An acknowledgment of the land is a formal statement that recognizes Indigenous Peoples as the traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.
The Department of English acknowledges Central Ohio as the traditional homeland of the Shawnee, Miami, Wyandotte and other Indigenous Nations. Thousands of years ago, Indigenous peoples made this region a center of trade, culture and innovation in astronomy, geography, mathematics and engineering, attracting visitors from across North America. The large-scale geometric, boundary and effigy earthworks still visible in the region bear witness to its historical importance. Today, individuals from a broad range of Indigenous backgrounds call Columbus and Central Ohio home, and the region continues to serve as a site of Indigenous exchange, innovation, artistic expression and scientific knowledge.
As faculty, staff and students at a land-grant institution, it is our responsibility to recognize the ways in which we benefit from colonization, both historical and ongoing. The land on which our campuses sit was ceded to the United States in the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, signed by leaders of the Wyandotte, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Miami, Eel River, Wea, Kickapoo, Piankashaw and Kaskaskia tribes. The Federal Government then forcibly removed the tribes whose ancestral territory this land was through the Indian Removal Act of 1830. There are currently no federally-recognized American Indian tribes in the State of Ohio.
As recent reporting in High Country News has shown, the “footprint” of land-grant universities in expropriated Indigenous lands is much larger than has traditionally been recognized. The Ohio State University’s initial endowment and operating expenses were funded through the sale of “public domain lands”— hundreds of thousands of acres of seized tribal lands—in at least thirteen other current U. S. states, which were parceled out to it under the Morrill Act of 1862. In light of such transformative, ongoing research, we recognize that a Land Acknowledgment must be a living document, open to future revisions that reflect our continually developing understanding of the relationships between our university, the lands on which it depends and their traditional caretakers. The process of drafting and maintaining a Land Acknowledgment serves as an opportunity for the members of the Department of English to expand their knowledge and to engage in long-term relationship building with Native communities in Ohio.
Ohio State offers a number of programs designed to support Native American students, and to promote understanding of the diversity and complexity of Native American histories, cultures, experiences and scientific achievements. These include the Student Life Multicultural Center’s Native American/Indigenous Communities, the Newark Earthworks Center, and the interdisciplinary Minor in American Indian Studies. Our department contributes a course to the minor, English 4586, Studies in American Indian Literature and Culture, which also fulfills the Diversity Requirement in our undergraduate major.
Even as we highlight these important efforts to create supportive spaces for Native students on campus and to engage with Native knowledge, we recognize that our institution continues to fall short of its responsibilities to tribal nations and to tribal members in the Ohio State community. Recognizing that our department is in a unique position to support Indigenous scholars’ knowledge production and to support sovereignty through the study of Native knowledges and cultural production, we pledge to continue to support the research and teaching of Native literatures and cultures. In line with our larger commitment to Racial Justice, the English department will also seek opportunities to collaborate with other units on campus and non-academic groups, in order to continue to develop this document and to find ways to put its principles into action; develop and act on strategies for recruiting and retaining Indigenous students; and, when hiring begins again, bear in mind the centrality of anti-racism and non-discrimination to the department we aspire to become.