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Penn College acknowledges campus’s Indigenous origins

A new institutional Land Acknowledgement Statement recognizes that Indigenous peoples were the original stewards of the land on which Pennsylvania College of Technology sits.

“We acknowledge that the land on which we live, work and learn is the ancestral home of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee, Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannocks and the Lenni Lenape (Delaware). We, too, recognize their Woodland Period ancestors,” the acknowledgement reads. “We are grateful for their stewardship and management of this land over thousands of years and promote this recognition in honor and respect of that caretaking.”

Penn College acknowledges campus’s Indigenous originsThe Penn College community notes the importance of understanding and appreciating the long-standing history of the land, and seeking to understand its place within that history in order to chart a better path forward.

“We value the over 100-year history of our institution,” the Land Acknowledgement webpage continues. “And we should value the 16,000 years of history that came before us and prepared the land for the education we now provide.”

The statement and supporting material, linked from the college website’s “About” section, was developed in conjunction with a campuswide committee that included input from faculty, staff and students.

“At Penn College, we take great pride in the history of our institution’s successful outgrowth from our community, which is celebrated on our website, in our collection of publications and on our award-winning campus History Trail,” President Davie Jane Gilmour said.

“According to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian: ‘Land Acknowledgment is a traditional custom that dates back centuries in many Native nations and communities. Today, Land Acknowledgments are used by Native peoples and non-Natives to recognize Indigenous peoples who are the original stewards of the lands on which we now live.’ Land Acknowledgement is therefore in keeping with the college’s tradition of celebrating our shared history, and is motivated by respect for the Native peoples who long lived where we now work and study.”

“The statement is as important and impactful as it is instructive,” said John F. Chappo, assistant professor of history/history of technology. “Beyond the desire to recognize, honor and remember those who have tussled and toiled to occupy these lands in an effort to improve their lives, whether individually or collectively, the statement, to me, also contains a theme of thanks: a ‘Thank you’ to them for their efforts in developing the land and harvesting its bounty in a responsible and sustainable way; that they took only what they needed or could carry; and that they were vigilant custodians of the land and its resources, and because of that vigilance we still can experience and enjoy the land’s plenty today.”

“I was proud to be part of the Land Acknowledgement because it not only recognizes the rich history of native populations in the region, but also serves as a reminder that Indigenous people in America are still here, contributing to American society and facing significant challenges,” added Craig A. Miller, associate professor of history/political science. “These challenges cannot be solved by non-Indigenous people, but the more broad awareness there is of the history of native populations in America, the more broad support there will be for helping to empower people to address current issues.”

“When I heard Penn College was putting together a Land Acknowledgement statement, I reached out right away,” said alumnus Jarred J. Jones, a member of the Shinnecock and Montaukett peoples of Long Island, New York, who sat on the Land Acknowledgement Committee while still a student in the Spring 2021 semester.  “There are many people who remain unrecognized, and Native Americans fall under that category far too often. Particularly in recent years, with social and civic divide increasing dramatically, sometimes people don’t realize just how many people are forgotten about.”

Jones – who holds degrees in applied management (2021), with a minor in small business management and entrepreneurship, and automotive technology (2019) – said he is usually hesitant to participate, believing that people not of his heritage don’t typically pay respect properly or let ignorance and prejudice influence their process, ultimately resulting in flawed statements.

“However, this Land Acknowledgement statement has been put together elegantly, thoughtfully and respectfully by the faculty and staff of Penn College,” he said. “I had the privilege to attend the meetings to share my biography, and I am honored to share that it has made my family proud and myself proud to have been involved.”

The committee that developed the statement included Chappo, Miller and Jones; as well as Allison Bressler Grove, director of student engagement; Sammie L. Davis, former coordinator of diversity and student engagement; and Elliott Strickland, vice president for student affairs.

Beginning this fall, the acknowledgement will be shared campuswide through a variety of avenues, including signage and other printed pieces, staff development sessions, and a marker along the college’s History Trail.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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