Living Land Acknowledgement: 2022 Annual Stocktaking

On April 26, 2021, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities published our first-ever Living Land Acknowledgement. Thanks to the great support from our partners at the Lenape Center, we developed this Living Land Acknowledgement to both recognize our New York office’s place as a guest on the Lenape homeland, Lenapehoking, and to commit to a series of actions to make this acknowledgement truly ‘living.’

One of these commitments, is to take stock each year on Indigenous Peoples Day of the progress we’ve made toward implementing our Living Land Acknowledgement. The first such stocktaking exercise took place last year on 11 October 2021 and can be found here. Today, one year later, we are publishing our second stocktaking report of progress toward the commitments we’ve made in our Living Land Acknowledgement. The following seven commitments are themselves ‘living,’ and will be updated as appropriate in the future.  

Commitment #1: Support the Lenape people to address the consequences of centuries of destruction through our transitional justice work with the Lenape Center, including a range of activities such as training programs for New York City civil servants and other government officials in the United States on the prevention of genocide through the implementation of living land acknowledgements, raising awareness of the history of genocide against Indigenous populations throughout North America, and other projects identified by our staff and partners.

Implementation: The primary avenue through which we implement commitment #1 is through our partnership with the Lenape Center. Over the last year, we have pursued a range of projects to bring greater recognition of the Lenape as the original people of the land upon which New York City sits. This has included exploring ways of getting greater attention by the New York City government and leadership to the important work that the Lenape Center was doing, for example, developing their first Lenape curated exhibition of Lenape cultural arts. 

Further to this point, we are also exploring the possibility of organizing public panel discussions in New York that bring in experts from other cities that have made more progress toward developing a city government-initiated living land acknowledgement. These activities will highlight good practices that have been successful in other cities to understand how they may be adapted and applied in the New York City context. An important component of this work will also be engagement with New York City Council Members as they play a critical role in helping to build both advocacy among the general public as well as encourage the city government to take a more active role in this space.   

In addition, through the end of March 2022, the Auschwitz Institute continued our work on Artivism. Artivism is an exhibit that highlights the work of six artists and art collectives from around the world who use art as an instrument of activism in response to identity-based mass atrocity. As an organization that works in the prevention of atrocities before, during, and after they are committed, we see the critical need to raise awareness and importantly action around the genocide committed against the Indigenous populations of North America. 

Among others, Artivism highlights work donated by survivors to the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. Canada established this national Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008, which collected testimony and evidence from survivors of the country’s so-called Indian Residential School System. While some survivors presented their testimony through speech, others donated objects they had created to the Commission, using art to tell their stories of survival. We have been incredibly honored to be able to include artwork that was created by survivors from Canada’s Indigenous communities in Artivism. The Artivism exhibition was on display at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights from 30 April 2021 – 27 March 2022, with AIPG having worked in close coordination with our partners in Canada to receive the welcome of the Elders of Treaty 1 Territory prior to the exhibit opening.

AIPG also furthered pursued commitment #1 by increasing the capacity of its U.S. Programs, under which AIPG’s engagement with the Lenape Center falls. This included hiring a Program Director and establishing an internship program to develop a database of transitional justice initiatives throughout the United States as well as a register of organizations that are working on dealing with legacies of violence in the US. Further information on the internship is provided under commitment #6.  

Lastly, with regard to further sharing our Living Land Acknowledgement publicly, we included it in AIPG’s 2022 statement for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and our 2021 Annual Report. 

Commitment #2: Open all events taking place in Lenapehoking with the following acknowledgement statement:

I’d like to begin by recognizing the original people of this land, the Lenape, as well as their deep connection to the Lenapehoking homeland. As an organization dedicated to atrocity prevention, the Auschwitz Institute believes in the importance of acknowledging the settler-colonial genocide perpetrated against this community and the resilience of the Lenape who, still today, continue to resist erasure.

Implementation:  AIPG staff have continued to regularly open events with the acknowledgement statements since the launch of our living land acknowledgement in April 2021. Since the publication of our last stocktaking report on 11 October 2021, these events have included:

  • The Role of Education in Genocide Denial panel discussion
  • One Day: Envisioning a New Future through Engaging a Violent Past presentation
  • The Annual Meeting of the International Atrocity Prevention Working Group (IAPWG) during the United Nations General Assembly 
  • Book Launch for Resonant Violence: Affect, Memory, and Activism in Post-Genocide Societies by Dr. Kerry Whigham
  • Lenapehoking: The History of Lenape Forced Removals panel discussion
  • Book Launch for The Condor Trials: Transnational Repression and Human Rights in South America by Dr. Francesca Lessa*
  • Atrocity Prevention Briefing: MLA Initiative:  Towards the adoption of a convention for international cooperation for the investigation and prosecution of atrocity crimes*
  • Atrocity Prevention Briefing: The Prevention of Identity-Based Violence: Experiences from the Great Lakes Region*
  • Atrocity Prevention Briefing: Responding to the needs of the survivors of wartime sexual violence in Kosovo – Two decades of service by the Kosovo Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims*
  • Atrocity Prevention Briefing: Genocide Denial and Historical Revisionism in Bosnia and Herzegovina*

*As these events were hosted from outside of Lenapehoking, the opening statement acknowledged the Abenaki and Pennacook as the original peoples of that land, as appropriate.

Commitment #3: Take stock, on every Indigenous Peoples’ Day, of the actions we have taken over the last year and to update our commitments going forward.

Implementation: This year on October 10, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we are taking stock of the progress made to date since the launch of our most recent stocktaking report on 11 October 2021. We are detailing that progress in this report, and we will include live and interactive elements to this stocktaking exercise in the future as we return to more in-person programming throughout Lenapehoking.

Commitment #4: Include the following sentence in the email signatures of staff located in Lenapehoking:

AIPG’s New York office sits on the traditional territory of the Lenape.

Implementation: All AIPG staff located in Lenapehoking included the sentence above in their email signatures.

Commitment #5: Prioritize the greater inclusion of Lenape voices in our programming that takes place in Lenapehoking.

Implementation: Unfortunately, as with the period covered by the first stocktaking report, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have not resumed in-person programming in Lenapehoking. Nonetheless, through AIPG’s Executive Director, Dr. Tibi Galis, the Auschwitz Institute was honored to participate virtually in Lenapehoking: The History of Lenape Forced Removals, a discussion organized by the Brooklyn Public Library that included the Lenape Center’s Curtis Zunigha and Joe Baker, and Indigenous historian Heather Bruegl to discuss forced removals of the Lenape people from their northeastern homeland. 

AIPG continues to plan a future virtual Atrocity Prevention Briefing on addressing issues of concern to Indigenous peoples in North America with regard to genocide prevention. We will also invite Lenape voices to join other activities organized in Lenapehoking as we resume in-person programming.

Commitment #6:  Offer a paid internship for future Lenape human rights and atrocity prevention professionals to work in our New York office for three months each year.

Implementation: With regard to implementing commitment #6, we are excited to have finalized the internship program and confirmed our first intern under this new program. The main project of the internship is to develop a database of transitional justice initiatives throughout the United States as well as a register of organizations that are working on dealing with legacies of violence in the U.S. In addition to advancing AIPG’s Living Land Acknowledgement, this internship will have a central role in helping build out and expand AIPG’s U.S. Programs as well as the network of organizations we partner with in pursuing our mission. 

The first internship under this program was set to take place across the summer of 2022 however unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic extended the school year for the prospective intern making a full two-month internship in the summer impossible. As a result, we have postponed the program with this intern until summer 2023 and we are again actively searching for potential interns for fall 2022 and spring 2023. 

The announcement for the internship program can be found here.

Commitment #7: Commit to undertake all future AIPG New York job recruitment by advertising through Lenape networks and recruiting channels in addition to standard job-posting platforms.

Implementation: Since the launch of our Living Land Acknowledgement, we continue to share job and internship announcements with our partners at the Lenape Center. In addition, we have shared job announcements with higher learning institutions serving indigenous peoples throughout the United States.