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Monday December 6th

'We are here': First Nations Graduate Circle hosts land acknowledgement rally

"The land represents stability," reads a plaque at the front of the Gift by the Student Union. The Gift is an art installation that celebrates symbols drawn from Native American traditions and the natural world.
Buy Photos "The land represents stability," reads a plaque at the front of the Gift by the Student Union. The Gift is an art installation that celebrates symbols drawn from Native American traditions and the natural world.

“We are here.”

These are the words that Marissa Carmi, co-president of the First Nations Graduate Circle and a member of Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, used to encapsulate Wednesday’s Land Acknowledgement Rally. 

“It’s not just that this land was historically someone else’s, but also that those people are still here,” Carmi said. 

The FNGC hosted a rally in The Gift, a brick art installation next to the Student Union that incorporates imagery from Native American storytelling. The event, held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., encouraged all students and staff to learn about UNC’s prospective land acknowledgment. 

A land acknowledgment is an official proclamation that recognizes Indigenous people as the original inhabitants of a particular place. 

“This was built on stolen lands from brown people, and built on the backs of enslaved Black people,” said Lydia-Ruth Mansfield, historian for the Carolina Indian Circle and member of the Lumbee tribe. “It is so important that we acknowledge that history and not shy away from it.” 

The University issued a proclamation last month recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The proclamation also recognized that UNC was built on the land of the Occaneechi, Shakori, Eno and Sissipahaw people, but an official acknowledgement has yet to be received. 

The FNGC would like to see the land acknowledgment be adopted by Indigenous Peoples’ Day of 2022, Carmi said.

In 2013, when the UNC American Indian Center published information about enrollment of AI student enrollment within the UNC system, it wrote: "Overall AI student enrollment in the UNC system is declining faster than any other race or ethnicity."

Since 2012, when UNC had 104 American Indian students, the number of Indigenous students has not increased by much. This semester, there are 111, according to enrollment data from the Office of Institutional Research & Assessment.

Mansfield said official land acknowledgment would help Native students feel safer at UNC.

“It’ll be more inviting for new Native students to come on campus,” Mansfield said. 

Carmi said she finds hope in the recent proclamation’s use of the word "home."

“UNC is home to the American Indian Center. UNC is home to the native studies program,” Carmi said. “I think having the land acknowledgment just confirms that, and I think it will really solidify that for visitors, for potential students and people who are already here.”

Both Carmi and Frankie Bauer, co-president of the FNGC and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, encouraged students to explore UNC’s American Indian & Indigenous Studies program. 

“When you take some classes on native history and Indigenous history, a lot of it is really sad and traumatic,” Bauer said. “But there’s also that positive energy that you get. That’s the part that really can elevate who we are as people. We’re not just war bonnets and feathers, we are much more.”

The FNGC asks students and the greater UNC community to support the recognition and importance of the land acknowledgment.

“There’s Indigenous and Native people here," Bauer said. "We’re still here and we’re going to continue to voice our perspectives and opinions. We are not exclusionary — help us, join us, be a part of this. We need allies. We need help."

The rally is a part of the collection of events happening on campus to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month throughout November.

More information about events can be found on the American Indian Center website. 

@livvreilly I

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