Call it coincidence, divine intervention or luck, but I’d bet that you’ve had a situation whereby you see or hear something, and suddenly it shows up somewhere else.
For instance, you consider buying a particular type of car, and suddenly that model is all you see on the highway.
That serendipity is what led me to write about today’s subject.
Thanks to a cancelled flight that left me scrambling to get from one fundraiser to another late last month, I’ve spent the last two weeks on the road. My carry-on was originally packed for Fundraiser #1 and ended up serving me for Fundraiser #2, Fundraiser #3, a weekend vacation and a full-blown one-week stay with my Mom and brother in Kansas.
During one conversation — probably over laundry — my brother listed some of the interesting people he follows on Twitter. One was a cartographer who had shared information on land acknowledgements among his tweets on ancient maps.
“Land acknowledgments…” I mulled.
Then I was reminded of an interaction I’d had at a recent event whereby a man thought I was American Indian.
Then while watching videos on YouTube, I found myself clicking from one video to the next. In the YouTube rabbit hole, I stumbled onto one tied to land acknowledgments.
Enough already! I decided to do some research and present ideas.
What’s a land acknowledgment?
It’s a statement made at the beginning of an event, whereby the speaker acknowledges that the gathering is taking place on land that homed indigenous populations.
When I first read about it, my imagination played it like a Western movie. Just as a dusty cowboy tips his hat to acknowledge another, I envisioned a speaker “tipping his hat” to remind the assembly of the land’s past history. Unlike intentional moments of silence (which I have seen at fundraising events), I imagined that this would be more like a mini guided meditation, paying tribute to a tribe and the land’s history upon which we were now all gathered.
The romantic environmentalist in me particularly liked the earth reference. In my mind’s eye, I was already picturing hundreds of thousands of buffalo roaming the Great Plains in 8′ native grass.
Then I watched the videos of actual land acknowledgments.
Darn, I was a little crushed. To my ear, they sounded formulaic. Some speakers delivered it as a perfunctory comment. Though the message got out, it didn’t “connect” me as I’d envisioned in my imagination.
So here’s what I think.
If you think that this platform piece would fit well with your own nonprofit’s mission, carefully craft the land acknowledgment.
Think about why you want to include it into your podium remarks and how it will sound to an audience who — quite likely — has never seen one conducted.
I’d say the goal would be to pay tribute to the past, and turn forward to inspire. The end result should be a “let’s join together to achieve this mutual goal” message.
I think the acknowledgment has potential to be a thought-provoking — even unifying — message. It also has the potential to sound awkward / out of place, and that wouldn’t be a good fit for a fundraising event.
Have you ever seen a land acknowledgment at a fundraising event?
If so, please share what worked!