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Swarthmore College Shares Land Acknowledgement, Details Steps to Support Indigenous Communities

Trees in Crum creek

President Valerie Smith shared the following message with the campus community on Feb 8, 2023:

Dear Campus Community Members, 

Swarthmore College has a tradition of honoring the natural environment that dates back to its founding. Since that time, the College community has served as responsible caretakers of the land on which our campus is situated. Our 425-acre arboretum campus has been a source of serenity, inspiration, and rejuvenation for generations of Swarthmoreans, and will continue to be for generations to come.

As good stewards, we must examine the complex history of our physical location: formally recognize that the College sits in Lenapehoking, or the Land of the Lenape, and honor the Indigenous Americans who cared for this land for generations.

As many of you will recall, I formed a Land Acknowledgement Task Force in 2021 to undertake that work. Last year, the task force concluded its work by sharing with me a draft land acknowledgment and a series of recommendations. Based on their efforts, I write to share with you the College’s newly established land acknowledgment, which has been affirmed by the College’s Board of Managers: 

Swarthmore College Land Acknowledgement
As a community of learners at Swarthmore College, we acknowledge that our campus is situated in Lenapehoking — also known as the Land of the Lenape — past and present. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the Indigenous people who stewarded it throughout the generations and who were driven from it by European and American colonizers. We commit to serve as responsible stewards of the land and to our shared, ongoing responsibility for community care. Consistent with Swarthmore’s commitment to social responsibility, we seek to build a more inclusive and equitable learning space for present and future generations through deliberate actions and collaborations.

As noted by the task force, a statement alone without substantive action behind it is insufficient. I am committed to adopting, in the near term, the following task force recommendations with the hope and expectation that they will deepen our support of and relationships with Indigenous communities. 

  • Establish a steering committee for Indigenous work on campus that comprises students, faculty, staff members, and an external Indigenous senior advisor. This group will be tasked with advancing conversations, policies, and actions that support Indigenous voices at the College.
  • Establish a fund dedicated to lifting up the work, values, and concerns of Indigenous people, including by hosting speakers and purchasing the rights to display various art and media.
  • Strengthen our recruitment efforts of Native American and Indigenous students, faculty, and staff members.
  • Engage in ongoing training and education to strengthen the retention of Native American and Indigenous students, faculty, and staff. We will do so in consultation with Indigenous community members and groups on campus.

The committee made several other recommendations that are under consideration, including those with curricular implications, that will be considered as part of our ongoing strategic planning efforts.

The land acknowledgment is available on the College website, along with guidance on using it. We’ll also use this site as a place to keep the community updated on these and related initiatives. And we will continue to look for ways to make this work more visible across our digital and physical landscapes. 

I want to recognize the individuals who undertook the task of exploring these important, complex issues:  

  • Denise Crossan, Director of Community and Strategic Initiatives and Interim Director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership
  • Carr Everbach, The Isaiah V. Williamson Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering and Task Force Co-Chair
  • James Fenelon, Lang Visiting Professor for Issues of Social Change and Task Force Co-Chair
  • Alisa Giardinelli, Assistant Vice President for Communications
  • Edwin Mayorga, Associate Professor of Educational Studies
  • Oswaldo Morales Solorzano ’21, Sustainability and Engaged Scholarship Fellow
  • Lei Ouyang, Associate Professor of Music 
  • Andrea Packard ’85, List Gallery Director
  • Christy Scheutze, Associate Professor of Anthropology 
  • Kevin Webb, Associate Professor of Computer Science

These efforts, while important, are just the beginning. I look forward to partnering with you as we advance this work in support of our values of inclusion, equity, and justice. 

My best, 

Val Smith

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