Skip to site content

American Indian and Indigenous Relations Committee

UDARI Committee Grants Award Winner

The American Indian and Indigenous Relations committee utilized UD Anti-Racism Initiative’s grant funding to employ two graduate students to conduct research into the University of Delaware’s history of dispossession of Indigenous lands and other related issues during the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters. Maureen Iplenski (History) researched and wrote UD’s Land Grab History and Julia Hamer-Light (Art History) researched and drafted Keywords for Building Respectful Relationships, providing terms and definitions to support clear, transparent, and appropriate communication among members of UD and Indigenous communities. Another round of UDARI funding was generously granted the committee to support student research assistants in carrying these projects forward in 2022–2023. Under the mentorship of faculty on the committee, students have played a critical role in transforming UD’s institutional norms and culture towards accountability for its colonial legacy.


The American Indian and Indigenous Relations Committee seeks to help foster the University’s scholarly, pedagogical and ecologically-and socially-engaged relationships with our state’s, region’s and global Indigenous communities. This work includes the examination of the University’s own history in relation to our watershed’s Indigenous community, the Lenni Lenape and Nanticoke.


  1. CONSULT AND COLLABORATE with Indigenous communities in the Delaware watersheds and beyond; foster relationships based on respect and reciprocity.
  2. GUIDE UD’s institutional adoption of the Living Land Acknowledgement and promote implementation of the recommended Institutional Action Steps.
  3. EDUCATE about settler colonialism; about Indigenous sovereignty, lands, languages, cultures, and activism; and about UD’s role in the nationwide land-grant system and American Indian land dispossession.
  4. ADVOCATE for the recognition of and opportunities for American Indian and Indigenous peoples as students, faculty, and staff; for ethical research and teaching of related histories and contemporary issues.


Pascha Bueno-Hansen

(Women & Gender Studies/Political Science and International Relations)

Living Land Acknowledgement & Institutional Action Steps

On November 1, 2021, UD’s Faculty Senate voted to formalize a Living Land Acknowledgement, prepared and presented by the American Indian and Indigenous Relations committee. The Living Land Acknowledgement recognizes that UD’s campuses occupy land originally inhabited by Indigenous peoples and serves as an important step in building relationships with tribal groups in the Delaware watersheds and beyond — relationships based on respect as well as a responsibility to redress centuries of harm. Read the full announcement on UDaily.

Land Grab History

The full report is in-progress and forthcoming. Meanwhile, a summary of these findings is provided as a downloadable PDF here.

In 1867, the state of Delaware selected the University of Delaware (UD) as its Land Grant Institution. In accordance with the Morrill Act, the federal government granted UD 90,000 acres west of the Mississippi. Over the next five years UD sold it all, thereby financially benefiting from the removal of more than 60 modern-day tribes, bands, and Native Nations.

Keywords for Building Respectful Relationships

The Keywords document is in-progress and forthcoming on this website.

Keywords for Building Respectful Relationships supports the University of Delaware (UD) Living Land Acknowledgement, Institutional Action Steps, and Land Grab History, by further defining the language used within them. Our goal is transparency and accountability. Underlying all four documents is our commitment as the American Indian and Indigenous Relations Committee to build relationships among members of UD, Lenape and Nanticoke in the Delaware watersheds, American Indian peoples involved in the forced diaspora from this region, and other Indigenous communities who are implicated in the University’s land grant history. Having language in common creates a foundation for dialogue and collective action. Yet our various constituencies do not necessarily share the same vocabulary or meanings for the same words. The selection offered in this document balances current best practices in the academic field of Indigenous Studies with the preferred language of American Indian communities with whom we are in dialogue. When we have encountered divergent terms and definitions, we have attempted to make these differences visible. We offer these keywords as a non-authoritative educational resource for our different and interrelated communities to foster clear communication and collaboration.

While the Keywords predominantly utilize English, we have included some Nanticoke and Lenape terms. The erasure of Native languages has been an essential tactic of colonization, supporting the eradication and assimilation of Indigenous peoples in order to occupy their land. Between 1869 and 1978, as part of federal policies of forced assimilation, Native children were removed from their communities and sent to residential boarding schools where they suffered criminal neglect and abuse. School officials punished them for speaking any language other than English and for practicing their Indigenous cultures. As the Keywords evolve, we aim to cite more Nanticoke and Lenape terms in tandem with language revitalization projects underway in these communities.