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 adult life in Boston, Massachusetts, an Algonquian name meaning ‘At the foothills of the Great Hills’, referring to the Blue Hills where my husband and I frequently unwind by hiking. I grew up in Williamstown, Massachusetts on a hill above the Hemlock Brook which meets the Hoosic River Valley and forms part of the great Hudson River basin. These places that I love and call home are the traditional homes of the Massachusett Indians and Scaticook Indians, respectively.

I acknowledge that my family’s prosperity and sense of identity has been deeply tied to our not associating the Scaticook Indians with ownership of the land that was stolen from them by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In a treasured history book written by one of our childhood neighbors[1], the Scaticook are referred to as ‘savages’ who retreated into roles as spies, scouts and guides of the French as their traditional hunting and trading routes were claimed by British soldiers and settled by the soldiers’ families. 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) and the Wampanoag 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 not primarily dedicated to the people whose lands I inhabit today. It is dedicated to people I have travelled far away to meet and understand. Nevertheless, as I have come to know indigenous people in rural communities of the high Andes, I have come closer and closer to a deeply provocative understanding of how European settler colonialism – a part of my own background and ancestry – has played and 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 involved with the Plymouth 400 commemoration and the 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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