Offering a land acknowledgment

RISD has developed a land acknowledgment for institution-wide use (see below), intended to be a living statement that may continue to evolve over time. Faculty, staff and students hosting on-campus events or virtual gatherings representing the institution are encouraged to offer this acknowledgment using the guidance below.

This guide offers:

We invite you to read our land acknowledgement FAQ for more information. If you have additional questions about this land acknowledgment text or using this guide, please email media@risd.edu.

Why and how to use a land acknowledgment

Land acknowledgments are a first step toward honoring the original occupants of a place to recognize how systemic and institutional systems of power have oppressed Indigenous peoples. It's important that those offering an acknowledgment educate themselves about the Indigenous people to whom the land belongs and the history of that land. In addition, they should consider how they as individuals or the department or group they are representing are taking or can take action to support Indigenous communities.

Educational resources:

For its part, RISD is working to build real, authentic relationships with Indigenous people of the Narragansett Tribe in Rhode Island, as well as critically interrogate the fraught history and institutional structures of the college and museum. In doing so the RISD Museum is engaged in the Americas Research Initiative to research the Native North American collection, continue collection work related to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), including consultation with and repatriation to Native American tribes. This work will be done by museum staff and Sháńdíín Brown (Diné), Luce Curatorial Fellow for Native American Art. This is ongoing work aimed at making substantive and durable change.

Development and research process

In 2019, members of the RISD Museum’s Americas Research Initiative began conducting research toward creating a land acknowledgment for use on RISD’s Providence campus. Their process included reviewing current best practices, including the Tomaquag Museum’s Guide for Land Acknowledgments, and seeking guidance from John Brown, Narragansett, Lorén Spears, Niantic/Narragansett, and Sherenté Mishitashin Harris BRDD 23 PT, Niantic/Narragansett, as well as National Park Service ranger John McNiff at Roger Williams National Memorial. They also considered the statement Harris released with Dr. Mack Scott, Narragansett, in February 2021 titled: Regarding Indigenous Land Acknowledgments at Brown University, which is encouraged reading for all members of our community.

RISD’s land acknowledgment

The current outcome of this research is this land acknowledgment:

Rhode Island School of Design is built on what is now called College Hill, part of the ancestral homelands of the Narragansett Nation. Indigenous people from many nations—near and far—live, study and work in Providence today. The amplification of Native voices and histories is crucial to rectifying the many violent legacies of colonialism, and we gratefully acknowledge the ongoing critical contributions of Indigenous people across our state, region and nation.

Guidance for use

The land acknowledgment should be communicated verbally at the beginning of a gathering immediately after the host welcomes guests. It may also be shared in writing (e.g., on a presentation slide or in printed materials).

When giving the land acknowledgment verbally, follow this sequence:

1. Introduction [this is sample text and may be adjusted at the speaker’s discretion]

As we begin today’s event, I would like to offer a land acknowledgment.

2. Land acknowledgment [read exactly as follows]

Rhode Island School of Design is built on what is now called College Hill, part of the ancestral homelands of the Narragansett Nation. Indigenous people from many nations—near and far—live, study and work in Providence today. The amplification of Native voices and histories is crucial to rectifying the many violent legacies of colonialism, and we gratefully acknowledge the ongoing critical contributions of Indigenous people across our state, region and nation.

3. Contextual information [optional]

Before or after reading the land acknowledgment, you may also:

  • offer specific Indigenous historical or current information that relates to the occasion, program or location.
  • outline any related commitments your department or RISD has made or is in the process of developing.