Celebrating Native Land on Indigenous Peoples Day

Sam DiStefano
By Sam DiStefano  | 
Celebrating Native Land on Indigenous Peoples Day

The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing respectfully acknowledges and give thanks to the Piscataway Tribe – the Indigenous people who are traditional owners of the lands of the Chesapeake Bay region. We also acknowledge all Indigenous Peoples, the traditional owners of the lands and waters of the United States of America.

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing Land Acknowledgement

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing recognized the 2023 Indigenous Peoples Day by hosting a Land Acknowledgement Celebration. Schirra Gray delivered the formal land acknowledgement; he is a member of the Piscataway Indian Nation native to Maryland and a champion northern traditional dancer.

View photos from the celebration

What is Land Acknowledgement?

In the United States, there are 574 federally recognized tribes, each with their own unique culture. “By acknowledging their land, we can start to honor a past that existed before colonialism and injustice, and celebrate the many Native cultures our country has never been able to destroy,” said Dean Sarah Szanton.

Indigenous Land Acknowledgment is a new but growing movement in the U.S., however it is a well-established protocol in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It represents a small, but critical movement toward tangible change and fostering hope for an equitable future. The School of Nursing has a permanent Land Acknowledgement in the Courtyard, and is the first and only school across the university to have a permanent acknowledgment.

Indigenous peoples are not simply surviving, we are thriving.”

E. Keith Colston, Administrative Director, Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs

Highlights from the Celebration

The celebration was held in the SON courtyard, where a teepee was erected to commemorate the occasion.

E. Keith Colston, Administrative Director of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs and member of the Tuscarora and Lumbee Tribes opened the celebration. Despite the countless hardships Indigenous people have faced, “Indigenous people are not simply surviving, we are thriving,” he said.

Rico Newman, Elder of the Choptico Band of Piscataway-Conoy Chiefdom that is Indigenous to Maryland, led an opening prayer. The celebration held special meaning for him as it was also his 81st birthday. As a historian, Mr. Newman spent many years working in partnerships to develop an academic curriculum for tutoring tribal youth; as a traditional beader, his work is on display at the Frisco Native Museum, N.C. and National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

Dr. Michelle Kahn-John, Fellow for the William T. Grant Foundation Institutional Challenge Grant and Research Associate at SON, spoke about reclaiming health and healing through research. Dr. Kahn-John’s research focuses on the benefits of the Diné (Navajo) Hózhó wellness philosophy. Through this lens she emphasized the importance of balance, connection to Mother Earth, and care for each other.

The Warpaint Singers led students, faculty, and staff in a traditional “Round Dance,” a social dance that brings people together to honor and celebrate life. They also performed several ceremonial dances and invited everyone to participate in the “Mosquito Dance.”

View all photos from the celebration

Associate Professor Teresa Brockie, PhD, RN, FAAN led development for the Land Acknowledgement Celebration, with support from Ellie Decker, Research Program Manager. Dr. Brockie’s work at the school helps us understand more about the heritage, history, health, and resilience of Native peoples.

The Baltimore American Indian Center, Native American Lifelines Baltimore, The Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, and Buffalo Horse Inc. partnered with the School of Nursing for this event.

Join us for Being and Indigenous Ally in Academia November 7, hosted by Jillene Joseph, Executive Director of the Native Wellness Institute.

At the School of Nursing, we are committed to creating an environment where people from all backgrounds excel, and to preparing all future nurses to provide community-focused and culturally appropriate care. This takes the help of everyone in our community. Learn more about being an action-focused ally in research at this upcoming training.

View all photos from the celebration

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About the Author: Sam DiStefano

Sam DiStefano is the Social Media and Digital Content Coordinator for the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Sam works to bring the latest from JHUSON straight to your social media feeds and online reading.

Sam DiStefano

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