2020 Land Acknowledgment

Although we may be joining each other virtually throughout ASHE 2020, we are also able to do so grounded by diverse lands, each with their own names, histories, and relationships. While COVID has called us to limit our travel and social interactions in efforts to curb the spread of the disease and protect our communities, we hope that it also provides us with time to reflect on the lands where we live and work as well as on the relationships that we have or aspire to build with them. Such reflection can provide a vital first step to the work of decolonization, work which must go hand in hand with the dismantling of entrenched racial inequities.
This year, we invite all presenters, chairs, and discussants to engage in land acknowledgment when participating in ASHE 2020 events and sessions. We encourage members and invited speakers to share brief remarks grounded by their own respective locations to begin their presentations. We hope that the ASHE membership will welcome this opportunity to share the labor that is too-often solely shouldered by the Indigenous members of our community. While the actual content of a land acknowledgment may be relatively brief, what is equally important is the work that goes on behind the scenes--the processes of research, learning, and reflection.

While there are multiple forms that land acknowledgments can take, here is one example from the NCORE Conference:

This land on which I / we inhabit is physically situated in the original ancestral homelands of the << LOCAL TRIBE NAME(S) >>. We pay respect to the << TRIBE NAME(S) >> peoples – past, present, and future – and their continuing presence in the homeland and throughout their historical diaspora.

As members begin to engage in land acknowledgments, one resource that may be used to identify the Indigenous tribes and peoples of an area is http://native-land.ca. From there, we recommend searching for and exploring the websites of Indigenous nations and community organizations to learn more. For additional resources, insight, and guidance on land acknowledgment, see https://www.ashe.ws/landacknowledgements which was drafted by the ASHE Land Acknowledgment Working Group.
Finally, we would like to take the time to recognize the original intended location of ASHE 2020. The land currently known as New Orleans is physically situated in the region known as “Bulbancha,” a Choctaw term meaning “place of many tongues.” This place was originally inhabited by the Chitimacha nation and, prior to 1718, served as an important port and trading hub for more than 40 diverse peoples, including Atakapa, Caddo, Choctaw, Houma, Natchez, and Tunica nations. We pay respect to these communities and look forward to gathering in Bulbancha for the ASHE 2024 conference.

Written by Drs. Nicole Reyes (University of Hawai'i at Mānoa) and Julie J. Park (University of Maryland, College Park)

Reflections on New Orleans

This was originally written in January 2020.

This year we are journeying to the land currently known as New Orleans, Louisiana. Colonized by the French in 1718, Dr. Jeffery U. Darrensbourg,1 Tribal Councilperson and enrolled member of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas, has stated, “‘New Orleans’ was already a place, a place with a name, before the first Europeans set sail for the area.” Known as “Bulbancha,” a Choctaw term meaning “place of many tongues,” this place was originally inhabited by the Chitimacha nation and, prior to 1718, served as an important port and trading hub for more than 40 diverse peoples, including Atakapa, Caddo, Choctaw, Houma, Natchez, and Tunica nations.

Unfortunately, with European colonization of the region also came the institution of chattel slavery. Some Native Americans who resisted colonization became enslaved themselves while other Native Americans hid and aided enslaved Black people in escaping bondage. New Orleans was host to the largest slave markets in the Deep South, and our ASHE conference hotel is close to some of the sites where over 100,000 people were bought and sold into slavery during the first half of the 19th century. To this day, the region continues to wrestle with the legacy, past and present, of both colonization and slavery. The systematic oppression of people of color is reflected, for example, in current day educational inequities, wherein Louisiana is ranked #49 in the nation for higher education attainment.2

At the same time, the land currently known as New Orleans also represents tremendous creativity, resilience, and improvisation in the face of tragedy, from colonization to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Fittingly, in response to recent tri-centennial celebrations of the French “founding” of New Orleans, local graffiti artists painted “Bulbancha Forever” at the foot of the Jefferson Davis Monument, representing resistance and resilience in spite of the city’s multiple and intersecting legacies of inequality, erasure, and genocide. Such resilience also presents itself in educational spaces. For instance, New Orleans is host to outstanding historically Black colleges and universities, including Xavier University and Dillard University, both known for graduating a disproportionate number of the country’s Black STEM graduates.3 Impressively, Louisiana has led the country in FAFSA completion over the past several years, signaling new opportunities for local youth.4 

As we prepare to travel to this dynamic region, we name the tensions we sit in—that we travel to a city whose officially recognized name is a daily reminder of oppression and erasure to many, that the region, like so many of our own, continues to deal with the legacy of hundreds of years of colonization and enslavement. As we seek to advance full participation, we recognize these complexities and look forward to learning from our host city.

Written by Drs. Julie J. Park (University of Maryland, College Park) and Nicole Reyes (University of Hawai'i at Mānoa) 

1 https://www.vianolavie.org/2019/01/10/bulbancha-is-still-a-place-speaking-with-editor-who-is-not-a-chiefjeffery-darensbourg/

2 U.S. News and World Report https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/louisiana

3 https://www.xula.edu/singleArticle?articleId=article___news___learn_org; https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/dillard-university-outranks-many-others-physics-grads-n765086

4 https://www.forbes.com/sites/civicnation/2018/11/16/how-louisiana-led-the-nation-in-fafsacompletion/#747d9a776413

For more learning, we suggest:

Local/Area tribes: