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More than words: Acknowledging Indigenous land

“The ASU Library acknowledges the 22 Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries.”

Thus begins the Arizona State University Library’s first-ever Indigenous land acknowledgement – a five-sentence, 116-word statement about the place that the library and the university have inhabited for more than a century.

“The statement represents the ASU Library’s intentions to begin a healing process,” said Lorrie McAllister, associate university librarian for collections and strategy. “We need to acknowledge that ASU is an occupant on Indigenous lands and that we need to take active steps to forge relationships of reciprocity.” 

Alex Soto (Tohono O’odham) and Brave Heart Sanchez (Ndeh and Yaqui), both graduate students in the University of Arizona’s Knowledge River Program, add that the statement also represents a crucial first step toward welcoming Indigenous peoples into the library, recognizing their knowledge systems and their relationships to their land, while opening the door to further opportunities for engagement.  

“Land acknowledgement is only the first step,” said Soto, who, together with McAllister and Sanchez, currently leads the ASU Library’s Labriola National American Indian Data Center, which encompasses dedicated Native community space within the library and a notable collection of rare books and manuscripts, as well as open stack circulating materials that are by, for and about Native Americans — a library within a library.

Soto, an operations supervisor who manages the Labriola Center on the West campus, says the land statement does a good job of recognizing where we are as a university library, both figuratively and literally, and can serve as a launch pad for deeper conversations about how the ASU Library might integrate and prioritize Indigenous knowledge systems.

“We are on Akimel O’odham land, and that always needs to be at the forefront of our thinking,” he said. “This is the nation whose land we are on, and they’re still here. Today, the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh reside in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which is two miles east of Sun Devil Stadium, and in the Gila River Indian Community, which is south of the Phoenix metro area.”

Read the full article on ASU Now.