‘Indigenous Land Acknowledgments’ Could Have Unintended Effects

‘Indigenous Land Acknowledgments’ Could Have Unintended Effects

Redwoods along the Little Sur River in Big Sur on the coast of California. A Native American tribe has reclaimed a small part of ancestral lands on California’s Big Sur coast that were lost to Spanish colonial settlement nearly 250 years ago. (Doug Steakley/Western Rivers Conservancy via AP)

Orlean Koehle
Orlean Koehle

6/27/2024

Updated: 7/1/2024

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Commentary
There is a strange sort of ritual that has arisen and become popular over the past few years in some parts of the United States and Canada. If you attend a city council meeting, board of supervisor’s meeting, or even some school board meetings today in California (and probably in some other states), you may hear at the beginning a recitation of a “land acknowledgment” by one or all of the board members.
Before they give the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag, the board members stand and invite the audience to also stand, while one of them recites something similar to the following, which was recorded from a meeting of the city council of Rohnert Park, California, on May 14: “The City of Rohnert Park acknowledges that the Indigenous people are the original stewards of the land. Let it be acknowledged that this city of Rohnert Park is located upon the traditional homelands of the Federation of the Graton Rancheria, consisting of the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people.”
(Thanks to Pastor Andy Springer of the Heartwood Church of Rohnert Park, who attended the meeting and sent a video of it to me.)
It appears that other groups, organizations, schools, and universities are doing the same thing. You might hear a land acknowledgment at the beginning of a soccer game, a performing arts production, or even a corporate conference.
However, many Native American tribes were nomadic. Some migrated to other places depending on the season of the year and where food was available. Many followed the buffalo herds.
How can a tribe prove that they really were the first ones who owned that land? There were no ownership deeds, no bills of sale back then, and nothing to show how far the ownership of the land extended. There was no government over the whole land to grant any treaties. Some tribes fought with other tribes to possess a certain section of land.
Also, archaeology shows that people have lived in the Americas for thousands of years, with different cultures rising and falling.
How do we know which tribe was the “original steward” of the land? Maybe it wasn’t the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people in the Rohnert Park area at all.
So why does anyone have to do this strange recitation?

Purpose

What is the real purpose behind “land acknowledgments”? Although those who recite them probably have good intentions, the practice of land acknowledgments likely originated from communism’s attempt to start an uprising by turning the indigenous people against the white people, using critical race theory (CRT).
CRT is a Marxist-derived ideology. It originated with “critical theory,” the Marxist social ideology that was used in Russia and other countries to bring about a revolution and usher in communism. In some countries, Marxist leaders overturned the government by turning the poor class against the rich class.
But turning the rich against the poor does not work in the United States, because we still have a middle class—people who are happy where they are and couldn’t care less if there is a rich class looming over them. Because of our strong religious Judeo-Christian background, most middle-class Americans are benevolent and willing to help the poor and give them a hand up. That is why communism had to come up with a new approach. It uses the race issue to divide and conquer us, to try to turn people of color against whites. This is why CRT came about.
Today, CRT is taught and promoted in many schools, universities, and organizations.

Putting a Land Acknowledgment Into Action

Does a university or government really want to put its land acknowledgment into action, or is the statement just a ritualistic “feel-good” display?
While researching this subject, I discovered that a city, a county, or even a state does not have any legal right to grant sovereignty or empowerment to a Native American tribe in the area, nor to give reparations for the land once seized. This is all to come from Congress, because the U.S. Constitution already acknowledges the sovereignty of Native American tribes.
Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution recognizes that Native American tribes are independent and separate from the federal government and state governments. It states, “The Congress shall have power ... to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”
Native Americans who live on reservations are exempt from certain taxes, and perhaps that could be called a form of reparations.
Many tribes are allowed to operate casinos. That could also be a form of reparations, since nontribal gambling casinos are prohibited in some states, and there is no competition for the casinos in those states.
The U.S. federal government has always recognized Native American tribes as sovereign governments, and, in the past, it formed treaties with them as it did in dealing with other nations. Currently, tribal nations are called “domestic dependent nations” and come under the protection of the United States.
Are the city and county leaders opening themselves up for a possible lawsuit? Could their words unintentionally stir up conflicts among themselves, property owners in the local area, and indigenous tribes?
I believe the best thing for all concerned would be to stop doing the land acknowledgments now, before the elected officials get themselves into unforeseen and possibly serious consequences.
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Orlean Koehle is a former teacher, now author, who has written 14 books, all nonfiction. Koehle has served as the state president of Eagle Forum of California for 20 years. Her books can be found at BooksforTruth.com.

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