand in solidarity with Native, Indigenous, and First Nations People, and their sovereignty, cultural heritage, and lives.

Labor Acknowledgement

We also pause to recognize and acknowledge the labor upon which our country, state, and institutions are built.

We remember that our country is built on the labor of enslaved people who were kidnapped and brought to the U.S. from the African continent and recognize the continued contribution of their survivors. We also acknowledge all immigrant labor, including voluntary, involuntary, trafficked, forced, and undocumented peoples who contributed to the building of the country and continue to serve within our labor force. We acknowledge all unpaid care-giving labor.

To the people who contributed this immeasurable work and their descendants, we acknowledge our/their indelible mark on the space in which we gather today. It is our collective responsibility to critically interrogate these histories, to repair harm, and to honor, protect, and sustain this land.

Dr. Valerie Hunt, former Associate Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Seattle Central College, gives the land and labor acknowledgement at the 49th Annual Seattle Colleges Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., held January 17, 2022. This video captures the spirit of reading the acknowledgement at an event.

Dr. Betsy Hasegawa, former Associate Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at South Seattle College, explains the importance of these acknowledgements in this video from January 2021.

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