Know Where You Are

A map detailing the historical distribution of Native Land. Each color represents a different tribe. Image comes from

DETC Exec Board

Those who identify as fully or partially Native American make up around 1.7 percent of the US population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, but they have even less representation here at Burroughs.

For all of us at this school, it is important to recognize that colonialism, an ongoing process which started in the 15th century, enables us to reside and study on this land today. A Land Recognition formally acknowledges that Indigenous peoples have an everlasting relationship with their land: we are not the original stewards. This is our first attempt to address the invisibility of an issue that dates back six hundred years.

The habit of Native American land recognition, a habit still practiced by Indigenous people today, is a custom we would like to introduce to Burroughs this year. Before annual gatherings such as the first day of school, the Steven Plax address— formerly known as Thanksgiving assembly— and Graduation, we should take time to acknowledge the original caretakers of the land. We hope everyone, regardless of background, will publicly recognize the land they stand on so that we can all share the responsibility of staying informed.

Land Acknowledgment is not only for our past actions, but our current and future ones as well. We must understand where we fit in the historical landscape and be careful about what our actions could mean for future generations. An example of a land acknowledgement could look like the following:

“We the students of John Burroughs School acknowledge the original stewards of the land on which we stand: the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), the Wazhazhe Maⁿzhaⁿ(Osage), the Myaamia (Miami), and the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux) peoples. ”

As presented in the thesis by Billy McMahon for Northwestern University, around the same time of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, most tribes in the state of Missouri were pressured or forced to leave and resettle in various areas in the Midwest. The seven original tribes from Missouri include the Chickasaw, Illini, Ioway, Otoe, Missouria, Osage, and Quapaw. The tribes that relocated to St. Louis were the Kickapoo and Miami tribes. Although their descendants may live in this area, there are no federally-recognized tribes in the state of Missouri. That does not mean the nine original tribes who did inhabit this land should go unheard.

Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo)
Myaamia (Miami)
Wazhazhe Maⁿzhaⁿ (Osage)
Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux)

The story that these Indigenous people leave behind should be told and at a place like John Burroughs School, where we have the resources to educate ourselves,; we should make it our goal to recognize and honor the tribes that once lived here, and their descendants that still do.

As far as sharing stories, this is just the start. Each edition, this column will feature an article from a group under the Diversity ETC umbrella. The pieces will cover a variety of topics, at the discretion of the group writing, that aim to educate and inform, as well as hold the Burroughs community accountable.

*The contributors of this article do not identify as Native American or Indigenous. This article is by no means an attempt to represent a group of people, as none of us are speaking from personal experience. The sole purpose of this article is to honor and recognize the Indigenous groups who existed on this land before us.