USU announces statement of land acknowledgement of Indigenous peoples

Jan 6, 2022, 4:04 PM
Utah State University...
Utah State University

Utah State University announced official land acknowledgements Thursday, publicly recognizing that the university’s campus and facilities reside on the lands of Indigenous peoples.

After a lengthy collaboration process with Indigenous communities, USU finalized a statement on land acknowledgment found here. The statement has been in process since March of 2021 when Utah State University President, Noelle E. Cockett, announced that a working group would be drafting the university’s land acknowledgement statements.

“It’s important to share our Utah Tribal nations are alive and maintain very resilient communities within the state of Utah,” said committee chair Marilyn Cuch, of the Hunkpapa Lakota. “And it’s even more essential for people to understand that we are not relics, but that we are self-governing tribal entities and nations within the United States.”

The land acknowledgement statements are designed to be shared at any public or private presentation, course or ceremony that includes USU staff, faculty, or students. But as the press release from the university noted, land acknowledgement statements need to be more than just a statement according to Cuch.

“It is an opening for individuals to learn more about Indigenous tribes in Utah and elsewhere in the United States,” said the secondary education senior lecturer on USU’s Uintah Basin campus. “Whether it’s doing a presentation or literally teaching students about the tribal people, it’s inviting our own tribes and the constituents that would be impacted in our tribal nations to be brought forth and allowing for their voices and perspectives to be heard.”

President Cockett said it was especially important for USU since it is a land-grant institution

“I am so pleased with the work of the committee in this endeavor,” Cockett said. “Recognizing our past provides marginalized voices the chance to be heard and brings additional awareness and education of land acknowledgment to all parts of the state.”

Since USU has more than 25 campuses and centers throughout Utah, groups worked with representatives from multiple Native nations in each area to make sure each statement was tailored accordingly.

“That was one of the things that was really important in these statements, making sure we connected with all of the tribes in the state of Utah,” said committee member Melissa Tehee, a citizen of Cherokee Nation, assistant professor of psychology and the director of the American Indian Support Project at USU.

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USU announces statement of land acknowledgement of Indigenous peoples