Reflections on ECE Land Acknowledgement

To recognize the people and cultures that previously occupied a particular place, land acknowledgement statements are becoming more common in the United States. As part of an ECE initiative, I helped develop the organization’s land acknowledgement statement (included below). I would like to share some brief thoughts I have on the project and the direction it took.

ECE acknowledges that at our location in Milwaukee we are on land first inhabited by the Mound Building civilizations. After them the Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Fox, Mascouten, Sauk, Potawatomi, Ojibwe and Odawa peoples have all called this land home. They were later joined by the Oneida, Stockbridge-Munsee, and Brothertown people who were displaced from their traditional homelands in the eastern United States. These and other First Nations peoples remain present in Milwaukee and are a vital part of our city’s future.

I have always had an interest in history, so much so that both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in the field. To me, history is more than the study of names and dates. History is at its best when investigating actual people. It is the story of those people. What did these people do and how did they interact with each other?

One thing I try to be cognizant of is that other people have been in a place before me and will continue to do so after I have gone. I suspect this thought has crossed the minds of others from time to time. When looking at an old building, monument, or setting, we subconsciously know that people lived there in the past. However, it is possible that this is still within the framework of the culture of the United States. Locally we see old Milwaukeeans – Germans, Poles, Italians. I wonder how many people think back further to before the city was founded? Do we think of the indigenous cultures?

From Wisconsin First Nations, which provides educational resources regarding American Indian Nations of Wisconsin.

While talking to ECE President Margit Schatzman about this project we discussed how this, in its own way, touches on ECE’s mission. ECE helps to facilitate the movement of people across borders. Land acknowledgement and recognition of the people who lived in Milwaukee previously is one part of the story. The mound building cultures gave way to successor peoples of many different tribes. Contact with Europeans altered this as a new dynamic was introduced. The establishment of the United States further changed the relationship between the original inhabitants as they were displaced by the new culture. Even once Milwaukee was established, the culture changed further with the arrival of newer European groups, Black, Latinx, and Asian people.

While the initial impetus that led to the founding of Milwaukee was based on colonial migration, we can compare it to the now voluntary migration that Milwaukee experiences. What about our own experiences? When did our own families come to our current location? Perhaps we ourselves are the ones who moved. In some ways, ECE’s mission to help people with their immigration and educational needs is a continuation of this experience.

Regardless of our current surroundings and background, it is important to acknowledge and give thought to the original inhabitants. I hope in some small way this project helps to reflect on the indigenous people who lived on this land. I would encourage others to investigate the original inhabitants of their own locations.

Matthew Holochwost has worked at Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc. (ECE) since 2006. His areas of credential evaluation specialization include South Asia and Eastern Africa.

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