Land Acknowledgement

It's All About Relationships

I live on land that is home to the Kalapuya, (also spelled Calapooia, Kalapooya and Calapuya). It’s important to acknowledge this because increasing awareness of the history and the ongoing colonization of the people and the land is fundamental to making change. Elsewhere on this website I talk about ways the culture at large needs to be reckoned with in order to fundamentally heal. Reckoning with how indigenous people have been torn from their culture and lands needs to be acknowledged is necessary if healing for the harm done to all people can continue. I say it this way because as long as this goes unacknowledged, it cannot be healed; this impacts all of us. It impacts the earth, and it impedes us from seeing our shared humanity. For tens of thousands of years, people lived in the area I now call home in harmony with the land. I feel certain that things were not always peaceful, I also feel certain that the people knew there was no “away” as they discarded things they no longer used. When European settlers came to the area, the peoples’ way of life was ripped from them, and families were torn apart as children were sent to “boarding schools” that functioned more like concentration camps. Children were forced to wear military like uniforms, cut their hair and were forbidden to speak their native language. One such “school” was in Forest Grove (about 25 miles east of Portland). I repeat, these harms must be acknowledged and reckoned with in order for healing to take place.

I live part time in an intentional community up against the wetlands near Fern Ridge. In the spring, the purple and white Camas grows profusely and I know people of this land relied on camas as one of their food sources. I know that a camas oven used by folks not-so-long-ago exists near the edge of the wetlands. A good friend of mine once asked a Kalpuya woman how to honor the camas and she said that her people had a week-long ceremony to honor the camas; she suggested my friend find her own ways to come into relationship with this perennial food source. I often think of how life must have been when the geese flew overhead so thickly they blocked the sun, turning the day into night.

But a land acknowledgement is not complete if only history is shared. The Kalapuya people are still here. The Chifin Native Youth Center supports families and children, teaching heritage and supporting families’ real needs. You can learn more about that program here:

There are people making great effort to preserve native languages. There are people working to bring the Kalpuya language back to life. You can find more about that and support that work by exploring this link: Additionally, Lane Community College (in Eugene, Oregon), offers 2 years of curriculum in Chinuk Wawa, a lingua franca that was used in the Pacific Northwest as a trade language. Much of the language comes from the Chinook peoples, and also has some French and English words. It has described as part of a multicultural heritage shared by the modern inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest:

I have deeply appreciated the work of Lyla June as I sink into the spirit of Land Acknowledgment: I have made a commitment to place: I have decided I will never move from this area so I can deepen my relationship to the humans, plants, animal people. Inspired by Lyla June, I added a prayer to my contemplative practice modified from a wonderful talk that Lyla June gave that you can find here: Lyla comes on in this clip at 5:40 if you want to skip the introduction.

How can you bring the spirit of Land Acknowledgment into your own life? Who were the people that lived on the land that you now occupy? What can you learn about the history, and contemporary concerns of the people who held the physical and spiritual wellbeing of the land in high regard? How can you settle into your sense of place where you live? There are steps we can take to move us in a healing direction, and I hope this has helped you find some of your next steps.