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On March 8, the District 65 School Board discussed a proposed “Resolution on Native Lands and the Contributions of Enslaved Peoples,” together with a draft land acknowledgment. At that same meeting, a six-member panel discussed the importance of a land acknowledgement and its purpose. An article is available here.
At the March 22 District 65 School Board meeting, Board President Anya Tanyavutti said she revised the land acknowledgment that the Board reviewed on March 8 to make it “more abbreviated.”
She added that she also had a conversation with Board member Rebeca Mendoza about the complexity of the language in the proposed draft and that she revised it to make it more accessible.
As revised, the “Land Acknowledgment and Acknowledgement of the Contributions of the Enslaved” provides:
“This is the land of the Council of Three Fires, the Potawatomi, Ojibwe and Odawa. This land also served as an important meeting place for Miami, Ho-Chunk, the Menominee, Inoka, Sac, Fox, Peoria, Arapaho and Cheyenne and other Tribal nations. We acknowledge Evanston, and its founder Johns Evans, are tied to the massacre of the Arapaho and Cheyenne for railroads and westward expansion upon which John Evan’s developed his wealth and founded Evanston. This land was violently taken under settler colonialism through genocidal actions and open warfare, and the great lakes region which has become Illinois and Chicagoland is still currently home to thousands of Native people who are actively struggling for sovereignty, self-determination and justice.
“The genocidal acts of settler colonialism extended to peoples of Africa and their enslaved descendants. Despite Illinois having developed as a state that prohibited slavery, slavery was an accepted practice before and after Illinois received statehood; the vestiges of slavery remain present throughout the United States and directly affect the descendants of enslaved peoples; the descendants of the enslaved help define the African diaspora; rich, and heterogeneous communities descended from African peoples. The pattern of violence against peoples of African descent in the United States shows that the pursuit to end State-sanctioned violence against Black people continues and causes struggle daily for liberation in resistance to continued social, political, and economic anti-Black racism and oppression.
“We honor those that came before us as leaders and stewards, who led with a mindset of collective care with the ecosystem writ large, for the past, present and generations ahead, by whom the land of now known as Illinois was cared for, lived with, and protected. We encourage everyone consuming this message to continue expanding their knowledge and reduce their harm through awareness of local mutual aid models for survival and engagement with some online and local resources such as the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative, and The Shorefront Legacy Center.
The proposed resolution adopting the land acknowledgment provides that the Board shall read the land acknowledgement at the beginning of each Board and Board Committee meeting.
Ms. Tanyavutti said that another amendment that Ms. Mendoza mentioned is an “acknowledgement of the intersecting oppressions that we have within our community and within our historical context, including mention and acknowledgement of intersecting oppressions.
“And Rebecca, you’re going to be working on some language for that? And that will be a part of the amended exhibit.”
Ms. Mendoza said, “Yeah, I am going to do my best.” She said, “I would really like to recognize other groups within our community that have been oppressed,” adding, “I could think of several things more immediate that have harmed this community, specifically incidents that have happened in the Fifth Ward, and just for lack of a better word, the destruction of the Black community, in that ward.
“And so one of the things that I would love for us in the proposed rewording is to simplify it, so that when it translates over into Spanish, people don’t feel intimidated reading it or have questions about the sentiment that we’re trying to acknowledge, and to really honor the land and the things that have happened on this land, and hopefully, that people will see themselves as part of this land and responsible for whatever continues to happen on this land of Evanston, and Skokie.”
Ms. Mendoza also said she would like the statement to be read at the start of every trimester rather than at the start of every Board meeting.
Ms. Tanyavutti said she would like the land acknowledgement to be read at the beginning of each meeting as “a reminder of how we need to decolonize our perspectives as we approach what may feel like routine business. And it’s a point of accountability for our governance body.”
A motion to approve the resolution to adopt the land acknowledgement and to adopt the draft land acknowledgement was unanimously approved by Board.
It is unclear whether proposed amendments that may be prepared by Ms. Mendoza will come back before the Board.