Beyond Land Acknowledgment Case Studies

We’ve shared a lot about the importance of moving beyond land acknowledgment. Moving beyond land acknowledgment looks like taking concrete action to support Native people and nations. Revisit our Beyond Land Acknowledgment guide, worksheet, event recording, and explainer video for more on how to get started. 

In addition to our educational resources, we deliver beyond land acknowledgment trainings to external groups. Our audiences regularly tell us they learn best from our case studies. These case studies help folks envision how to realistically implement our action planning framework and make an impact. 

In the spirit of keeping our resources current and action-oriented, we’re sharing four beyond land acknowledgment case studies. We hope these examples inspire additional impact in our community, especially as we approach Native American Heritage Month. We encourage you to make a plan to support Native people and nations, both now and into the future. 

If you have a case study of your own to share–either something you’ve done or a story from a community member with permission–please reach out to us! We’d love to use your example in our presentations or a future piece on new case studies. 

Beyond Land Acknowledgment Fund

The story of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation’s Beyond Land Acknowledgment Fund starts with a transformative gift. For many years, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in South Minneapolis had been delivering a land acknowledgment statement. After hearing about the beyond land acknowledgment movement, they wanted to go a step further (not just words). 

Church leaders decided to donate the proceeds from their recent sale of an affordable housing complex, amounting to $250,000, to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF). ILTF is a Native-led organization focused on aiding Native nations in the recovery and control of their homelands. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church already had a strong relationship with ILTF as a result of their decade-long inquiry into ties between the church and colonialism. Their donation honored that relationship and the contributions ILTF made to helping the Church meet its goals.

Importantly, the Church made a completely unrestricted gift, allowing ILTF to put the funds to work where they’re most needed. Indian Land Tenure Foundation used the gift to create its Beyond Land Acknowledgment fund. The Fund helps restore Native lands to Native nations sharing geography with the United States.

Wedding Donation

An engaged couple reached out to us before their wedding with the intent of creatively incorporating beyond land acknowledgement action steps into their ceremony. They decided to donate a portion of their wedding costs to our organization to acknowledge that their wedding venue sits on stolen land. The couple encouraged their wedding guests to donate as well. They also started out their ceremony with a land acknowledgment.

We like this example because the couple created the idea on their own (rather than asking us for help). They reached out to ask permission to direct their donation to our organization. Rather than just delivering a land acknowledgment statement, they paired their statement with action (a donation and calls for donations from their guests). We like this approach because it’s versatile. We can see folks in our audience using it during a variety of special events.

Mni Sota Makoce Honor Tax

The Mni Sota Makoce Honor Tax is an excellent example of taking meaningful action and being a good relative to a Native nation when seeking approval for a new partnership. Jessica Intermill, a Treaty Rights and Tribal law attorney, attended our 2021 Beyond Land Acknowledgment event. She felt inspired by our panelists’ conversation on voluntary land taxes. A voluntary land tax functions like a mortgage or rent. Rent or mortgage payments give us access to living space; voluntary land taxes recognize our access to stolen Indigenous land. 

Intermill channeled her inspiration into tangible action. She already had a strong relationship with the Lower Sioux Indian Community as a result of her work as a Tribal attorney. Intermill reached out to President Robert Larsen and floated the idea of developing a voluntary land tax to benefit Lower Sioux. Once President Larsen expressed interest in exploring the process, Intermill drafted a proposal and brought it to the full Lower Sioux Tribal Council for approval. After a few additional meetings with the legal team and the Council, Lower Sioux determined the tax would bring a net benefit to the community and passed a formal resolution affirming its support. 

Throughout the process, President Larsen appreciated Intermill’s transparency and truthfulness. He believes that partnering directly with nations on honor taxes is paramount. “If you don’t engage the Tribe, that level of trust probably won’t be there,” President Larsen explains. He continues, “You need to be truthful and up front. To me, that’s the thing. I don’t want to be lied to. Or tricked. What you’re telling us may not be what we want to hear. But, if we’re building a relationship, it’s not going to be the end of that relationship.” 

The Mni Sota Makoce Honor Tax is a great example of impactful action because it encourages ongoing contributions. The money raised goes directly to the Lower Sioux Indian Community and will fund strategic goals such as land return, language programs for youth, and public education. Read more about the Mni Sota Makoce Honor Tax on our website, and make a contribution to the Tax here.

Minnesota Hopeful Earthkeepers 

Our final case study involves the Minnesota Hopeful Earthkeepers, a group of United Methodists who are interested in environmental justice and conservation. They felt so inspired by our beyond land acknowledgment materials that they decided to use them to create their own customized six-session journey for their congregation. The Earthkeepers’ materials include a facilitator’s guide, workbook, and presentation slides, among other items. 

Rather than asking Indigenous people for help, the Hopeful Earthkeepers took initiative and did their own homework. By putting our content into words that speak to the needs, knowledge, and identities of their members, they’re making it easy for their congregation to take meaningful action. The goal of their curriculum is to bring their members together to create a land acknowledgment that is non-performative. (This is something we definitely encourage!) 

On top of creating their own curriculum, the Hopeful Earthkeepers donated to our organization to recognize the labor that went into our materials. Too often, Indigenous people are asked to do free emotional labor without being compensated for their time. The Earthkeepers’ approach is thoughtful because it values Indigenous knowledge and doesn’t burden Indigenous communities. 

Additional Resources