Graeme Wood writes: Long common in Canada and Australia, land acknowledgment is catching on in the United States and already de rigueur in certain circles. If you have seen enough of these —I have now watched dozens, sometimes more than one at the same event—you learn to spot them before the speaker even begins acknowledging. In many cases the tone turns solemn and moralizing, and the speaker’s posture stiff, as if preparing to read a confession at gunpoint. One might declare before, say, a corporate sales retreat: We would like to respectfully acknowledge that the land on which we gather to discuss the new line of sprinkler systems is in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. The acknowledgment is almost always a prepared statement, read verbatim, because like all spells it must be spoken precisely for its magic to work. The magic in this case is self-absolution: The acknowledgment relieves the speaker and the audience of the responsibility to think about Indigenous peoples, at least until the next public event….
Earlier this month, Microsoft’s annual Ignite conference began with a land acknowledgment so bewildering to viewers that it went briefly viral. But it was not abnormal among statements of this sort. The emcee acknowledged that the company’s headquarters, one square mile of land outside Seattle, was “occupied by the Sammamish, Duwamish, Snoqualmie, Suquamish, Muckleshoot, Snohomish, Tulalip, and other coast Salish people… since time immemorial.” She noted that the tribes are “still there” but offered no connection between the past and today. Few if any of the baffled viewers would deny the historic presence of these peoples amid the sacred groves that later produced PowerPoint and Clippy, the Microsoft Word mascot. But in the absence of context, the effect of this parade of names was to suggest that for thousands of years the Indigenous peoples were crammed onto the Microsoft campus uncomfortably like canned salmon, doing who knows what, until Bill Gates arrived in the late 20th century to turn them into programmers.
In Judaism, you should say 100 brachas (blessings) a day. In Australianism, you should say 100 G-days a day. Either way, you get charged up because you’re opening up channels to connect with the people around you. Emotional power comes from attuning oneself to others and out of connection, comes energy and an ethic. When you connect, you build a morality. When you’re joined with others, certain things become right and wrong.