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A Turning Point: The practice of Land Acknowledgement growing in popularity

The act consists of paying tribute to the land we use daily that first belonged to Native Americans.

CLEVELAND — Many of us know the colonization myth we learned in school. In 1492 when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, what he discovered was not a new world. It was one inhabited by millions of Indigenous people.

Land acknowledgement is a practice growing in popularity across the country. An increasing number of institutions and groups are beginning events with a statement recognizing that they are gathering on land that once belonged to Native Americans.

The City Club of Cleveland sometimes begins meetings with a land acknowledgement. So does the Gund Foundation in Cleveland. But The Ohio State University is hoping to take that practice one step further.

For the past year, OSU has been working toward making reparations to Indigenous tribes affected by the loss of land. A report from High Country News titled "Land-Grab Universities," exposed the history of land grant institutions founded by the Morrill Act of 1862. Profits from the sale of Indigenous land were used to create OSU's campus.

"As the saying goes for all marginalized people, it's not about us without us," said John Low, Associate Professor at OSU. He works on a team helping to make land acknowledgements more actionable.

"We're asking [Native Americans] to take surveys. There's 100 tribes in the area with a connection to Ohio State." said Low. 

So far, $230,000 has been awarded to the land acknowledgement team in internal grants.

Molly Rambeau is a Native American from Berea. She is also a student at OSU, and thinks more needs to be done.

"For us being the third largest land grant university and having that much acreage, you would think the university would step forward and do more," she said. "It was Native land. Why don't we have more programs? Or why don't we have more educators, Native educators, or even Native individuals in spots of higher position?"

Although Native students make up less than 0.1% of the population on campus, Low and Rambeau say it's time for Indigenous people to receive recognition.

"We're just asking for basic human decency, and for what is ours back. And at the very least, that's what we deserve."

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