land acknowledgement slide


  • Co-written by faculty members who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and by the CFI leadership Team.
  • A healing response to racism and the wounds of the past will require honesty, empathy, and action. This statement starts with honesty.
  • The CFI is open to ongoing dialogue and further education. If you have any questions or feedback about this land acknowledgement statement, in particular, or the process of giving a land acknowledgement statement, in general, please contact cfi@jmu.edu.
  • Disclaimer: This is not an official statement from James Madison University.
Nuances of Crafting, Editing, Revising

The Center for Faculty Innovation aims to be transparent in this process. The linked document below archives the wordsmithing, nuances, and the context of specific word choices made by the writing team.

CFI's Indigenous Land and Enslaved People Acknowledgement footnoted document 

How to use this Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgement
  • Why read the statement? Please read the Honor Native Land Guide. In the guide, step #3 (page 8 of the guide) is important for understanding the “why” of a land acknowledgement.
  • How to pronounce Indigenous names: Please practice pronunciations of the Indigenous language groups before reading at a program and/or event: (Siouan--Soo-en,  Algonquian--Al-gon-kwee-an, and Haudenosaunee--Ho-DEE-no-Sho-nee).
  • When introducing the Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgement, consider using the following:
    "As we begin, let’s pause for a moment to contemplate an Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgement, a statement co-written by the CFI Leadership Team and several Black, Indigenous, and faculty members of Color. A healing response to racism and the wounds of the past will require honesty, empathy, and action. This statement starts with honesty."
  • The Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgement:
    "We invite you to recognize the written histories of the Shenandoah Valley, the city of Harrisonburg, and our university’s namesake, James Madison, as fractured.
    Let us acknowledge then that we are currently on the land of the Indigenous Siouan, Algonquian, and Haudenosaunee communities who lived here for many generations and who continue to be systematically erased by policies and practices that remove their histories from this place.
    Let us honor the enslaved people who built the wealth and foundation of James Madison.
    Let us recognize the histories of Virginia and the United States as complicit with the racism of white supremacy.
    We recognize that these difficult histories persist in present-day racial realities and privileges at this university. We commit to dismantling racism in spaces of our work. We invite you to work beside us to create change."
  • After the acknowledgement is read, pause for a few moments to let the words sink in.
  • Consider using the following post-script:
    "The Center for Faculty Innovation is open to ongoing dialogue and further education. If you have any questions or feedback about this land acknowledgement statement, in particular, or the process of giving a land acknowledgement statement, in general, please contact cfi@jmu.edu."
The Process: Living History

The intent of co-creating an Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgement was to understand the past of the place where James Madison University resides, to generate dialogue about the people who lived and still live here, and to catalyze action to dismantle structural inequities. This statement, a first step of honesty on a longer road of advocating for institutional and structural change, has catalyzed conversations  about place, race, and change among members of the CFI’s full time staff and faculty associates from various departments across campus. Additionally, several individuals from across campus have reached out to inquire about using the Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgement in their work and for their events. There is full recognition that a statement alone will not lead to action. Ongoing inquiry continues, focused on the question, “What substantive actions should come from the statement?” What follows is a brief timeline of events that conveys a living, evolving history of the creation of the statement: 

  • In the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020, CFI Leadership Team members (Ed Brantmeier, Cara Meixner, Emily Gravett, Andreas Broscheid, and Tiffany Runion) fielded inquiries from faculty members about the use of Indigenous Land Acknowledgements at JMU. A few faculty noted that Indigenous Land Acknowledgements were being used at national conferences across the country, and had been for quite some time.
  • In the spring of 2020, the CFI held a staff colloquium on Indigenous Land Acknowledgements. Carole Nash, a JMU professor who has been directly involved in cultural resource management of the Shenandoah Valley for thirty years and, more broadly, with initiatives with Indigenous people of Virginia for decades, was invited to provide a presentation on the archeological history of Shenandoah Valley, entitled: Native American Communities of the Shenandoah Valley: Constructing a Complex History. 
  • At this CFI meeting and in its aftermath, participants discussed the need to be more inclusive and to create/use an Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgement, honoring the enslaved peoples who built the wealth and foundation of James Madison’s estate.
  • In the spring of 2020, the CFI held another internal meeting with people who attended the first colloquium.This meeting focused on drafts of an Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgement. Afterwards, an open period for comments, edits and revision took place. 
  • In the summer of 2020, Ed Brantmeier of the CFI sought guidance on the document from fourteen faculty members at JMU who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). These partners provided comments, edits, and revisions that enhanced the document. Again, there was an open period of several weeks for comments, edits, and revision. Significant feedback was offered and integrated to create the statement in its current form. 
  • In summer of 2020, after receiving and integrating the above-mentioned feedback from partners, the CFI Leadership Team decided on a plan to use the statement at signature CFI events (such as May Symposium, January Institute, Faculty Welcome, and Scholarship Residencies). Concern was raised that the use of the Indigenous Land and Enslaved People Acknowledgment might become merely performative rather than substantive if used at every event or program. From this recognition, the CFI Leadership Team agreed to use it with intentional alignment with area programs and goals throughout the academic year. Additionally, the team discussed including it on the CFI website, printed materials, or handouts at future face-to-face programs, on screens as people walk into in-person events, and as part of online programs. 
  • In the fall of 2020, the CFI began to use the Indigenous Land and Enslaved Peoples Acknowledgement and received a variety of feedback about the statement itself,  the use of the statement, and requests if others on campus could use the statement for their events. This feedback is ongoing. We welcome more. 
  • In the fall of 2020, the following was added to the oral script document that "the Center for Faculty Innovation is open to ongoing dialogue and further education. If you have any questions or feedback about this land acknowledgement statement, in particular, or the process of giving a land acknowledgement statement, in general, please contact cfi@jmu.edu."
Alternative Perspectives

Of course, views on land acknowledgement statements and their use are not homogenous. Below are some important perspectives for you to consider as you further educate yourself and decide how to move beyond performative allyship or lip-service toward meaningful action in various communities.

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