Iowa Land Acknowledgement Statement

I’ve written a lot about the workshops and presentations that Quaker Paula Palmer led us through when she was in the Midwest recently. In the following excerpt of her letter to faith communities, she describes some reasons why this became a ministry for her, supported by Boulder Friends Meeting. I believe it was essential that Native American educators were involved in developing these workshops and the resource kit.

Dear Friends in Faith Communities,

A call to faith communities has been issued by two very different organizations: the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the World Council of Churches. Indigenous and religious leaders are urging all people Of faith to take a deep look at the Doctrine of Discovery, the 15th century papal edict that authorized European Christian nations to “invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all.. .pagans and other enemies of Christ.. .to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery …and.. .to take away all their possessions and property” (Pope Nicholas V)

Why do we need to dredge up the Doctrine of Discovery now, more than 500 years later? Because over the centuries, the Doctrine has been embedded in a world view of European superiority and domination and in the legal codes of the lands the Europeans colonized. It continues to be cited by courts in our country and others as justification for denying Indigenous Peoples their rights. The notion of European superiority and domination has been perpetuated by our schools and other institutions. The consequences can be seen in the disproportionate poverty and ill health of Native American people today. How much has it influenced our own thoughts and actions?

With the guidance and encouragement of Native American educators, we developed a 2-hour participatory workshop and a Resource Kit, and we presented these to the Boulder Friends meeting. Our meeting was led to approve a minute repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and endorsing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our minute now stands with similar statements that have been issued by various church bodies in Canada and the U.S.

The following comes from the resource kit which provides a great deal of excellent information related to how we move “toward right relationships with Native people”. The resource kit is available here:

In his lectures and his new book, In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Pawnee attorney, Walter Echo-Hawk, draws on many wisdom traditions to offer these five steps toward healing when wrongdoing has occurred and people have been injured by it:

1.  Recognize that harm has been done:  acknowledge that injury or harm has taken place

2.  A real apology is sincerely made and forgiveness requested: the person or institution that harmed another apologizes in a sincere and appropriate way, admits the specific harmful actions they have committed, and asks for forgiveness

3.  Accepting the apology and forgiving the wrongdoer:  the harmed person or community accepts the apology and forgives

4.  Acts of atonement; the process of making things right:  the parties agree on voluntary acts of atonement by the wrongdoer that will wipe the slate clean

5.  Healing and reconciliation:  the atonement acts are carried out in a process that fosters justice and compassion and genuine friendship

Walter Echo-Hawk says completing these steps may take years, decades, or centuries. The important thing is to start with the first step: acknowledge the harm, and commit to working through the next steps toward healing.  It is important to take as much time as necessary, involving all the stakeholders, achieving Unity, in order to complete each step. In chapter 10 of his book, Echo-Hawk describes these steps in detail, and explains how the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples opens a path toward national healing.

Recently I’ve had some very good discussions with Quakers about the Iowa Acknowledgement Statement below. This statement was written to begin to address the first step above. Land Acknowledgment Statements will be different for different locations. Several people were involved in writing the statement for Iowa, which was approved by the Meskwaki Nation.

These discussion were very helpful, since they showed me some concerns people might have about the statement. I imagine others may have similar concerns, so I am glad to have the opportunity to address those concerns as I am sharing this Iowa land acknowledgement statement.

To summarize the discussion we had, it seems that this statement gave an idealized picture of Native Americans. That wasn’t the intention, but it is very helpful to hear how people see things differently than intended.

I tried to explain that I didn’t think the statement was meant to portray an idealized or blameless view of Native Americans. Rather that indigenous people occupied the land called the United States prior to the white settlers arriving. And in the end, pretty much were left with only small areas identified as reservations. There are exceptions, including the Meskwaki Nation mentioned in the statement below.

At the root of this is a fundamental difference. Native people don’t have the concept of land as property, as belonging to a land owner. Rather they have a spiritual connection to Mother Earth, that the land is sacred and not something that can be claimed as property by anyone. I believe that myself.

In a slightly different manner, our immigration policies can be viewed in much the same way on a larger scale. Do we have the right to deny anyone who wants to cross our border? Besides indigenous people, we are all immigrants. How can we say we had the right to enter the land called the United States, but today, others who want to do the same cannot? Those policies say we “own” this country and can thus decide who can enter, and who cannot.


We begin by acknowledging that the Land between Two Rivers, where we sit and stand today, has been the traditional homeland for many independent nations. These include the Ioway and the Otoe, who were here since before recorded time. The Omaha and the Ponca were here, moving to new lands before white settlers arrived. The Pawnee used this land for hunting grounds. The Sioux, Sauk and Meskwaki were here long before European settlers came. Members of many different Indigenous nations have lived on these plains. Let us remember that we occupy their homeland and that this land was taken by force. Today, only the Meskwaki Nation, the Red Earth People, maintain their sovereignty on their land in the state of Iowa. They persevered and refused to be dispossessed of their home. Place names all over our state recognize famous Meskwaki chiefs of the 1800s like Poweshiek, Wapello, Appanoose, and Taiomah or Tama. We honor the Meskwaki Nation for their courage, and for maintaining their language, culture and spirituality. May our time together bring respectful new openings for right relationship to grow.

This entry was posted in #NDAPL, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s