Lands + Peoples Acknowledgment
“Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life;
it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools.”
– Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang
Map of current reservations and tribal lands in Wisconsin, via WisconsinFirstNations.org
Haho (m) / Hą (f), Pōsōh, and Bozho. Greetings in the languages of the Ho-Chungra (Ho-Chunk), Omaeqnomenaewak (Menominee), and Neshnabek (Potawatomi) – all nations and peoples of Mino-akking / Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) occupies land on the banks of the Milwaukee River in what is presently known as Wisconsin. This land is the home of Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Potawatomi and Ojibwe peoples, and it is the historic and present-day home of peoples who were forced by colonizers to leave their ancestral lands and migrate to and through this state.
Previously a diverse wetlands ecosystem that provided passage to the Great Lakes, this area of Milwaukee (now called the Historic Third Ward) was forcibly ceded to colonizers Solomon Juneau and George H. Walker in the 1830s. The violent displacement of Indigenous communities resulted in opportunities for incoming settlers whose exhaustion of natural resources irreparably altered the landscape and damaged Indigenous lifeways. MIAD recognizes the impact of settler colonialism on the Indigenous custodians of this land. These mechanisms of assault include, but are not limited to, diaspora; ethnic cleansing; gendered violence; intentional destruction of language, stories and traditions; desecration of graves and sacred sites; attempted erasure from histories; and the contamination of land and water. We recognize our propertization of this land and the complicity of modern academia in maintaining imbalanced knowledge hierarchies.
This acknowledgement reminds us that MIAD exists as a palimpsest passed down through the process of settler colonialism. It is a commitment by MIAD to use our advantages as an institution recognized by the government, which holds power over this land, to uplift Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who have been silenced. MIAD creates this acknowledgement not only as a form of accountability, but as a signal of the direct action necessary in the reparation process. As we support decolonial pathways, we will work to honor ways of knowing that have been suppressed and account for pasts that have been disguised. Our acknowledgment is not simply a gesture of goodwill toward the original stewards of this land and to those forcibly brought to it. This statement was made with the understanding there is still much work to be done and it serves as a starting point of reconciliation. These words represent MIAD’s pledge to ongoing work now and in future generations to uplift BIPOC artists and designers whose work continues to sustain Milwaukee’s vibrant community. Decolonization is not a metaphor.
This Acknowledgment does not, or intend to, represent official or legal standing or boundaries of any nations. This Acknowledgment is a living document written by members of the MIAD community, in consultation with Indigenous nations. If you have questions or feedback, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Land and Peoples’ Acknowledgment?
Land Acknowledgment is a transformative act:
To counter the “doctrine of discovery”
To confront our place on native lands and build mindfulness of our present participation in ongoing colonial legacies
To create a broader awareness of the history that has led to this moment
To begin to repair relationships with Indigenous communities and with the land
To teach and promote greater public consciousness of indigenous sovereignty and cultural rights
To offer recognition, honor and respect for local Indigenous protocol
To affirm our responsibility to amplify and center Indigenous voices and to work towards ongoing action and relationship
Why does MIAD have this Acknowledgment?
Colonialism is not a feature of the historical past. It is a current process, with impacts in our present world. It is important for each of us to understand the history that has brought us to Milwaukee, to seek to understand your place within that history, and to take action toward dismantling colonialism. As Wisconsin’s only four-year, private college of visual art and design, our teaching and our graduates make a distinct impact on our region. This is one of the ways we can live out our values of Community, to positively contribute to the world around us, and Inclusion, to find strength in our diversity.
How is the Acknowledgment used at the college?
The Acknowledgment is read out loud at major college events (e.g. new student orientation, convocation, signature lectures, etc.) and used in internal College publications.
Note: The person giving the Acknowledgment should be the host of the event or meeting. Please note that the Acknowledgment is not something you “just do” before an event. Rather, it is a reflection process in which you build mindfulness and intention. It is strongly recommended to read through the Acknowledgment in advance to avoid errors or offense.
Personal Email Signatures
Please use the following abridged version and link to miad.edu/landacknowledgment when including the Acknowledgment in your email signature:
The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) occupies land on the banks of the Milwaukee River in what is presently known as Wisconsin. This land is the home of Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe peoples, and it is the historic and present-day home of peoples who were forced by colonizers to leave their ancestral lands and migrate to and through this state. MIAD’s Acknowledgment affirms our actionable commitment to uplifting and centering Indigenous peoples and knowledge in our teaching and administration. Read the full Acknowledgment.
External to MIAD
For external communications, please use the following abridged version and link to miad.edu/landacknowledgment.
The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) occupies land on the banks of the Milwaukee River in what is presently known as Wisconsin. This land is the home of Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe peoples, and it is the historic and present-day home of peoples who were forced by colonizers to leave their ancestral lands and migrate to and through this state. MIAD’s Acknowledgment affirms our actionable commitment to uplifting and centering Indigenous peoples and knowledge in our teaching and administration.
What do “colonial” and “decolonial” mean?
Depending on where you are in the world, colonization may show up in different ways. For us at MIAD, in what is presently known as the United States, we are living under settler colonialism. This means we are living in an imperial settler state, which is and was predicated on stealing land from Indigenous people. This form of colonialism sees land being continually occupied by colonizers/settlers. In addition to genocidal practices, settler colonialism often involves violent assimilationist practices and forced indoctrination into colonial ideologies (colonial values and beliefs).
Within this state, there were, and are, other types of colonialism simultaneously at play. Another being extractive colonialism (aka exploitation colonialism). Extractive colonialism may not necessarily involve the occupation of land, but always involves the exploitation or theft of something from that land – this refers to, for example, the stealing of human beings, as happened in the transatlantic slave trade, or to the theft of natural resources. To make things even more complicated, we are also dealing with internal colonialism in the United States: gentrification is a good example of this. Internal colonialism manifests in the uneven development of areas, which leads to disastrous social and economic effects on minority populations.
To be “decolonial” means to adopt decolonization as a liberatory tool that critiques white supremacy and colonial violence while simultaneously upholding and celebrating Indigenous epistemologies (ways of knowing, viewing, and understanding the world). True decolonization also moves beyond the expulsion of colonial ideologies. Decolonization must never be separated from the physical liberation of land from settlers. In our present settler state, MIAD recognizes that decolonization is an ongoing, multivalent process that must never be a symbol or simply a discourse without direct action. We are committed to not only decolonizing the materials/content we introduce to students but making this building, and the land upon which it was built, a space of collaboration, learning, and research with Milwaukee’s BIPOC communities.
How is MIAD committing to decolonization?
Productive disruption of curriculum.
Disruptions that move outside of the classroom and into the wider community through public-facing, collaborative events.
Community-based engagement via opening intellectual and physical space for our BIPOC community.
Unsettling settler ideologies/value systems.
We are currently taking the following actions:
Adding more gender and racially diverse materials to the Library collection.
Creating a college-wide committee to develop a plan of action related to decolonization at MIAD.
We intend to take the following actions:
Commission a public art piece by Indigenous creative.
Explore designated scholarships for Indigenous student(s).
Deepening our relationship with Native nations and communities.
Finally, we pledge that this list will not remain finite.
Who created this Acknowledgment?
Land and People’s Acknowledgment Committee Members
Richard Anderson-Martinez (Chair), Staff, Equity & Inclusion Center
Chad Alexander, Student, Fine Arts: New Studio Practice
Margaret Schmitz, Faculty, Art History
Janelle VanderKelen, Faculty, Art History
Nancy Siker, Staff, Learning Commons
Jenna Valoe, Staff, Pre-College and Continuing Education
Kayle Karbowski, Staff, Emerging Technology Center
Dustin Hoot, Staff, Human Resources
In the media and press
- Indigenous Milwaukee in the Age of Empire https://emke.uwm.edu/entry/indigenous-milwaukee-in-the-age-of-empire/
- Return the Parks to the Tribes https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/05/return-the-national-parks-to-the-tribes/618395/
- Diversifying Art History: A Collective Bibliography https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Av75-GPmqQPDDEjyp4wGV50MQYp9oovXqxcrbOnZeYg/edit
- Ramon Tejada’s Decolonizing Design Reader https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Hbymt6a3zz044xF_LCqGfTmXJip3cetj5sHlxZEjtJ4/edit
- Modernity + Coloniality seminar http://modernitycoloniality.com
- What Does It Mean to Decolonize Design? https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/what-does-it-mean-to-decolonize-design/
- Why Can’t the U.S. Decolonize Its Design Education? https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/why-cant-the-u-s-decolonize-its-design-education/
- Practicing Decolonization: A conversation about decolonizing strategies in and outside of art institutions and the academy https://slought.org/resources/practicing_decolonization
- Tribal Histories (PBS) https://www.pbs.org/show/tribal-histories/
- Decolonize This Place https://decolonizethisplace.org/
- Indigenous Kinship Collective https://indigenouskinshipcollective.com/
- LAND BACK https://landback.org
- Wisconsin First Nations Educational Resources https://wisconsinfirstnations.org/ and https://uwm.edu/eqi/
- The Red Nation https://therednation.org
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Photography alum Sarah Stankey ’13 shares the vulnerable and traumatic experience of 90 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in her new exhibition “What to Expect,” hosted by Madison’s Arts + Literature Laboratory as part of the Bridge Work Madison program.
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Dr. Margaret J. Schmitz, an Assistant Professor at MIAD who teaches primarily art history, published a new article titled “Indigenous Temporal Enmeshment in Akwesasne Notes” in Panorama, a digital art history journal.
MIAD students in the Black Leaders and Artists Coalition (BLAC) partnered with one of Milwaukee Art Museum’s teen programs to host high school students for a tour of the college, panel discussion with BLAC members and art project this past Thursday.