Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Treaty Day Marks Ongoing Impact of Native American Treaties

If you’ve attended a local event recently, you may have heard a statement similar to this opening the event:

I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish People past and present and honor with gratitude the land itself and the Duwamish Tribe.”

Land acknowledgements, like the one above, are one way to show respect for the Indigenous people who have called this place home since before colonizers arrived.  These statements serve to return Indigenous people to the public consciousness.  However, land acknowledgements run the risk of becoming rote language, rattled off without a shared understanding of the meaning behind the words.  These statements are just an incremental step towards recognizing the impact of colonization on Indigenous communities.

On January 22, 1855, near what is now Mukilteo, Washington, the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed, establishing a government-to-government relationship between the United States and signatory tribes.  Other treaties were signed around the same time, establishing similar compacts in other parts of Washington StateRecent efforts to digitize 377 Native treaties, as well as related proclamations, resolutions and relevant documents, make these important documents more accessible to the general public.    

Many tribes throughout northwest Washington recognize Treaty Day.  Early events were an occasion to gather together to revitalize traditional practices.  Today, tribes commemorate the day by reflecting and sharing with their local communities about the ongoing impact of the treaties.  Similar to land acknowledgements, Treaty Day offers an opportunity to be reminded of the history of the land that we inhabit and to gain a deeper understanding of the people who have resided on that land since time immemorial.

More information about resources for American Indian / Alaska Native students in the UW community can be found here 

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