May 26, 2022

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Making land acknowledgments more accurate and informative (letter)

I respect your thorough and well balanced write-up on the land acknowledgments controversy. 

Land acknowledgements can be more than “settler contrition theatre.” To be historically accurate—and therefore extra useful to students—they ought to report how several times the land may have been taken or retaken by migrating tribes above millennia. Columbia College historian Jacques Barzun available a relevant historic summary in his reserve From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present (2001):

“The Caribs whom Columbus to start with encountered experienced fought and displaced the Anawaks who occupied the islands. The Aztecs whom Cortez conquered experienced at first descended from the north and wrecked the past civilization. To the north and east numerous of the tribes lived in perpetual warfare, the robust exploiting the weak, and several—notably the Iroquois—had slaves. In small, what transpired on the newfound hemisphere in early present day times ongoing the observe of the aged: in historical Greece alien tribes marching in from the north similarly in the making of the Roman Empire, in the peopling of the British Isles by Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and Normans in France, Italy, and Spain by Franks, Normans, Lombards, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and afterwards by Arabs. Almost everywhere the story is one particular of invasion, killing, rape, and plunder and profession of the land that belonged to the vanquished. Today, this fusion or dispersion of peoples and cultures by indicates of loss of life and destruction is abhorred in theory but flourishing in actuality. Africa, the Middle and Far East, and South Central Europe are nonetheless theaters of conquest and massacre.”

French writer and thinker Pascal Bruckner explained fashionable Europeans as “[b]rooding more than its earlier crimes … generally completely ready to feel pity for the world’s sorrows and to consider accountability for them.” In a context exactly where a great deal of the relaxation of humanity refuses to engage in similar self-flagellation (Russia, for instance, is chaotic rehabilitating Stalin), one-minded European and American contrition could start off to appear suspiciously like a new sort of congratulatory exceptionalism.

–Gary Pavela
College of Maryland (Honors Higher education school and Director of Student Perform, retired)