Land acknowledgment

Although a website appears to be landless, the people who make it are not. I acknowledge that I have lived most of my life in Massachusetts, an Algonquian name meaning ‘At the foot of the Great Hills’. The Massachusetts, Scaticook and Mohican Indians have endured violence and disrespect continuously since the arrival of my European ancestors to this place.

I acknowledge that our collective sense of identity has been forged partially through erasure from memory of theft by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A history book about my hometown [1] begins by mocking the Scaticook Indians, who are referred to as ‘savages’. These same ‘savages’ however, entered a protest in court in 1750 over the theft of their land. Some of them ended up further north, others in Connecticut, where even a decade ago they continued to press for federal recognition as a people. Here in Boston, some of the original Massachusetts inhabitants continue to live in Ponkapoag (today named Canton); the Wampanoag and Mohican people continue to wage valiant attempts to reclaim their language and history, and to educate those of us who occupy their traditional homeland.

This webpage Yachay Simi is dedicated to people whose lands and lives faced similar disruption in the Andes. As I have come to know them through the work reported here, I have come closer to a provocative understanding of how European settler colonialism – a part of my own background and ancestry – continues to play a devastating role in the endangerment of native languages, lifeways and relationships with the land.

A writer who has influenced and encouraged me recently is Robin Wall Kimmerer, who with an incredibly light-hearted and deft touch, draws us into a life of rethinking science and rediscovering/recovering her ancestors’ language and wisdom in her book Braiding Sweetgrass. After reading the book I was privileged to see her speak (virtually) at the outstanding conference Here It Began sponsored by Massachusetts native people and Bridgewater State University.

[1] Williamstown Historical Commission, ed. Brooks, Robert R.R. Williamstown, the first two hundred years, 1753-1953 and Twenty Years Later, 1953-1973, second edition. Williamstown, MA, McClelland Press, 1974.

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