Wednesday, December 8, 2021

land acknowledgement: an embodied practice

I wake up at dark early and do my routine. I set the kettle to boil, get tea ready.

I go outside then step off the porch to stand barefoot next to my first garden bed. I begin my gratitudes: thank you Earth for my life, thank you for my daughters, garden, family, friends; I go on and on, listing. I thank the cardinal flowers for the hummingbirds that love them, the parsley for hosting swallowtails. I inhale and exhale deeply, mindful of my dependence of clean fresh breath for vitality. 

I thank the wind for blowing, welcome its caress. If I hear birds, I thank them for their song, a different sort of caress. I thank each season for the gifts unique to it. I thank the dark for what it brings to light. I thank the trees next door, across the street; the ones I have daily relationship with. I thank the stars, moon and clouds, whatever is in view at the moment. 

Sometimes it is so cold, I do this fastly. Sometimes I linger. Either way, I breathe and root my feet into my Mother, kiss the ground through my soles, yes through my soul, to feel Her embrace. I ponder the thousands of species that have slithered, crawled, flitted, flown, climbed right here through the centuries. I recognize my eventual return to Her. Gratitude wells up for what She provides; indeed for Her divine and dependable abundance for all beings. She is home.

I wake up at dark early to practice a new routine.  

In this daily ritual I acknowledge the trauma of settler colonialism; acknowledge the ingrained paradigm of  supremacist capitalism within myself; acknowledge our capacity for direct relationship with Earth, our birthright as humans-from the Latin, humus, meaning Earth. 

It is simply not enough to acknowledge the past here on this continent while globally, presently, Indigenous peoples are increasingly threatened by extractive capitalism. As the number of Indigenous defenders murdered rises yearly, as globalization interferes with more Indigenous cultures in their symbiotic relationship with Earth, we must take land acknowledgement into the present and future tenses as well as into our own past tense; we must embody it.

We too, once upon a time, were indigenous to a land, a culture, a people that understood ourselves as of the land which sustained us. I want to remember what was hardwired into my being centuries ago. When I stand barefoot in the midwest, I imagine a blood ancestor barefoot in the mideast also paying homage to our divine Mother; I imagine other ancestors who may have stood on this very spot to pay homage, a chorus across time, geography, and lineage. A chorus that undoes the distance-and delusions-of supremacy, colonialism and capitalism. The delusions that keep us from right relationship with Earth.

A line from ee cummings comes to mind, "here is the deepest secret nobody knows..."

And yet we do know. The land upon which I live doesn't belong to me. Just as the squirrels nesting in the honey locust next door don't own the tree. That is a capitalist approach to Earth. By acknowledging, instead, we belong to Her, we recognize the covenantal relationship at the heart of belonging. To make acknowledgement be about ownership is sacrilege, like pinning a swallowtail to a board. Let us emancipate acknowledgement from the performative gesture of colonizers. 

I wake up at dark early to embody a new routine.  

When I finish my gratitudes, I become quiet; offering silence, listening, as hospitality, as space for the deepest secrets, my own Indigenous relationship with Earth, to sing within my blood. Yes we do know. Those sacred routines are dormant within us, waiting to be acknowledged. 


  1. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. You help us bring us back to ourselves.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. That is part of our journey, isn't it? Coming back to ourselves.


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