The Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) recognizes the practice of land acknowledgments as sacred and an imperative aspect of reconciling with historical injustice. The following information is designed to support GSD community members who wish to adopt the practice of Land Acknowledgements in a respectful and appropriate manner.

Land Acknowledgement Resource Guide

What is a Land Acknowledgement?

A Land Acknowledgment is a formal statement, typically performed at the start of an event, that recognizes Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of the land and the enduring relationship between Indigenous peoples and their traditional homelands. It is a spoken embodied action toward greater public learning of Indigenous sovereignty and cultural rights.

In practice, a Land Acknowledgment is a verbal statement usually given at the beginning of a meeting or event. The practice may be integrated into everyday proceedings and/or into written form (i.e., plaque, syllabus, opening slide).

Why introduce the practice of a Land Acknowledgment?

  • To counter the “doctrine of discovery” — it is important to understand the historical context that has brought us to reside on the land, and to frame ourselves within that history.
  • To emphasize that colonialism is a current and ongoing process, and we need to be aware of our present participation.
  • To begin repairing relationships with Native communities and support larger truth-telling and reconciliation efforts.

Creating a Land Acknowledgement

In the United States, there are currently 574 federally recognized tribal nations, each with its own history and protocols for acknowledgment. While there is no one correct way to acknowledge, below are some best practices to consider:

  • Learn who are the traditional stewards of the land you are on, the history of the land, and any related treaties.
  • Self-reflect on why you are doing this and what you hope the audience impact will be.
  • Create language in a collaborative process through relationship-building with local Indigenous communities.

The following is an example of an acknowledgment statement from Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP):

“Harvard University is located on the traditional and ancestral land of the Massachusett, the original inhabitants of what is now known as Boston and Cambridge. We pay respect to the people of the Massachusett Tribe, past and present, and honor the land itself which remains sacred to the Massachusett People.”

Acknowledgment is only the first step; it is not a stand in for relationship-building and action. Consider: What actions will you take to support Indigenous communities? How do you plan to elevate Indigenous voices, stories, and perspectives in your community?

Want to learn more?
  • Read about Harvard’s history regarding the education of Native American students.
  • Learn more about Land Acknowledgments from a design frame with the Harvard Indigenous Design Collective (HIDC): “Acknowledging Land with Dr. Meranda Roberts.”
  • If you aren’t sure which community or communities to acknowledge, is an excellent place to start.
  • Be action-oriented in your Land Acknowledgement, learn how to be an Indigenous ally.

The Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP) was consulted in the creation of this resource guide.

“A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgment.” Native Governance Center, 22 Oct. 2019,

Guide to Indigenous Land and Territorial Acknowledgements for Cultural Institutions – Cultural Institutions Guide to Land Acknowledgements.

“#HonorNativeLand.” U.S. Department of Arts and Culture,

“KNOW the LAND.” Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group,

Muñoz, Susana. Moving beyond Land Acknowledgements – Student Affairs NOW. acknowledgements2/.