Michigan State University’s student government recently overwhelmingly approved a resolution that will mandate the reading of a statement describing the school as an occupier before each future meeting of the body. The “Land Acknowledgment” statement cites “contemporary” land ownership by sovereign native tribes and stresses how “students, faculty, and staff have benefited from indigenous land.” The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) will start the first General Assembly meeting of each session with an extended statement. Thereafter, each meeting will begin with the following read statement: “Michigan State University occupies the ancestral, traditional and contemporary lands of the Anishinaabeg—Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples. The university resides on land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw.”
MSU already has an “official” land acknowledgement, one that is posted on certain campus buildings. However, Miracle Chatman (!), ASMSU’s Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer (!), noted that not everyone will see these physical statements, adding, “but if we say it at every meeting…especially if you are part of ASMSU you will be aware and will be able to listen to it.” Miraculous. It’s no wonder she is the head honcho of the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department (DEID).
MSU’s representative for it’s North American Indigenous Student Organization (NAISO) seconded the bill with its representative for the College of Natural Sciences (CNS). Both claimed to be inspired by the Association of Big Ten Students’ (ABTS) recent resolution to acknowledge the “sacred land” which America’s universities occupy.
Call me a skeptic, call me a member of the white patriarchy, call me a racist-- but I don’t think this is a good thing…or warranted. In fact, it’s another meaningless gesture on the part of those who know only that they want to feel good about themselves…for no real reason.
Did the various warring American Indian tribes, after taking land from their adversaries in the past, start their meetings, get-togethers and pow-wows by acknowledging that they were occupiers of land rightfully belonging to their vanquished foes? Did the Vikings acknowledge that the Saxons were the real owners of much of England after wresting control from them? Prior to that, did the Saxons apologize to the Romans for horning in on their ancestral lands?
Let’s take this to its logical—okay, illogical-- extreme. Should mollusks and cephalopods have felt guilty about colonizing lands previously dominated by more primitive multicellular life? Should that multicellular life have acknowledged it was essentially just squatting on land/in water rightfully belonging to unicellular organisms?
Normally, I would end here. But, in all honesty, I want to say I am not accusing Native Americans of having a “more primitive” culture. I have great respect for many aspects of their culture. And for many Native Americans. We must, however, move away from the insane desire to denigrate every single historical occurrence that brought us to where we are today, and the equally bizarre quest to assert that only descendants of white Europeans have wreaked havoc upon the Earth, an idea that is the polar opposite of reality.