December 11, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

For the last two years, students and staff in our Native American Cultural Center (NACC) and Native American community members have worked to develop a statement of land acknowledgment – an official statement that honors the ties that Indigenous people have to the land on which our University operates. Last spring, I gladly accepted a recommendation from Native American and Indigenous students that we adopt the practice of land acknowledgment at university events as a statement of truth, gratitude, and respect at Colorado State University.

This and other recommendations that came forward following the profiling of two young Native American men on our campus last spring led me to form a Task Force on Native American Initiatives. This group, which includes students, faculty, and staff from across campus, is specifically charged to make Colorado State University a better, more welcoming, and more inclusive campus by more fully acknowledging, honoring, and supporting the participation of Native American people in the CSU community. The task force began meeting this fall, and one of its first goals was to work in partnership with community elders to finalize a land acknowledgment statement for use by the campus community.

I am proud to say that the statement is now ready, and we will be sharing it more broadly in the spring along with guidelines on how it should and should not be used. But since you will start to hear it used at commencements this weekend – and as there has been considerable interest in this across campus already — I wanted to provide this context and share the text of the official statement below, with the caveat that it should be spoken or printed in its entirety when used, not altered or rewritten.

Colorado State University acknowledges, with respect, that the land we are on today is the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute Nations and peoples. This was also a site of trade, gathering, and healing for numerous other Native tribes. We recognize the Indigenous peoples as original stewards of this land and all the relatives within it.  As these words of acknowledgment are spoken and heard, the ties Nations have to their traditional homelands are renewed and reaffirmed. 

CSU is founded as a land grant institution, and we accept that our mission must encompass access to education and inclusion. And, significantly, that our founding came at a dire cost to Native Nations and peoples whose land this university was built upon. This acknowledgment is the education and inclusion we must practice in recognizing our institutional history, responsibility, and commitment.

When this statement is used, it should be done with respect for its intent and purpose as part of a welcome – not as part of event logistics or as a routine house-keeping item. If you are interested in presenting the land acknowledgment before the official usage guidelines are published in the spring, please feel free to reach out to the NACC office, Vice President for Enrollment and Access Leslie Taylor, or the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, and they will be happy to provide assistance.

If you’re interested in learning more about land acknowledgment, there are many outstanding resources online – this has been a longstanding practice in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and is becoming more widely practiced at universities here in the U.S., including the University of Illinois, Michigan State, University of Denver, and many others. I want to take this opportunity to thank NACC and the members of the Task Force for their hard work on guiding this initiative, and we can look forward to more information as the Task Force moves ahead this spring.


Dr. Tony Frank