Acknowledging Indigenous Owners

Karenne Wood (Monacan) performs a Welcome to Country in regalia at Kluge-Ruhe's "Night at the Museum" event.

We acknowledge the Monacan People as the traditional custodians of the land in and around Charlottesville. Kluge-Ruhe practices two forms of recognition:

  • Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians of the Land
  • Welcome to Country

Why acknowledge local Indigenous people?

Our acknowledgment of the Monacan nation reflects our commitment to a culture of inclusion and respect that begins with those who were here first, and whose continued presence is important to our future.

Recognition is important, regardless of whether Indigenous people have legal ownership of the land on which an event is taking place. This is because the relationship of Indigenous people to their traditional country incorporates more than just ownership or occupation of land.

The United States’ complex history of colonization had devastating effects on Indigenous people. Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians of the Land and Welcome to Country are practices that promote awareness of, and respect for, Indigenous culture, ending the history of silence and exclusion that has resulted in Indigenous disadvantage today.

Can other individuals and institutions recognize Indigenous owners?

We encourage all institutions in Virginia and the United States to integrate the practice of acknowledging their region’s traditional custodians into their public programs.

What is an “Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians of the Land”?

An Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians of the Land is when a speaker recognizes the original Indigenous custodians of the land on which an event is being held. It may be delivered by a non-Indigenous person. This acknowledgment can be a part of any occasion or program. It is usually made at the beginning of the program by the host or announcer, although each subsequent speaker may wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land as well.  Kluge-Ruhe docents and staff begin every program and tour with an acknowledgment of the Monacan Nation.

Do you have samples of what language to use for an Acknowledgement?

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection typically uses a statement such as this:

“Please join me in acknowledging and paying respect to the traditional custodians of the land we are on today, the Monacan people.”

OR

“We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we are on today, the Monacan Nation, and pay our respect to their elders past and present.”

What is a “Welcome to Country”?

A Welcome to Country is performed by a traditional custodian of the land (an Indigenous person). In the case of the University of Virginia, this is a member of the Monacan Nation. It is usually a short speech in English or the Indigenous language, acknowledging the audience and “welcoming” them to traditional land. A more elaborate version of a Welcome to Country may include the exchange of gifts or a ceremony. At major Kluge-Ruhe public events, the museum has hired Karenne Wood to perform a Welcome to Country.

When a member of the Monacan Nation performs a Welcome to Country, they should be compensated for their time.

I live in the Charlottesville area, how do I get more information?

If you are a Charlottesville area resident and you would like more information about the Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians of the Land and Welcome to Country please contact:

Karenne Wood
Director, Virginia Indian Heritage Program
kgw5h@virginia.edu
434 296-4714

I don’t live near Charlottesville, how do I get more information?

If you are not local to Charlottesville or Virginia, we encourage you to contact your local tribal representative(s) to build a relationship, consult about language for the Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians of the Land and inquire about the possibility and appropriate contact for a Welcome to Country.

You can also consult the U.S. Department of Art and Culture’s Guide and Call to Acknowledgement.

If you aren’t sure whose land you are on, consult this helpful interactive map of Native Land.