A poem to acknowledge that the land itself — along with the people whose language, culture and religion were born of it — is rarely acknowledged

Cara Romero, Sand & Stone, 2020. Photograph. 19 × 12 ¾ inches. © Cara Romero. Courtesy of the artist. All rights reserved. Cara Romero, Sand & Stone, 2020. Photograph. 19 × 12 ¾ inches. © Cara Romero. Courtesy of the artist. All rights reserved.
Let us pause for a moment and acknowledge the land on which we live. This is the traditional land of Tewa people of O’Ga P’Ogeh Owingeh. We should take another moment to acknowledge the ways Indigenous people have been/are being removed and erased from the land they’ve stewarded for over 16,000 years: Swiftly. Brutally. Culturally. Fatally. Let us acknowledge that soldiers for the United States killed women and children because they were Native. Let us acknowledge the recentness of this. Let us acknowledge the Native people buried in their land without markers while unnamed settlers rest in fenced graves. Let us acknowledge Indian graves dug up and looted. Let us acknowledge that place names like Squaw Mountain do not honor ancestors. Let us take a moment and acknowledge that this land was not stolen from the people whose language, culture, and religion were born of it; let us acknowledge that the people were stolen from this land. The people who celebrate this land with song, dance, ceremony; people who do not commodify and commercialize trees and water or call it resource. Here we pause to acknowledge that the land itself is rarely acknowledged. The land buried beneath asphalt, cement, floorboards, and foundations. Let us acknowledge that this buried land which once grew food and medicine now grows dollar stores and subdivisions. Let us acknowledge the land in the way subdividers do, with the blade of the bulldozer and with names like Forest Trails, Aspen Ridge, River Ranch, with words, the way the Government recognizes only Federally recognized tribes and has taught some Natives to recognize others only on paper, through blood quantum and CIB instead of commitment to rights and sovereignty. Let us recognize Land Acknowledgments that serve as consolation, another box checked on a list titled Due Diligences. The way wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt acknowledges white wokeness while the same whites shop at white lives businesses; acknowledgment as performative allyship. Let us acknowledge that internment camps were prisons. This Land Acknowledgement was written for the people who acknowledge land in the way spotted knapweed acknowledges it, the way a ‘For Sale’ sign acknowledges it, the way the Forest Service acknowledges land by stating #itsallyours, but meaning #itsnottheirs. This statement acknowledges the land in the same way the media and FBI acknowledge the over 2,000 missing Native women and girls—by recognizing the one missing white woman for whom hundreds search and whose picture is present on all our screens, the way Native silhouettes are screened on paper to sell cigarettes. This Land Acknowledgment is inked on the heartwood of a pine that escaped the fires but fell for the mill from a land that cannot help but acknowledge climate crisis and carrying capacities, the grizzly bear fatally removed, and the salmon who can no longer reach their original homelands. This land acknowledges the wolves shot by stockmen and sportsmen, to preserve the animals stockmen and sportsmen will thenceforth kill in the name of husbandry and sport. Let us acknowledge how we honor loss with dollars and not grief. Let us make depredation a science and pay officers from the bank of conservation. Let us acknowledge the words used to disassociate kill/er/ing/ed from the act of execution. This land acknowledges that it is recognized for its monetary value, recreational value, and aesthetic value. Because it too is living, this land recognizes us by our carbon footprint, our clear-cuts, our gold mines, and our greed. This acknowledges that Land Back means languages back, means medicine back, means ceremony back, means culture back, means reparations. Means all people depend on the land. Let us acknowledge that unless action is taken to identify and empower Indigenous peoples, erase inaccurate history from every school curriculum, carry out land-based justice and climate change policy, a Land Acknowledgment is a perfunctory, alienating, and otherwise hollow gesture. Acknowledgment means acceptance, admittance; acknowledgment is a dead word, is not a verb, is not deed, does not mean education. Acknowledgment means too late for an apology. Read me your Declaration of Change. Detail your Plan of Procedure. Show me your Map to Equality. And then, just maybe then, I might be convinced that your Land Acknowledgment is not but another broken treaty.

CMarie Fuhrman is the author of Camped Beneath the Dam: Poems and co-editor of Cascadia: Art, Ecology, and Poetry, and Native Voices: Indigenous Poetry, Craft, and Conversations. She has published or forthcoming poetry and nonfiction in multiple journals and anthologies. CMarie is an award-winning columnist for the Inlander and Director of the Elk River Writers Workshop. She is Associate Director at Western Colorado University, where she teaches nature writing. CMarie is the host of the podcast Terra Firma. She resides in the Salmon River Mountains of Idaho. CMarieFuhrman.com