Middlebury President Laurie Patton sent the following message to the campus community on January 28, 2021.
Dear Middlebury Community,
I am writing with the important news that Middlebury College has instituted an official land acknowledgment that will be included in all ceremonial and College-organized events. This is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of the land we occupy and the enduring relationship between Indigenous peoples and their traditional territories. It is important for our community to understand the long-standing history that has brought us to reside on the land, and to seek to understand our place within that history. The land acknowledgment is thus an expression of gratitude and an important step on the path to truth and reconciliation with the original inhabitants of North America.
As you may recall, we began offering an acknowledgment—that the Western Abenaki are the traditional stewards of these Vermont lands—during Baccalaureate and Commencement in May 2019. Following this first statement, we established a steering committee, chaired by Professor Guntram Herb and Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life Mark Orten, that worked with local Abenaki leaders to develop appropriate and respectful wording for the acknowledgment and to outline initiatives that will give material expression to the sentiments conveyed in this protocol.
Land Acknowledgment Statement
To be offered aloud as the first order of business at ceremonial and other designated Middlebury College events:
We pause to acknowledge that Middlebury College sits on land which has served as a site of meeting and exchange among Indigenous peoples since time immemorial. The Western Abenaki are the traditional caretakers of these Vermont lands and waters, which they call Ndakinna, or homeland. We remember their connection to this region and the hardships they continue to endure. Let us take a moment of silence to pay respect to the Abenaki Elders and to the Indigenous inhabitants of Turtle Island past and present. We give thanks for the opportunity to share in the bounty of this place and to protect it. We are all one in the sacred web of life that connects people, animals, plants, air, water, and earth.
Initiatives to Continue Our Efforts
While the land acknowledgment is an essential starting point, there is much work ahead as we come to terms with the legacies and trauma of Indigenous dispossession. We have begun this work with a pilot in teaching the language of the Western Abenaki as part of the regular program of the summer language schools. Also toward this end, the College is pursuing several other initiatives to create deeper engagement with the original Indigenous inhabitants. Among these initiatives are the following:
Ceremonial and other use of College lands by local Indigenous peoples
Cultivating, honoring, and teaching about traditional Abenaki food, medicine, and seed crops at the Knoll, the College’s teaching garden
A Clifford Symposium on indigeneity
Supporting a greater presence of Indigenous students, staff, and faculty
Creating new Indigenous-focused courses or course elements
This is work that we all can do. We invite every member of this community to consider ways that we may enhance our commitment to this ongoing acknowledgment. To learn more about the statement, its intended use, and other related work, please visit our official land acknowledgment webpage.
I want to thank the steering committee for their important work on this initiative, which is of great significance to many of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and to the greater community.