The Evanston Public Library this Wednesday hosted its first land acknowledgement ceremony recognizing that Evanston and the Library’s facilities reside on the lands of Indigenous people.
After months of work, and with input from its Racial Equity Task Force and assistance from Jasmine Gurneau (Oneida/Menominee), director of Native American and Indigenous Initiatives at the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Northwestern University, EPL’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee finalized the following land acknowledgement statement:
“Before colonization and settlement by people of European descent, the place we know as Evanston was home to the Potawatomi, Odawa and Ojibwe Tribes, also known as the Council of the Three Fires. It also served as an important crossroads and meeting place for a number of other Indigenous tribal nations, including the Ho-Chunk, Illinois, Inoka, Kickapoo, Miami, Menominee, Peoria, and Sac and Fox Nations. We acknowledge and honor the original people of this land, as well as the Indigenous people that still call this area home, and support their continued work for justice, self-determination, and sovereignty. In so doing, we honor Indigenous protocol, and remind ourselves and our community that land acknowledgements do not exist in the past tense.”
The full statement, to be read aloud at Library events and programs, also includes context on the importance of recognizing the land’s history. Land acknowledgements honor the Indigenous people who have lived and worked on the land since time immemorial and also acknowledge the current, ongoing process of colonialism.
Acknowledging the land is also Indigenous protocol. On Wednesday evening, Joyce Miller-Bean, who has African-American and Muscogee Creek (Bird Clan) heritage and co-chairs EPL’s Racial Equity Task Force, opened the meeting of the Library Board of Trustees with the first ceremonial reading of the land acknowledgement.
“I compliment the Evanston Public Library and this Board for their willingness to include this very important element,” Miller-Bean said prior to reading the land acknowledgement for the first time. “It is appreciated by members of the community.”
“I am proud that we’ve taken this step and recognize that a land acknowledgement is just the start,” Library Board President Tracy Fulce said. “Fulfilling the Library’s mission to be the hub of our diverse community requires a commitment to supporting the assets in our community, building and sustaining new and existing relationships and opportunities for social and cultural learning.”
Chicagoland is home to the third-largest urban indigenous population in the U.S., and the Evanston Public Library continues to expand its partnerships with Native American groups and organizations with the aim of amplifying Indigenous voices in its programming and collection.
Library patrons can find more information about Native and Indigenous history, current issues and literature on EPL’s Native and Indigenous Resources page.
The Evanston Public Library Board of Trustees would like to publicly thank Gurneau; Miller-Bean; Kim Vigue, director of the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian; the staff members of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and members of the Racial Equity Task Force for their contributions to this initiative.
The land acknowledgement can be read in its entirety along with accompanying resources at epl.org/land.
For more information on the Evanston Public Library’s initiatives to build a more equitable and inclusive library, visit epl.org/equity.