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Living Land Acknowledgement & Institutional Action Steps

Living Land Acknowledgement

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.

Please respect the following protocols for use:

Review the three versions of the Living Land Acknowledgement and the recommended Institutional Action Steps. Choose between the oral land acknowledgement for members of UD or the oral land acknowledgment for visiting speakers.

Either present the PPT slide of the selected living land acknowledgement and read it or share the recorded version with closed captions.

Do not edit or change any aspect of the living land acknowledgement as it was developed in consultation with tribal leadership of the Delaware watershed and has been approved by the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Student Government, and the Student Government Association in this current form.

Share the link to the living land acknowledgement website for reference and encourage the audience to consult the longer version and the other materials available on the website, including UD Keywords for Building Respectful Relationships and UD Land Grab History.

This is a living land acknowledgement developed in consultation with tribal leadership of the Delaware watersheds including: the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, the Nanticoke Indian Tribe, and the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation in 2021. We thank these leaders for their generosity. This document will be revised periodically to incorporate ongoing feedback and Indigenous relationship building.

Full Living Land Acknowledgement:

Oral Land Acknowledgement for Members of UD

Oral Land Acknowledgement for Visiting Speakers

Recorded Land Acknowledgement with Closed Captions

Read the full land acknowledgement below:

The University of Delaware occupies lands vital to the web of life for Lenni Lenape and Nanticoke, who share their ancestry, history, and future in this region. This interactive map shows that the Lewes, Georgetown, Dover, Newark and Wilmington campuses are located in these Indigenous homelands. UD has financially benefited from this regional occupation as well as from Indigenous territories that were expropriated through the United States land grant system since the institution was established in 1743. We acknowledge that the centuries of harm to Indigenous people and their homelands are beyond repair. Yet, we pledge a sustained commitment to accountability.

We honor that the Nanticoke and Lenni Lenape have lived in harmony with one another and this land since ancient times. The ancestors of the Lenni Lenape, translated as “the Original People,” were farmers and diplomats throughout their homeland, Lenapehoking, which includes present-day New Jersey, most of Delaware, and the eastern parts of New York and Pennsylvania. The ancestral Nanticoke, known as the “Tidewater People” because their livelihood depended upon the bounty of the land, ocean, and rivers, lived along the present-day Delmarva Peninsula. We express our appreciation for ongoing Indigenous stewardship of the ecologies and traditions of this region, despite the centuries of colonial-capitalist plunder.

We commit to learning the stories of all those who have, and have not, survived genocide, ecocide, displacement, slavery, and ongoing occupation. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch, Swedes, and British established settler colonies in this region, resulting in Indigenous epidemics and warfare. In parallel, the trans-Atlantic slave trade had devastating consequences for people of African descent, Indigenous communities, and their shared kin. European nations and eventually the United States forced some Nanticoke and Lenni Lenape westward and northward. Others never left their homelands or returned from exile when they could. Many survived by forming tribal congregations in Christian churches and controlling segregated Native American public schools in the 1800s and 1900s, while maintaining much of their traditional spirituality. They persist today as the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, the Nanticoke Indian Tribe, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, the Ramapough Lenape and other continuing tribal communities throughout the eastern seaboard. Other Nanticoke and Lenni Lenape form the Delaware Nation in Anadarko, Oklahoma, the Delaware Tribe of Indians in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians in Bowler, Wisconsin, the Munsee-Delaware Nation near St. Thomas, Ontario, the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown near Chatham-Kent, Ontario, and the Delaware of Six Nations near Brantford, Ontario.

We will foster right relationships going forward through tangible and actionable institutional steps elaborated in collaboration with tribal leadership. The future viability of the University of Delaware necessitates reparations for Indigenous people. With this living land acknowledgement, UD commits to building relationships with Indigenous people based on respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility to redress centuries of harm.

Institutional Action Steps

These recommended institutional actions steps were developed in consultation with tribal leadership of the Delaware watersheds, including the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, the Nanticoke Indian Tribe, and the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation in 2021. We thank these leaders for their generosity. These recommendations provide a framework for future discussions and actions that support Indigenous peoples’ academic opportunities, cultural expression, wellbeing, and financial partnerships.

  1. Adopt the UD Anti-Racism Initiative Indigenous Programming committee’s thoughtful, collaborative, & actionable Living Land Acknowledgement
    • Written and spoken versions posted on UD website, along with this recommended institutional action step document, a document summarizing UD land grab history, and a glossary of terms relevant to UD’s relationships with Indigenous peoples. These documents support one another and should be seen as indivisible.
  2. Recognition of the Harvest moon in late September as the time of ancestral gratitude ceremonies. Recognition that Thanksgiving in November marks, for many but not all Native Americans, a national day of mourning.
  3. Develop an UD Ethics Policy for working with Indigenous communities
  4. Support accessible counseling services to local tribal communities via a third party provider for:
    •  Intergenerational Trauma
    • Decolonization
    • Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation
    • Genocide, dispossession and extermination informed harm reduction approach
  5. Enhance dignity and self-determination through capacity building:
    • Support Indigenous people’s speech and action on their own behalf regarding their histories, cultural production and storytelling
    • Create a dedicated liaison staff member at UD to support the needs of Indigenous students, staff, faculty and administration
    • Support local tribal community leadership development, e.g. Horn program collaboration
    • Partnership with local tribal communities to support the review of technical reports, e.g. wildlife, water, soil and air quality reports
    • Support local tribal communities’ media communications
  6. Outreach, recruitment and retention of Indigenous students, faculty, and staff
    • Indigenous Studies/Native Science/Native Arts diversity cluster hire
    • Host information sessions in or near the location of local tribal communities
    • Indigenous Pipeline / Pre-college Prep Programs, e.g. Early College Credit Programs
    • Dedicated Admissions Office liaison staff members
    • Indigenous peoples scholarships
    • Mentorship programs for Indigenous students, faculty, and staff
    • Work Study Programs for Indigenous students
    • Establish paid internship opportunities for Indigenous students
    • Curriculum reform that includes the mandatory teaching of Indigenous history
  7. Encourage patronage of Indigenous owned businesses and prioritize UD contracts with Indigenous service providers.
  8. Sponsor collaborative cultural programs, e.g. powwows, artist initiatives, citizen science programs, food security programs, and documentation of traditional ecological knowledge.

Land Grab History

The full report is in-progress and forthcoming. Meanwhile, a summary of these findings is provided as a downloaded 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 financial 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.