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What is a Land Acknowledgement and What Does it Do?

Use and Future Recommendations

More Information on Salem State's Land Acknowledgement

Salem State’s Land Acknowledgment was developed in 2022-2023 under the Office of Inclusive Excellence in collaboration with the Student Government Association, the Office of the Provost, the History Department, and the Center for Civic Engagement, and individual faculty and students who volunteered their time. It was developed in close consultation with the Massachusett as well as with the City of Salem. It was approved by the President’s Executive Council in Spring 2023.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts derives its name from the Massachusett. The Pawtucket band of the Massachusett lived in Namukeag, or fishing place, which we now know as Salem.  Their descendants and kin continue to live in and around Salem. The Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag is the current seat of the Massachusett. For more historical context, see  The People Here: Interrogating Indigenous Dispossession of the Land Occupied by Salem State University.

Along with the Massachusett, New England, has long been and remains home to many Indigenous People. Neighboring the Massachusett and Salem are the Wabanaki Confederacy to North, the Nipmuc and Agawam to the West, and the Wampanoag to the South. There are only two federally recognized tribes in Massachusetts today. The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) acquired federal recognition in 1987 and the Mashpee Wampanoag in 2007. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts additionally recognized the Nipmuc Nation in 1976.

0.02% of Salem State students, 0.001 % of Salem State employees, 0.33% of Salem residents, and 0.2% of Massachusetts residents identify as Native American in demographic reporting. Note that because few Indigenous tribes in Massachusetts are federally recognized, it is especially complicated to gather accurate demographic information.

The City of Salem acknowledges the Massachusett Tribe who continue to honor and hold the land of Salem into the present. Additionally, the Public Art Commission developed installations such as the Naumkeag Portrait and expansion of Camp Naumkeag to commemorate and celebrate the Indigenous Peoples of Naumkeag. The City of Salem also recently developed a Race Equity Task Force in 2020 to identify a more equitable approach to City services, education, health, and public safety. Read the City of Salem’s Land Acknowledgment and more information.

The City of Salem holds a deed to its land. The Massachusett Tribe do not claim that they hold any legal right to the land or that they are owed any legal reparations. At the same time, we must recognize and contend with the coercive conditions in which the deed was transferred as well as the institutional structures and processes that denied the Massachusett equal rights on that land once it became public. Read more on land deeds in and around Salem, including a link to the deep for Salem.

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