Conversations: Land Acknowledgement

Project Spotlight: A webinar with Melissa Shaginoff. 

Land Indigenous Sovereignty Representation
A graphic for the event includes the title and speaker’s names, overlaid atop a photograph of an arctic landscape with the sun peeking over a mountain in the background.

Join Melissa Shaginoff (Ahtna Athabascan and Paiute) to learn about a public action called land acknowledgement, which helps you to recognize the Indigenous peoples whose traditional lands we stand upon. Speaking the words of a land acknowledgement creates a space of honoring, respecting and making visible the generations of Indigenous peoples that came before you. It is an expression of respect appropriate for gatherings at schools, organizations, institutions, businesses, conferences and communities, both where you live and where you travel to. 

A graphic for the event includes the title and speaker’s names, overlaid atop a photograph of an arctic landscape with the sun peeking over a mountain in the background.
Turnagain Arm, Alaska, January 2020. PHOTO: DAWN BIDDISON. COURTESY SMITHSONIAN ARCTIC STUDIES CENTER.

The PDF “You Are On Indigenous Land,” an instructional guide that Melissa presents in this video, will help you write your own land acknowledgement. For more detailed information—including how to participate in a workshop or bring a workshop to your organization—please visit her website at https://www.melissashaginoff.com.

Below are links to online videos from public events that give a land acknowledgement, as part of the introduction.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYVyPVYMR4Y (starts at 00:30)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnkiGj7Q4Lk (starts at 01:32)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViFBBn7WYbs (starts at 00:44)

This event was made possible through generous supporters of the Arctic Studies Center in Alaska and the Smithsonian Office of the Associate Provost forEducation and Access (Youth Access Grant program).

Note: This video is recorded from a live event on Zoom and may be of varying quality due to different Internet connections.

Credit: This video was originally published by the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska on January 14, 2021. COURTESY SMITHSONIAN ARCTIC STUDIES CENTER.

 

At the Alaska office of the Arctic Studies Center, staff work together with Alaska Native Elders, knowledge-keepers, artists, educators and cultural organizations on collaborative research, education and outreach programs. They also work with colleagues across Alaska and the Arctic. Their work benefits from the exhibition Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska at the Center’s office within the Anchorage Museum. The exhibition features more than 600 heritage pieces on long-term loan from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian collections, and it was created in collaboration with Alaska Natives, including research, layout, selected pieces, central videos, text and book essays. For content from the exhibition and programs, and for educational resources and edited webinar videos, please visit the Learning Lab site “Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska” at https://learninglab.si.edu/org/sasc-ak.

A photograph of a person from the waist up, wearing an apron and standing in an outdoor environment.
Melissa Shaginoff during the Material Traditions: Athabascan Moosehide Tanning & Sewing project in 2018. COURTESY MELISSA SHAGINOFF.

Contributor biographies

Melissa Shaginoff is part of the Udzisyu (caribou) and Cui Ui Ticutta (fish-eater) clans from Nay’dini’aa Na Kayax (Chickaloon Village, Alaska). She is an Ahtna and Paiute person, an artist, a social activist and currently the curator of Alaska Pacific University’s Art Galleries. Her work is shaped by the structure and processes of the Dene ceremony of potlatch. Melissa has participated in the Island Mountain Arts Toni Onley Artist Project in Wells, British Columbia, as well as the Sheldon Jackson Museum Artist Residency in Sitka, Alaska. She has been published in the Alaska Humanities FORUM Magazine, First American Art Magazine, Inuit Art Quarterly and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Learning Lab. Her artwork is collected by the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Palmer Museum and the Pratt Museum. Melissa is also a part of Shared Universe, a new media group focusing on the collaboration and representation of Indigenous experiences in science-fiction. In the spring of 2021, Melissa will participate in a digital residency with the Jenni House of the Yukon Arts Center in Whitehorse, Canada. In the summer of 2021, Melissa will travel to Sweden and participate in the Skövde Musuem’s AiRs International Artist Residency, where she will work on a project exploring conversation as art practice.