University adopts land acknowledgement statement to honor Native Americans

Jorge Espinoza

Colorado State University has adopted a land acknowledgment statement that honors Native Americans and reconnects them to their ancestral homelands on which CSU is built.

According to an email sent by President Tony Frank on Dec. 11, 2018, Native American students, staff and community members have worked to create a statement of land acknowledgment that honors the ties Native Americans have to the land CSU operates on.

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“When this statement is used, it should be done with respect for its intent and purpose as part of a welcome—not as part of event logistics or as a routine housekeeping item,” Frank wrote.

Full statement:

Colorado State University acknowledges, with respect, that the land we are on today is the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute Nations and peoples. This was also a site of trade, gathering, and healing for numerous other Native tribes. We recognize the Indigenous peoples as original stewards of this land and all the relatives within it.  As these words of acknowledgment are spoken and heard, the ties Nations have to their traditional homelands are renewed and reaffirmed. 

CSU is founded as a land grant institution, and we accept that our mission must encompass access to education and inclusion. And, significantly, that our founding came at a dire cost to Native Nations and peoples whose land this university was built upon. This acknowledgment is the education and inclusion we must practice in recognizing our institutional history, responsibility, and commitment.

CSU operates as a land grant institution and Ty Smith, director of the Native American Cultural Center, said the history behind CSU’s land grant mission generally leaves Native Americans out of the narrative.  

There’s been Indigenous presence in this area for hundreds of years,” Smith said. “It’s a critical part of understanding the history of where CSU resides and this part of Northern Colorado.”

Smith said the importance of this land acknowledgment is how it honors the ties that Native Americans have to the land that CSU is built upon.  

Smith added that Native American history is generally not well taught, and therefore not well known or understood.

“I think one of the effects of colonization throughout history is the separation of Native People from their traditional and ancestral homelands and the land acknowledgment reconnects these Indigenous peoples with their ancestral homelands,” Smith said.

Haley Carter, a sophomore studying Health and Exercise Science, said that she didn’t start to learn about the history of Native Americans in Northern Colorado until she first heard the land acknowledgment statement. 

“CSU prides themselves on being a land grant university and they never acknowledge where this land came from,” Carter said. “It should be said with purpose and intention. If you’re going to talk about the history of CSU it should be done fully and accurately.”

Anissa Rodriguez, an Inclusive Community Assistant and liaison for the NACC office, said that it is important to decolonize CSU’s history in order to pay respect to Native Americans.

It’s a form of decolonization in essence,” Rodriguez said. “In schools, we’re often not taught the settler colonial history behind the United States and we’re not taught the history of Indigenous peoples that originally inhabited this land and still inhabit this land.”

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Rodriguez said the land acknowledgment statement serves to acknowledge the history of genocide by helping educate non-natives.  

Rodriguez added that students and staff can support Native Americans by taking time to learn and appreciate Native American culture as well as holding each other accountable for the history that has taken place.

It is also so important to keep people accountable and help them check their privileges, Rodriguez said. “The first step to that is acknowledging what has happened and what is still happening to the Native communities and spread that knowledge to others.”

Smith said that students should take advantage of the opportunity to learn about other people. 

“Whether it’s seminars, conferences, speaker series or other cultural centers and offices, students should really take advantage of this opportunity to learn about others and learn more about diversity and social justice,” Smith said.

Jorge Espinoza can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @jorgespinoza14