This land is your land

Though I have always loved and appreciated American folk songs, I have listened to them even more on repeat during the pandemic. One of my favorites is Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land”. As a young girl I knew the first couple of verses but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned the rest of them, and it was the last three that struck me as especially powerful.

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island,
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters;
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway;
I saw below me that golden valley;
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding;
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there,
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing.
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Last week, I read an email that was posted to a professional list serv, So, I don’t know the person who wrote the email (beyond the name), but for some reason I happen to look at their email signature and it included a simple land acknowledgement, recognizing the Indigenous people who had lived on the land that eventually became the university. I was intrigued by this because I had never noticed anything like this on email. It made me desire to know more about the Indigenous people on the land I call my home and to think about how I can acknowledge their original presence and their forced removal, as well as how to show gratitude. I am still working through that for myself.

While I was doing this reflection, I also thought it would be a good exercise for students or other community members to engage in, to stop and remember the people who inhabited the land originally and also reflect on the events that happened that forced their nations elsewhere. This website https://native-land.ca/ is the home of Native Land Digital, an Indigenous led non profit organization. This site will help you get an understanding of the Indigenous people who were the native inhabitants of the land you dwell in today, and their blog site (https://native-land.ca/category/community-blog/) is useful as well for learning more about the maps, the process of reconciliation, and other related topics.

Here’s an example of a land acknowledgement for my current hometown of Nashville, TN that was developed by a professional organization as part of planning for their large conference to be held here: https://www.placonference.org/land_acknowledgment.cfm

Finally, here are some resources for learning more about land acknowledgements (https://nativegov.org/our-story/the-land-we-are-on/) and for going beyond acknowledgement into more active solidarity and allyship (http://www.lspirg.org/knowtheland)

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