How does a school district acknowledge stolen land?
Lake Oswego School District sits on Indigenous land that was stolen over 150 years ago.
There's no easy way to say it. There's also no easy way to bring that fact to the forefront of collective thought in the community — not without explicit effort.
The district aims to change that with efforts stemming from what's referred to as a "land acknowledgement," a statement which the Lake Oswego School Board approved at the Monday, May 10 meeting.
So what does it look like for a school district to recognize the history of the land it sits on in a respectful way?
To find out, LOSD created a Land Acknowledgement Committee comprising students, staff and community members — some of whom had Indigenous roots and tribal connections — to research the local tribal history and draft a statement. Two anthropologists sit on the committee as well as a retired professor who specialized in Native American history.
Alana Kent, a member of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians in Southern California, read the acknowledgement at the May 10 board meeting.
The statement recognized that LOSD sits on the ancestral land of the Clackamas Chinook and Tualatin Kalapuya peoples, as well as that of other Indigenous peoples who made their homes along the Willamette and Tualatin rivers.
"Our community regrets the painful history of genocide, imposed assimilation and forced removal of Indigenous Peoples from this territory, and recognizes that injustices visited upon them have yet to be properly rectified," the statement said.
The acknowledgment said LOSD honors the Indigenous people still connected to this land by telling their stories in the classroom. The statement thanked those who were and continue to be stewards of the land and said that LOSD strives to follow in their example.
Madeleine Stewart, a LOSD high school student, brought forward recommendations of how to incorporate the acknowledgement into everyday school life.
The committee recommended the acknowledgement should be read at school gatherings like sports games, graduations and assemblies, as well as in official documents like the student handbook.
"(We should) incorporate that as standard procedure, sort of like how we include the Pledge (of Allegiance) or the National Anthem," she said.
Stewart added that whoever reads the statement aloud should learn to pronounce the names of the tribes correctly.
Taking things a step further from the acknowledgement statement, the committee recommended Native American history from before and after colonization should be taught in classrooms, and the district should also ensure that Native American voices are represented in the strategic plan.
Though the board approved the statement on Monday, how these recommendations will come to fruition is yet to be known.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.