Land Acknowledgement Statement

The Statement

“Gettysburg College is on unceded Indigenous land including the traditional homelands of the Susquehannock/ Conestoga, Seneca and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Leni Lenape, and Shawnee Nations, and the connections of Indigenous Peoples to this land continue today. We have a responsibility to honor these connections and we strive to understand our place within the past, present, and future of this Indigenous land by reflecting on our relationships with the human and other-than-human relatives with whom it is shared.”

Land Acknowledgement Statement read by Samantha Karns ’23 [Tuscarora]

Map of Gettysburg College's campus

On this page:

About the Statement

The Gettysburg College land acknowledgment statement was written by the Students for Indigenous Awareness (SIA) club and was a joint effort with a larger group of interested people from across the campus, including Indigenous students, staff, faculty, and alumni. The statement is meant to respectfully acknowledge the Native Nations who call this land home, and to contribute to the anti-racist educational goals of Gettysburg College through meaningful action. Our land acknowledgement statement came to be through critical discussion and reflection and is intended to inspire others to reflect, create, and take action through their own statements. This is an evolving process and our statement may change as we gain more knowledge through building relationships with local Indigenous communities and peoples. See Origin of the Statement for additional details.

Alternative versions

Abbreviated version

Gettysburg College is on unceded Indigenous land including the traditional homelands of the Susquehannock/Conestoga, Seneca and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Leni Lenape, and Shawnee Nations, and the connections of Indigenous Peoples to this land continue today.

When to use the abbreviated version

The abbreviated version of the LAS is an excellent choice for use in email signatures, syllabi, and in any other spaces where a slightly shorter version of the statement feels warranted.

Oral version

As a member of the Gettysburg community, I respectfully acknowledge that Gettysburg College is on unceded Indigenous land including the traditional homelands of the Susquehannock/Conestoga, Seneca and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Leni Lenape, and Shawnee Nations, and the connections of Indigenous Peoples to this land continue today. We have a responsibility to honor these connections and, as these words of acknowledgement are spoken and heard, we strive to understand our place within the past, present, and future of this Indigenous land by reflecting on our relationships with the human and other-than-human relatives with whom it is shared.

When to use the oral version

This oral version of the LAS is a wonderful option for at any event or gathering in which folks are speaking. This oral LAS would be a great way to open a meeting or introduce a conference.

Nations named in the Statement

We name those Indigenous Nations who have historical claims to Gettysburg, Adams County, and the surrounding area as part of their homeland. Gettysburg is not located within the homeland of one Nation, but rather, sits within the larger territory of many. We also acknowledge that there are Indigenous Nations yet to be mentioned due to the erasure of their relationship with this land, and Nations who know the land through historical presence, traditional trade and diplomacy routes, or contemporary movement, but may not consider this area their homeland.

Susquehannock/Conestoga

We acknowledge both names as English colonial documents commonly used both “Susquehannock” and “Conestoga” to refer to the Peoples of the lower Susquehanna valley, and “Conestoga” may possibly derive from an Indigenous name in use amongst at least some of these peoples. European settler colonialism, culminating in the Paxton Boys massacre of the Conestoga on December 14 and 27, 1763, led to the loss of their Nation and language. However, during the 1600s and 1700s, many Susquehannock joined the Seneca and other Native Nations, and some Indigenous people today in the United States continue to identify as Susquehannock/Conestoga.

Seneca

While the center of Seneca land is in what is now referred to as New York state, their traditional territories extends through this area.

Haudenosaunee Confederacy

As the Seneca are a member Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, their territory was and is open to the other member Nations. Therefore, we include the Confederacy with the Seneca in our statement although this area is not the homeland of other individual Haudenosaunee Nations.

The Six Nations are comprised of:

Leni Lenape

Leni Lenape homeland is centered East of Gettysburg and extends to Adams County and the surrounding area.

Shawnee

Shawnee travel and diplomacy routes extended through this area and are included in Shawnee traditional territory.

Explanation of key terms

Unceded

The rights and relationships of Indigenous Peoples to this land have not been relinquished. This is confirmed in the 1677 Covenant Chain Treaty between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy on one side and the Lenni Lenape and Susquehannock/Conestoga with the colonies of Maryland and Virginia on the other.

Traditional homeland

We take the term “traditional homeland” to encompass the broad history and perseverance of Indigenous presence and resilience, instead of using colonial language, associated with notions of land ownership, acquisition, and cession because these concepts do not encapsulate the rich and diverse relationships that various Indigenous Peoples continue to foster with the land and all its inhabitants.

Other-than-human relatives

Refers to all the non-human beings who share a place, and the term acknowledges Indigenous ways of being in the environment and Indigenous ways of knowing those animals, plants, land, and water beings with whom they share long histories of reciprocal relationships.

Educational resources

What is land acknowledgement?

Land acknowledgement statements recognize that the land to which they refer is Indigenous land. More specifically, these statements acknowledge those Native American Nations and Peoples who: 1) cared for the specific place prior to and through European colonialism; 2) were often unjustly removed from the land by systematic processes of displacement by European powers, colonists, and later, American settlers and settler colonialism; and 3) have ancestral ties and are contemporary heirs to unceded land for which title was not relinquished. By articulating recognition, land acknowledgement statements serve to un-settle settler colonialism and shine a light on historical injustice and accountability. In this way the statement itself is often a starting point for further education and engagement with local Indigenous communities.

Why acknowledge land?

Gettysburg College is located in a storied place; a site of historical trauma and building of national identity with deep ties to racial justice and injustice. Yet, a major aspect of our story has been absented: that this place is Indigenous land. The Gettysburg College Land Acknowledgement initiative has sought to address the erasure of Indigenous presence while understanding this work to be ongoing. The land acknowledgement statement itself is an important first step in building relationships with the Indigenous communities who call this place home.

The acknowledgement of the unceded ancestral homelands of Indigenous peoples on the webpages of educational institutions is a movement that began decades ago by Indigenous and Native American academics and community leaders across the Americas and elsewhere. Indigenous Studies educators and leaders have opened their public lectures and classes with oral land acknowledgements long before written statements were included on public venues at institutions of higher education. Many Gettysburg College faculty, students, and staff incorporated their own versions of a land acknowledgement statement into email signatures, syllabi, and were spoken at major events.

Indigenous resources

Courses with Indigenous content

Origin and contributors

Writing our statement

The Gettysburg College land acknowledgement statement and this webpage and resources arose from partnerships across campus and included Indigenous students, staff, faculty, and alumni, resulting in the College officially adopting the land acknowledgement statement in February 2021. The process of creating an official land acknowledgement statement began in 2016 with the campus club , under the leadership of students Samantha Trueman, ’17; Kristy Garcia, ’17; and Mary Margaret Blum, ’18, with Professor Stephanie Sellers as faculty advisor.

In 2018, Professor Sellers asked Professor David Walsh to take over as Faculty Advisor, and students Keira Koch, ’19 and Colleen Kazokas, ’19 then took up the endeavor of garnering support for a College land acknowledgement statement. Keira Koch wrote the SIA club’s first land acknowledgement statement which informed the current version. Also in 2018, Chaplain Kristin Largen began incorporating a land acknowledgment statement into her Baccalaureate prayer and was aided in writing her statement by the SIA club and its faculty advisors.

Statement contributors

In October 2020, Chaplain Kristin Largen invited Professor David Walsh to speak with the Interfaith Leadership Fellows—a group of Gettysburg College students including some of the SIA students—resulting in a renewed effort to create an official College statement. With the aid of faculty advisor Prof. David Walsh, the statement was written over the 2020-2021 winter break by members of the Students for Indigenous Awareness Club:

To bring this statement to the campus community and create the resources for this webpage, the club worked closely with our larger working group, which included:

Our vision has been not only the creation of a land acknowledgement statement but also a rich resource base for the College and local community to learn more. A second aspect of our project is connecting with local Indigenous communities to build present and future relations that are valuable both to our students and to the communities themselves. This will be made possible by a grant from the Gettysburg College Public Policy Program’s community-based research endeavor on racial justice. Through these relationships our goals will be to further raise Indigenous awareness and empowerment, such as with campus events and speakers.

Students for Indigenous Awareness Club

For students interested in learning more about opportunities for Indigenous awareness and advocacy on campus and beyond, we recommend connecting with the Students for Indigenous Awareness club. You can also follow them on Instagram @studentsforindigenousawareness.