Lawrence City Commission to discuss potential indigenous land acknowledgment project

photo by: City of Lawrence

Vice Mayor Courtney Shipley, top right, discusses the idea of a land acknowledgement at the Lawrence City Commission's meeting June 1, 2021.

Some City of Lawrence leaders would like the city to make an official acknowledgement of the Native American tribes that have lived in the area.

During the Lawrence City Commission’s meeting Tuesday, Vice Mayor Courtney Shipley suggested that the city research and create an indigenous land acknowledgement and community education project. Shipley noted that the city has signs at its main entry points listing Lawrence’s sister cities, and the tribes that have had their homelands in the area could also be listed on such a sign. Shipley said she would want the project to include a history about the tribes that have lived in the area and involve sharing the information with the public and the schools.

“It seems knowing a little bit about that history is really important for our community,” Shipley said. “To me, I would like every kid I stop on the street to be able to name three tribes that were here.”

Shipley said she thought the land acknowledgement should include tribes that have historically lived in the area and those whose original homelands were elsewhere but were forced to relocate to the area.

Commissioner Jennifer Ananda said she appreciated the idea, and she thought the city should consult with tribes to see what they thought of the idea and whether there were any individuals, groups or organizations that would want to be involved in the effort. Ananda added that making the land acknowledgement during City Commission meetings would be an additional way to make the acknowledgement, and Mayor Brad Finkeldei said the information could also be put on the city’s website.

City Attorney Toni Wheeler, who has been working with the Kaw Nation on behalf of the city to return a sacred prayer rock that was stolen from the Kaw Nation’s homelands nearly a century ago, said in conversations she’s had with the Kaw Nation there is some interest in such an acknowledgement. Wheeler said city staff could bring some ideas about a land acknowledgement for all the tribal nations that have lived in the area to the commission’s meeting next week for further discussion.


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