The Juneau Board of Education adopted a land acknowledgment during its meeting Tuesday night. It will be used during all future meetings of that board.
The acknowledgment is intended to express appreciation and celebrate the context of the indigenous presence and history in the community. The board had tried to settle on the language during its Sept. 14 meeting.
A member of the public, Ayyu Qassataq, raised some concerns during that meeting. Qassataq serves as vice president and Indigenous operations director at First Alaskans Institute. She referenced a portion of the initial language that said “we are grateful to have been welcomed to be in this place.” She said it struck her because it seemed to center on a settler’s perspective instead of an Indigenous perspective.
“Though unintentional, I feel like it could potentially contribute to erasure of the history of how the education system came to be in the community,” she said. “It was not necessarily a welcoming, but an imposition.”
So the language was sent back to the policy committee in September and a final reading was presented Tuesday. That portion was swapped out to say: “We are grateful to be a part of this community.”
At the end of the meeting, newly sworn in board member Amber Frommherz said she appreciated the land acknowledgment.
“I think that it is timely,” Frommherz said, “better late than never and that means a lot that we were able to move that.”
The full acknowledgment reads:
“The Juneau School District is situated upon the traditional lands of the Tlingit people. The Board of Education acknowledges that, since time immemorial, Alaska Native people have been and continue to be stewards of this land and integral to the well-being of the community. We are grateful to be a part of this community. We support the education of all children, including future Elders. We honor the culture, traditions, language, and resilience of the Tlingit people. Gunalchéesh!”
The board’s action comes several months after the Juneau Assembly formalized its own land acknowledgment.