Written by Katie Lynch, Circle K International vice president
(Citizen Potawatomi Nation)

Despite unimaginable challenges, present-day native nations, communities, families and individuals continue to maintain their connections to their ancestral homelands. They safeguard these ties through the preservation of indigenous languages, oral traditions, ceremonies and other forms of cultural expression. Following thousands of years of displacement and dispossession, recognizing and honoring the original inhabitants of the land we occupy is a complex task.

One form of recognition is a land acknowledgement — a formal statement that recognizes and respects indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of this land and their enduring relationship with their traditional territories. Land acknowledgements function as living celebrations of indigenous communities and are often read at the beginning of an event by the host.  

In “A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement” from the Native Governance Center in 2019, Mary Lyons said: “When we talk about land, land is part of who we are. It’s a mixture of our blood, our past, our current and our future. We carry our ancestors in us, and they’re around us. As you all do.”  

We must acknowledge that U.S. universities that have CKI clubs, like the United States as a nation, were founded upon the exclusions and erasures of indigenous peoples. Consistent with the core values of Circle K International, we have a responsibility to acknowledge, honor and make visible our relationship to the land. It is also vital to recognize that land acknowledgements are just the first step in greater consciousness of native sovereignty and cultural rights.  

Land acknowledgments can be spoken at the beginning of public and private gatherings, from district conventions to club officer training conferences and general club meetings. When crafting yours, I suggest reaching out directly to local indigenous communities and native nations that were forcibly removed from the area in the past to ask how they want to be recognized.  

Beyond land acknowledgments, consider the following resources for continued learning and engagement: 

  • Visit Native-Land.ca to discover the indigenous people, languages and treaties associated with your area. 
  • Reach out to local tribes and plan service events with them or provide support in other ways. 
  • Cosponsor events with your school’s Native American or indigenous student association. 
  • Learn about indigenous peoples at the United Nations and the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. 
  • See the “Honor Native Land” virtual resource pack.
  • Listen to the “All My Relations” podcast.