Land and Labor Acknowledgement

2023 GEO Learning Conference - Land and Labor Acknowedgement

GEO acknowledges that the land on which we gather for this conference, at the Washington Hilton, occupies the present ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank (Anacostan) people and over time neighboring Piscataway and Pamunkey people, who are so called Washington, D.C. and Maryland’s first families. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and extend our gratitude for their stewardship of this land.

The strategic location of the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, tidewater and piedmont, made the area a major crossroads and trading center for coastal and interior tribes. These river systems and current national parks are where the Piscataway, Pamunkey, the Nentego (Nanichoke), Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Monacan and the Powhatan cultures thrived. The village of Nacotchtank (from which the name Anacostia is derived) was the largest of the three American Indian villages located in the Washington area and is believed to have been a major trading center. The people of Nacotchtank, or Anacostans, were an Algonquian-speaking people that lived along the southeast side of the Anacostia River in the area between today’s Bolling Air Force Base and Anacostia Park, in the floodplain below the eastern-most section of today’s Fort Circle Parks. A second town, Nameroughquena, most likely stood on the Potomac’s west bank, opposite of what today is Theodore Roosevelt Island. Another village existed on a narrow bluff between today’s Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and MacArthur Boulevard in the northwest section of the city. Today, roughly 4,000 American Indians live in present-day Washington, D.C.

We thank the members of the Native Indigenous Peoples, sovereign nations and people of the African and Caribbean diaspora for their centuries-long contributions and continued stewardship of the area and for their innumerable contributions throughout the greater Washington region and beyond.

We acknowledge the legacy of the ancestral homelands and traditional territories of Native Indigenous Peoples from which they were dispossessed and the systemic erasure of their complex and unique histories and cultures. We further recognize the role of land dispossession as a means to expand slavery across North America. We acknowledge the heritage of the African and Caribbean diaspora and acknowledge the violent reality of slavery and forced labor of Black and Brown bodies that built this area. Washington, D.C. has a rich history of Black culture and influence despite centuries of economic disinvestment, police violence, and lack of voting representation in Congress. We honor and celebrate their resilience and continue to see the importance of this land and its history that is home to people of many diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

We commit to continuing to learn about the history and ongoing impacts of colonization, and to actively work toward decolonization and the restoration of land and resources to Indigenous peoples. We also commit to integrating a land and labor acknowledgement into all of our events and activities, and to using our platform as grantmakers to advocate for policies and practices that promote equity, justice and dignity for all.

Philanthropy’s Role

GEO recognizes historical and present-day injustices and does not exist independently from centuries of forced labor and economic extraction from enslaved peoples. The pioneers of U.S. philanthropy, not coincidentally, were known as “robber barons,” white men who accumulated large amounts of wealth often by extracting labor and resources from Black, Native Indigenous and immigrant communities. The persistent gaps in wealth, income and opportunity that exist today, divided starkly along racial lines, trace their origins to this history. The legacy of racism, slavery and colonialism persist today as we continue to work towards centering equity, justice, liberation and community, and strive to dismantle the existing, oppressive systems interwoven into the fabric of our philanthropic sector.

Although Native Indigenous Peoples account for nearly 2% (5.4 million) of the U.S. population, less than 0.5% of annual U.S. foundation grant dollars are allocated to the communities, according to Native Americans in Philanthropy.

We are mindful that we cannot separate the history of the philanthropic sector from the history of colonialism, racism and slavery. We recognize the link between historical collective trauma and today’s funding priorities and the need for collective change. We will continue to re-educate ourselves about the histories and experiences of all peoples in our places of community.

Ways to Take Action

This Labor and Land Acknowledgement is one of the ways we are thinking about this, and we encourage you to share your own thoughts and approaches to this topic. Land and labor acknowledgements alone are only a starting point and these words have a stronger meaning when they are followed by action. We ask you to reflect on your work in relation to the labor and land in your community, while acknowledging this call for a profound shift in grantmaking practices and priorities is not new. GEO has a responsibility to share our own journey as we reconcile the ways in which norms of white dominant culture retains control of the philanthropic field.

The state continues to displace Indigenous peoples even today. We encourage conference participants to learn more about the urgent and ongoing displacement of the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians in Charles County, MD and take action through the ACLU of MD here and learn more via their website here.

To further embrace this commitment, GEO has donated to Through Piscataway Eyes, a nonprofit operating to promote and protect the welfare, culture and history of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe, to the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians for land tax, and to Baldwin House, an effort led by Black and brown tenants with the support of Ward 1 mutual aid, to purchase their apartment building to turn into affordable housing and a mutual aid hub.

At the end of the day, remember that starting somewhere is better than not trying at all. We need to share in Black and Indigenous peoples’ discomfort. They have been uncomfortable for a long time. Ask yourself: How do I and my organization plan to take action to support Black and Native Indigenous communities in my area? A few ways to take action include:

Re-educate yourself and take time to reflect on and understand the history, traumas and current inequities Black and Native Indigenous communities face in your area.

Ask what is needed by Black-led and Native Indigenous-led organizations. Providing multi-year, general operating support could be a start.

Support Native Indigenous and Black causes and organizations, including but not limited to expanding comprehensive updates to education curriculum, healthcare and housing efforts, as well as Native Indigenous-led and Black-led grassroots change movements. Encourage your grantmaking peers to do so also.

Consider starting on a path towards reparations at your organization. As an example, GEO member, the Seattle Foundation, is working to advance and support Black-led community leadership through the REPAIR framework (Racially Equitable Philanthropy Aimed at Initiating Reparations).

Consider starting an initiative to build Indigenous economy, similar to GEO member Northland Foundation’s ongoing work with the Maada’ookiing Grassroots Grant Program.

Stay updated on local projects in your area, such as the Cedarville Band of the Piscataway Indians’ fight for their #LandBack and more.

GEO shares deep appreciation to those who helped us craft this Land and Labor Acknowledgement. Thank you to Dave Spencer (Mississippi Chata/Dine) from the American Indian Center and the GEO sub team for their generous time, efforts and meaningful contributions to this Acknowledgement in 2022 and 2023. Because of their generosity in sharing their experience, research and advice, we are becoming more aware of how our nation’s past contributes to today’s persistent gaps in wealth, income and opportunities and the steps we can take to create more equitable futures. These ever-evolving approaches strive to realize GEO’s long-term vision of equipping courageous grantmakers to work in service of nonprofits and communities to inspire self-determination and cultivate resilience for an equitable, inclusive future in which we all can thrive. To explore present-day and historical topics on the Native Indigenous and Black people of Washington, D.C., visit the following centers or resources:

Incomplete list of Native Indigenous Centers or Community Organizations in Washington, D.C.

Incomplete list of Black-led Centers or Community Organizations in Washington, D.C.

Starting Place of Washington, D.C. Resources

For more resources related to present-day and historical land and labor topics, consider starting with: