Acknowledging Indigenous Custodians
We acknowledge the Monacan People as the Indigenous custodians of the land in and around Charlottesville. Kluge-Ruhe practices two forms of recognition:
- Acknowledgement of Indigenous 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 Indigenous Custodians of the Land and Welcome to Country are practices that promote awareness of, and respect for, Indigenous people and their cultures, ending the history of silence and exclusion that has resulted in Indigenous disadvantage today.
Can other individuals and institutions recognize Indigenous custodians?
We encourage all institutions in Virginia and the United States to integrate the practice of acknowledging the Indigenous custodians of their region into their public programs.
What is an “Acknowledgement of Indigenous Custodians of the Land”?
An Acknowledgement of Indigenous Custodians of the Land is when a speaker respectfully recognizes the original Indigenous people 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 Indigenous 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 custodians of the land we are on today, the Monacan people.”
“We acknowledge the custodians of the land we are on today, the Monacan Nation, and pay our respect to their elders past, present and emerging.”
What is a “Welcome to Country”?
A Welcome to Country is typically performed by an Indigenous member of the tribe or group who are custodians of the land where an event is taking place. In the case of the University of Virginia, this would be a member of the Monacan Nation. They may deliver a short speech in English or the Indigenous language, acknowledging the audience and “welcoming” them to their land. A more elaborate version of a Welcome to Country may include the exchange of gifts or a ceremony. When a member of the Monacan Nation performs a Welcome to Country, they should be compensated for their time.
To avoid overburdening their staff with this responsibility, the Monacan Cultural Foundation partnered with Kluge-Ruhe and Virginia Humanities to produce a video that UVA departments and other local non-profits and businesses can use to acknowledge the Monacan Nation and raise awareness. Below is the 90 second Welcome to Monacan Country video. If you are interested in screening this video in your organization, please apply here. Be sure to apply at least ten days in advance.
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 Indigenous Custodians of the Land and Welcome to Country please contact the Monacan Nation at firstname.lastname@example.org or email us at email@example.com or 434-243-8500.
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 Indigenous 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.
This site is dedicated to the memory of Karenne Wood, PhD (1960-2019), Monacan Tribal Member and long-time director of Virginia Indian Programs at Virginia Humanities.