By KEN WHITT
Of late, not too late I hope, I have been listening to many Indigenous stories: podcasts, books and articles all bearing witness to what we must learn from native peoples if we are to stand any chance of living well within the earth community. Often the speakers open their presentations by sharing sacred words about the particular place on this earth where they are with their audience at that moment. They identify the people who walked here for centuries, even millennia, before Europeans arrived in the Americas. Words may be spoken in a native language and communities may be identified with both ancient and more common westernized names.
Without knowing that this practice of “land acknowledgment” had a name, I often have identified the First Nations peoples, Adena, Hopewell, Shawnee, Iroquis, Delaware, who lived on and cared for this land, trees, water, air, animals, as if they were members of their families.
For my spiritual formation newsletter, I create weekly videos for children and families. Their purpose is to teach children how to care for the creation. The collection can be found on YouTube.
Years ago, I met and Fred Shaw, who often tells Native American stories. I spoke with Fred recently of this practice called “land acknowledgment.” He suggested that I—as I present to groups including children—could begin like this:
Children, we are not the first people to walk on this land. There have been various human beings here for thousands of years. Scientists, called archeologists, have given them names, like Adena and Hopewell—but these are not what they called themselves. Where we are today was the home of Algonquin-speaking peoples, including the Shawnee, Miami and Delaware, and Iroquoian-speaking people, including the Seneca. We give thanks to these people for taking good care of the land, air, water, trees and animals, as members of a family. May we learn from them to take care of all our family members in this beautiful creation.
Then Fred began to tell me a story about hope and transformation: