This page was updated Nov. 2023
A land acknowledgment is a statement that recognizes and respects the traditional owners of the land on which an event or gathering is taking place. It is a way of showing gratitude to the Indigenous peoples who have been stewards of the land for centuries. Land acknowledgments can be spoken, written, or performed in a variety of ways. They can be simple or elaborate, but they all share the same goal of honoring the Indigenous peoples of the land.
Starting in 2020 in Wellesley, several organizations in town began incorporating land acknowledgements into their public ceremonies. World of Wellesley led the way, opening its yearly MLK Day breakfast with a land acknowledgment in 2020. MassBay Community College has been the first to dedicate a plaque with its acknowledgement written out for all to see.
Land acknowledgments are becoming increasingly common at events and gatherings in Wellesley and across the country. They are a simple but powerful way to show respect for Indigenous peoples and their cultures.
MassBay Community College land acknowledgement
MassBay Community College in September 2022 unveiled a permanent land acknowledgement plaque in a ceremony attended by chiefs of three native tribes. MassBay is believed to be the first community college in Massachusetts to make this public acknowledgement with a permanent marker and a ceremony of reconciliation and healing. During the ceremony the college announced an Indigenous People Scholarship had been formed for current and future MassBay students.
Wellesley College land acknowledgement
Wellesley College’s land acknowledgment was approved by the Wellesley College Board of Trustees in October 2021. The acknowledgement is most often offered up at the beginning of events such as graduation or at the start of programs.
The land acknowledgment states:
“We acknowledge that Wellesley College is built on ancestral and traditional land of the Massachusett people. We also recognize that the United States’ removal, termination, and assimilation policies and practices resulted in the forced settlement of Indigenous lands and the attempted erasure of Indigenous cultures and languages. We further acknowledge the oppression, injustices, and discrimination that Indigenous people have endured and that there is much work to be done on the important journey to reconciliation. We commit to strengthen our understanding of the history and contemporary lives of Indigenous peoples and to steward this land.”
“We further recognize the many Indigenous people living here today—including the Massachusett, Wampanoag, and Nipmuc nations—who have rich ancestral histories in Wellesley and its surrounding communities. Today, their descendants remind us that they are still here, where they maintain a vital and visible presence. We honor and respect the enduring relationship between these peoples and this land, as well as the strength of Indigenous culture and knowledge, the continued existence of tribal sovereignty, and the principle of tribal self-determination.”
Wellesley Select Board—no land acknowledgement as of fall 2023
The Wellesley Select Board so far has not approved verbiage for a land acknowledgement, but the governing body may be moving in that direction. In October 2020, the Board voted 4-1 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Here’s how they got there:
Town Meeting in 2020 voted in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day to replace Columbus Day, after a citizen petition advocating for Indigenous Peoples Day was withdrawn from Town Meeting the previous year. That 2020 vote led to the non-binding referendum vote by the public in March (49% of voters said “yes, “43% said “no,” and 8% left ballots blank). Ultimately, the Select Board voted in favor of IDP Day.
Roughly a month after the public gave they thumbs up in that non-binding referendum to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, the Wellesley Select Board declared by a 4-1 vote that the second Monday in October would honor Indigenous Peoples in town.
Wellesley Village Church land acknowledgement as part of a service
On Nov. 19, 2023, Welleley Village Church pastoral staff for the first time during Sunday services delivered a land acknowledgement reading, “As we begin this time of joy and thanksgiving, we acknowledge that this service is being held by a community that gathers on the stolen traditional lands of the Massachusett and Pawtucket people. We pay respect to those Indigenous Peoples who lost their lives in the colonization of this land, and recognize that these Indigenous tribes are still today facing violations of sovereignty, territory, and water. Our congregation’s values of seeking love, justice, and making God’s love real in this blessed and broken world call us to examine our relationship to the land and how that relationship is intertwined with our relationships with our neighbors past and present. We recognize this is just a first step in moving toward right relationship with Native peoples and healing of the Earth.”
World of Wellesley land acknowledgement
World of Wellesley is an organization in town that is dedicated to making Wellesley an inclusive community for all. Since at least 2020 the non-profit group has opened its events with a moment to remember indigenous peoples.
The land acknowledgement wording on WOW’s website states, “We as people who reside, work, and engage in Wellesley acknowledge this town is located on the traditional territory of the Massachusett and Nipmuc Tribes.”
UU Wellesley Hills land acknowledgement
UU Wellesley Hills, a spiritual congregation in Wellesley Hills, words its acknowledgement as follows:
“The members of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills acknowledge that the land on which our buildings are located was inhabited and stewarded for thousands of years by Indigenous peoples, including members of the Massachusett People. We also acknowledge the forced removal and genocide of the Indigenous inhabitants by our forebears, and the ongoing erasure of their experience and culture. In line with our Unitarian Universalist principles, we affirm the dignity and worth of Indigenous peoples – past, present, and future. We will honor their heritage by educating ourselves about their history and contributions. As we strive to promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, we will listen to, learn from, and lift up Indigenous voices. We will demonstrate our shared respect for the interdependent web of all existence through conservation of our Mother Earth. We commit to moving beyond acknowledgment to action in order to promote greater understanding of Indigenous peoples’ concerns and rights.”