Many PW and church meetings now begin with a land acknowledgement—a recognition that the event is taking place on land European colonizers stole from Native Americans. The 223rd General Assembly (2018) urged many church bodies to incorporate this practice into meetings, as a step in dismantling racism and addressing the denomination’s historic harms against Indigenous people.
In her work as Presbyterian Women’s 2021–2024 Churchwide Vice-Moderator, Kathleen Keefer has heard and offered a number of land acknowledgements. In the March/April 2023 issue of Horizons, she wrote about how her acknowledgements have changed, and will likely continue to change as she learns. She begins meetings with an acknowledgement that Indigenous people cared for and were cared for by all of the land we now call the United States, then notes the European colonialism and white supremacy abused and killed many other people of color.
Written and adapted by Andy James, Kathleen Keefer, Rev. Beth Richardson
We acknowledge we are all currently living on land taken by force or by trickery by European invaders from across the sea. This land was loved, cared for and honored by countless generations of Indigenous people.
These people continue to be systematically abused by policies and practices that remove their histories, culture, language and rights from this place.
We acknowledge and honor the people enslaved, brought to this country against their will and through their abuse and forced labor, built the wealth and very foundation of this country. These African brothers and sisters continue to be kept down and held back by laws, programs, policies and practices created and perpetuated by the white establishment.
We acknowledge and honor those whose very country became a source of armed conflict and was subsumed by the United States government, while their president was held hostage and forced to sign away 55% of his country to become what is now known as the Southwest. Our country flourished while theirs lay in ruin.
We acknowledge and honor those people who came from the East Asia to escape persecution and hardship, only to find harsh and even brutal treatment as they labored to build the railroads that joined the East and West of this land, thus increasing the wealth of the Europeans who arrived here without invitation. We remember the women who came from Asia with the promise of marriage to their kindred men, only to find themselves enslaved as servants to the rich white or in brothels as prostitutes.
We recognize the history of the United State includes complicity in the attempted genocide of a people, and of the sin of white supremacy, and the taking of unfair and unscrupulous advantage of people who are not like them, white Europeans, all under the guise of Manifest Destiny.
This land on which we walk, pray, laugh, and weep—this land is stained by the blood and sweat, moans and tears of our indigenous and African, Mexican and Asian siblings.
We acknowledge our sin against these people, and we commit to the process of dismantling structural racism in all the spaces of our lives: our families; homes; communities; churches; government and country.
Let us pray: O God of all peoples and nations, open our eyes to the wonder and majesty of all humankind. Help us to confess the times and places where those who came before us—and we ourselves—have denied the fullness of humanity to those around us and demanded that they surrender to our desires. Guide and direct all the work we do as we lead your church, that your Spirit may lead us to new patterns that engage your world and your beloved children with the same honor and dignity that you have shown us in your Son Jesus Christ, who comes to make us and all things new. Amen.