Brown to Adopt Land Acknowledgment, Invest in Native Causes

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Brown University has adopted a formal land acknowledgment policy and will work to expand educational access for Native Americans, the university announced Tuesday.

Brown is located on the ancestral homelands of the Narragansett Indian tribe in Rhode Island. The land acknowledgment recognizes the colonization of the Narragansett land and the dispossession the tribe suffered; it also expresses a commitment to working with tribal members.

Additionally, Brown plans to oversee new scholarship on the origins of the university and its relationships with local tribes, establish a working group with the Narragansett to honor and memorialize the tribe, support educational opportunities for tribal youth, and increase investments in the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative—an interdisciplinary effort to teach the history and knowledge of native people—and a Native student organization. The land acknowledgment and recommendations come out of a yearlong working group that included students, faculty and staff, and members of the Narragansett tribe.

Faculty and staff will not be required to include the land acknowledgment in syllabi or at events. Land acknowledgments in higher education have become a matter of controversy in recent years, occasionally decried as mere lip service that lacks a real commitment to tribal issues.

Land acknowledgments have also prompted pushback, leading to recent controversies, such as when a University of Washington professor included a tongue-in-cheek statement in his syllabus to essentially protest the practice, which he described as political pandering. Similarly, the University Senate at San Diego State University narrowly voted in March to end a requirement to include land acknowledgments in syllabi after aggrieved professors argued that being forced to share such a statement violated their First Amendment rights.

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