Acknowledging the Land, Acknowledging Teaching

“What we do is one big land acknowledgement”

Written and delivered by Kelli Dawn Holsopple at the Manhattan Country School in New York City  on July 31, 2023, as part of the 2023 Summer Institute for Imaginative Inquiry

The first acknowledgement is who we are. We are humans, gathered here together in person. Embodied. After the number of zoom meetings I have attended in the last 3 years, I do not take this moment for granted. We firmly believe that learning for children needs to be an embodied act, embedded in community. What a gift this is…to spend time together with other educators exploring this powerful method of embodied learning — I acknowledge how much it takes to be able to be in person and I acknowledge the planning and effort it takes to bring yourself here. 

The second acknowledgement is when we are. This a really important time in history to be teaching social studies. To be teaching American history. There are battles raging right now in our educational system over truth-telling about the racism that is a bedrock of our country’s history. So in the light of that, we want to be intentional about entering into the space of this workshop in the spirit of grace for yourselves and for each other and for the truth-telling we are striving for.

The last acknowledgement is where we are.

Wherever we are in the United States, and we are from all over….we are on land that was historically the homeland of indigenous peoples who were dispossessed of their land. Wherever we are sitting or standing this morning, we are standing on land with a past, a history of a myriad nations and civilizations, that existed prior to colonization.

As a social studies and history teacher, sometimes land acknowledgements at events feel strange to me because they are said as a separate piece before the event and then they are over and the event starts. 

But as social studies teachers, what we do is one big land acknowledgement. It is the core of our work. It doesn’t stop with this sentence I have just said. It is our work. Our work is to become historians as teachers, to understand where we are standing and to nurture in our students the kind of eyeballs and minds behind those eyeballs to see that wherever they are has a past, to see the past of a place, to seek it, to understand it. 

And lastly, we want to invite you to give yourselves permission to really focus on the joy, the play, the depth that you know your students still need in this time. And allow yourselves to have fun and just focus on that.