Land & Labor Acknowledgement
We at Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) collectively acknowledge that our offices as well as the six-state region that we serve are located on the occupied ancestral lands of First American Nations. M-AAA’s headquarters in Kansas City, MO resides on land cared for by the Kanza (today the Kaw Nation), the Osage, and the Očeti Šakówiŋ (the Great Sioux Nation) peoples. M-AAA’s Houston, TX, office resides on the homeland of the Karankawa, Coahuiltecan, Atakapa-Ishak, and the Sana people of Texas’s Gulf Coast region. We recognize the history of forced relocation by the United States government of many First American Nations from their tribal homelands to our region in the late eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century.
The Indigenous peoples’ connection to this land has been challenged by violence, disease, treaties, invading settlers, relocations, forced removals, reservation termination policies, and other colonial actions; however, throughout this turbulent history, this land has continued to hold great historical, spiritual, and personal significance for the original land stewards of this region.
We thank the members of the First American communities and sovereign nations in our region today for their continued service of the land and for innumerable contributions to the region.
We acknowledge the legacy of slavery in our region and the enslaved African people whose labor was exploited for generations to help establish the economy of our region and the United States, specifically the production and harvest of surplus crops and land cultivation. An estimated 10 million enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas beginning in the 1500s until 1867. Countless millions of black people suffered in bondage in the United States until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865 abolished slavery and indentured servitude.
The end of slavery was followed by a series of discriminatory and repressive laws that created a racial caste system that legitimized anti-black racism. The gruesome legacy of slavery, and the racist laws and practices that continue to be passed and implemented, impact American culture and our institutions at every level.
The labor of slaves built many of the civic and federal institutions with which we all interact and benefit from each day. The economics of the transatlantic slave trade and the exportation of cotton allowed the United States to position itself as a leader in global trade for centuries. Our nation continues to profit financially from the exploitation of the descendants of enslaved Africans.
We acknowledge the harm that colonialism and white supremacy have brought to these lands, in particular the erasure of both First American and African identities via racist laws that segregated all peoples. By recognizing the land that was taken from First Americans and the forced labor that was provided by enslaved Africans and black people, Mid-America Arts Alliance is acknowledging that we understand that the foundation of our country, the United States of America, and the roots that it created in order to grow and thrive, are based in colonialism, racism, and indignity. It is only by recognition and understanding these errors that were made during our nation’s origins that we can hope to correct our path.
Mid-America Arts Alliance honors the Indigenous and enslaved peoples’ contributions and stewardship of the plains and waterways throughout our service area. We honor and celebrate their resilience. We commit to creating a future founded on respect and healing the deepest generational wounds by building bridges and mutual understanding. We will continue to re-educate ourselves about the histories and experiences of all peoples in our region.
Mid-America Arts Alliance is grateful to those who helped us develop this Land & Labor Acknowledgement. From their research, experience, knowledge, and advice, we are more aware of how our nation’s past has impacted our present and how we can take steps toward a more equitable future. We want to recognize Haskell Indian Nations University, Lona Barrick of the Chickasaw Nation, Stephanie Seber, Carris Adams, and M-AAA’s DEIA Task Force for their efforts and contributions to this statement.