Beyond Land Acknowledgements: Real Collaboration with Tribes & Tribal Leaders


Elizabeth Woody, Executive Director, The Museum at Warm Springs
Rebecca Dobkins, Faculty Curator, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University
David G. Lewis, Assistant Professor, School of Language, Culture, & Society, Oregon State University


Roberta “Bobbie” Conner, Director, Tamástslikt Cultural Institute


  • Indigenous

Tribal land acknowledgments are rapidly growing in popularity among institutions and organizations, taking the form of opening statements in meetings and conferences, signage, or website messages. One might ask why land acknowledgments are being made in a growing number of settings, including the museum. Acknowledgment is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and is intended as a step toward correcting the practices that erase or freeze Indigenous people’s history and culture while inviting and honoring the truth. However, the land acknowledgment is also at risk of ending where it began, perhaps well-conceived and received, but merely a symbolic gesture with little to no follow-through of engagement and real change. While land acknowledgments are well-meaning, they are no substitute for substantive and ongoing tribal relationships and understandings of tribal land claims.