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Tubman's Land Acknowledgement Statement and Background

Dakota Makoce na Mni Okiciyaka
Dakota Land and Water Acknowledgment Statement of Tubman


As the beginning of Tubman’s commitment to confront the legacy of dispossession and settler colonialism in Minnesota, we acknowledge that the magnificent land and vibrant waterways upon which our organization operates remains the cultural, spiritual, and indigenous homeland of the Dakota Oyate (Dakota Nation). From this sacred ground, the Bdewakantunwan (Village of the Sacred Lake), Sisitunwan (Village of Fish Scales), Wahpekute (Village of Shooting Leaves), and Wahpetunwan (Village of the Leaves) bands of the Dakota Oyate originated and flourished.

We recognize that the Dakota Oyate warmly acknowledge, since time immemorial, the immeasurable expanse of the circular world as Unci Maka or Grandmother Earth. In cold or warmth, night or day, this terrestrial grandmother remains a steadfast, generous, and compassionate matriarch. She is the female role model to all life. Her unwavering guidance is adored and obeyed unconditionally by her grandchildren: the two-legged, the four-legged, those that fly, those that crawl, those that swim, the rooted ones, and those that flow.

Under Unci Maka’s care, the Dakota People grew wise. They evolved reciprocal and respectful relationships with the vibrant life that embraced them. Their lives were inseparable from the unique powers and varying gifts inherent in all parts of her natural world. Their daily prayers ended – as they do today - with the beautiful declaration Mitakuye Oyasin, a reverent acknowledgement meaning All My Relatives. For millennia, the Dakota people have continued to express their own acknowledgement of their homeland of lakes and rivers with the endearing words Mnisota Mokoce, the Land of Misty Waters.

Tubman’s land and water acknowledgment statement calls attention to the Dakota people’s ongoing connection to this special place and the many Minnesota institutions today that continue to benefit from settler colonialism, which encouraged white newcomers to settle and colonize Dakota peoples’ territory and, thereby, dispossess them of their homeland. We also call attention to the importance of confronting Minnesota’s and the United States’ violent and genocidal history that forced the Dakota from their land through treaties and military campaigns, such as the 1863 Dakota Removal Act which coercively displaced the Dakota from Minnesota. Furthermore, we recognize the opportunity for our organization to meet with Dakota people and organizations to learn about their difficult history and to develop new relationships that reveal their cultural and spiritual strengths.


- Nancy Bordeaux,
Indigenous activist and consultant




Tubman Land Statement Background and Action Steps


Why a Land Acknowledgment?

Tubman acknowledges that our sites are located on ancestral and contemporary lands of Indigenous people. Acknowledgment is a necessary step in honoring Native communities and working toward decolonization. In Indigenous cultures there is a strong tie between the land and people - healing the land is healing the people. Acknowledging the space we occupy is important to our vision of building anti-racist work culture. Statewide federally recognized tribes in Minnesota include the seven Anishinaabe communities of Grand Portage, Bois Forte, Red Lake, White Earth, Leech Lake, Fond du Lac and Mille Lacs and four Dakota communities which include the Shakopee Mdewakanton, Prairie Island, Lower Sioux and Upper Sioux. Through the coordinated genocide of Native peoples and the imperialistic desire to sort and categorize people, it is likely that there are tribal peoples and names that have not survived the passage of time. Tubman acknowledges those tribes which are federally unrecognized or unnamed.


The process:

Tubman understands that words are not enough, sustainable action must be taken. Tubman is and has actively established a work community and reached out to all in our organization who wish to participate in this work. The Tubman community has met with local tribal elders, including Nancy Bordeaux (introduced to us by Suzanne Koepplinger of Catalyst), who have provided advice and action items for further projects as well as helped write a land acknowledgement; provided healing conversations; and dedicated substantial time to discussing a meaningful path forward.

As we learned from a tribal elder, it is important to recognize the parallels between the treatment of the land and Indigenous people. Indigenous women have a spiritual connection to the land and are an important part of conversations around healing and land acknowledgment. A 2020 report from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force found that while Indigenous people comprised 1% of the state’s population, Indigenous women made up 9% of all murdered women. 34% of Indigenous women experience a sexual assault in their lifetime and nearly double that experience some kind of violent assault, according to the National Congress of American Indians. As Tubman works to support those who experience trauma and violence, we feel our mission lends itself to honoring and respecting Indigenous communities and those who are important to them.

As an organization, Tubman has long recognized that our work to end violence must also include a focus on equity, intersectionality, and ending the systemic racism that harms and devalues Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). This work also requires that we look internally at Tubman as a nonprofit organization and employer. We commit to being a place that is equitable and welcoming for all by uprooting the white supremacy inherent in many traditional workplace policies and the white saviorism that is prevalent in the nonprofit sector in which we operate. To that end, we have developed a Racial Equity Plan to publicly commit to how we will strive towards an anti-racist culture.


Moving forward:

Tubman is committed to ongoing efforts to recognize, support, and advocate for Indigenous people and nations. To do this, we have outlined several ways we plan to take ongoing action. Tubman will:

  • Verbally acknowledge the land we occupy during meetings and events.
  • Use our various platforms to amplify Indigenous issues and movements for change.
  • Create new and strengthen existing relationships with Native focused organizations.
  • Commission an Indigenous artist to create an art piece to display and highlight our Land Acknowledgment Statement at Tubman buildings.
  • Explore ways to best care for and honor the land we occupy.

Tubman encourages all to learn more about Indigenous history and organizations in Minnesota and beyond:

  • The Ojibwe People's Dictionary, a searchable, talking Ojibwe-English dictionary that features the voices of Ojibwe speakers
  • American Indian Family Center, a community gathering space for the American Indian community in St. Paul and the East Metro, providing families with programs and services enriched by traditional values and culture  
  • The Minneapolis American Indian Center provides educational and social services to more than 10,000 members annually and works to preserve and support American Indian cultural traditions through art, youth and intergenerational programs  
  • Migizi, a Minneapolis nonprofit that provides a strong circle of support that nurtures the educational, social, economic and cultural development of American Indian youth  
  • Honor the Earth, a nonprofit that creates awareness and support for Native environmental issues and to develop needed financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities
  • Native Governance Center, a Native-led nonprofit dedicated to assisting Native nations in strengthening their governance systems and capacity to exercise sovereignty   
  • U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, a federal department whose mission is to enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes and Alaska Natives
  • U.S.-American Indian treaties in Minnesota

Tubman is committed to ongoing learning on how to best acknowledge the land we are on and support our Indigenous community. This is a living document that will be updated continually.