Land acknowledgment is commonly expressed as a formal statement acknowledging Indigenous Peoples as the traditional stewards of the land and their enduring relationship with their traditional territories. These formal statements are critical to understanding our relationship and roles in history, as well as the paths that have led us to this land. THPRD recognizes that land acknowledgement statements are only meaningful when paired with intentional action to increase resources and improve outcomes for Native people. We at THPRD are excited to take action by challenging ourselves with tough questions, joining collective action for change, and engaging our communities most impacted by racial and social inequity.
What is Land Acknowledgement?
Land acknowledgment is commonly expressed as a formal statement acknowledging Indigenous Peoples as the traditional stewards of the land and their enduring relationship (historically and presently) with their traditional territories. Land acknowledgement can also take several other forms — public art, poetry, celebration, interpretive signage, and more. Land acknowledgement statements and actions are critical to understanding our relationship and roles in history, as well as the paths that have led us to this land.
What action is THPRD taking beyond Land Acknowledgment?
We at THPRD recognize that structural racism and colonialism are entrenched throughout U.S. institutions, including our own. A land acknowledgement statement is simply one step in our journey to understanding and shifting our role and relationship to systems of oppression.
Today THPRD is plotting a course to implement the following strategies to increase resources and improve outcomes for Native people in the district.
Crafting a long-term strategy that fosters trust with tribal partners at a respectful pace of work.
Committing to ongoing engagement in meaningful, mutually beneficial collaborations with our Native people’s community to identify problems and solutions.
Acknowledging the complexity of historical truths, the work ahead of us, and the issues voiced by tribal partners.
Is THPRD collaborating with partners in this effort?
Currently, THPRD is partnering with the collective action of the Land Acknowledgement Alliance led by the City of Portland’s Tribal Relations Program. As a member of this network, THPRD is supporting the work of this alliance, including but not limited to:
Contracting with Native American consulting firms, artists, and writers to conduct historic research and craft land acknowledgement language, art, and more.
Identifying problems and solutions with Native people living in the Metro area through compensated focus groups.
Identifying possible resources within THPRD to improve outcomes for Native people in the district.
Has THPRD considered using Native American words or names to name parks and trails?
Yes — THPRD has considered using Native American words and names to name our parks and trails. While this effort is one vital part of representing our Native community members in public spaces, we also recognize that our work must be informed by the following:
An appreciation that Native people and tribal governments are not homogenous in their cultures, beliefs, languages, perspectives, or approaches. We want to honor this diversity by making intentional time and space for active listening and collaborative decision-making with different Native communities in our region.
An understanding that such place names should authentically emerge from within the Native communities they represent and not be assigned by anyone who does not represent or identify within Native communities. And therefore, it is imperative to first build authentic relationships over time. Engaging in cultural misappropriation can be damaging and misleading.
An awareness that community engagement and representation does not start with a name. We aim to foster a long-term and mutually beneficial approach with community partners that delivers the innovative and responsive design of parks, trails, and programs. A place name is simply one of many outcomes in this process.
An acknowledgement that improving outcomes for Native community members takes priority, and this effort does not include performative action.
We know these considerations require a long-term effort involving trust-building, overcoming a sense of urgency, and centering the quality of the process over the quantity of progress.
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