St. Dunstan’s has been working to deepen our awareness of the history of our land for several years, starting in earnest with a Lenten series in 2021. (Read summaries of our first and second sessions of Mapping Repentance here and here.) Through that work, we added a website page about the history of this land, and called a Land Acknowledgment Task Force, which began work in the summer of 2021.
In the summer of 2022 we are sharing a DRAFT Land Acknowledgment. While we have come to understand that a land acknowledgment will always be a living document, this one is still in the process of being read, received, and edited within our congregation. We have not yet made decisions about when or how it will be read or posted. We are sharing it here simply to be open about our ongoing work.
In addition to the land acknowledgment itself, we have made a commitment to seeking out restorative actions. Those plans will be fleshed out in the fall and winter of 2022/23. We are making a voluntary land tax payment to the Wisconsin tribes, and encourage other churches and organizations to consider doing the same.
ST DUNSTAN’S LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT (FULL VERSION) – WORKING DRAFT – SUMMER 2022
Note: text in BOLD comes directly from the Village of Waunakee land acknowledgement, which was developed in collaboration with representatives of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
A Land Acknowledgment is a formal statement that recognizes the history and legacy of colonialism and dispossession that impacted Indigenous peoples, their traditional territories and practices. Acknowledgment is a simple, powerful way of showing respect, and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture.
The ability to gather, worship, learn, and establish our presence as a church came at a great expense of the original inhabitants of this land, the Ho-chunk or Hoocagra people, the People of the Sacred Voice. We would like to acknowledge that the land we occupy is Teejop, traditional lands of the Hoocagra people, and pay respect to elders both past and present.
Long before St Dunstan’s Episcopal Church was established, this area was home to the Hoocagra. They are the stewards of these lands and waters since time immemorial. The aboriginal homeland of the Hoocagra spans south and central Wisconsin, including their beginning place, the Red Banks on Green Bay.
The U.S. Government attempted to forcibly remove them by exploiting a series of land cessions and treaties, including the Treaty of 1832. However, the Hoocagra resisted these conquests and asserted their sovereignty as a nation. They continued to return to their ancestral homelands.
Today the Hoocagra own land in 14 counties in Wisconsin, and the Ho-Chunk Nation is the largest employer in Sauk and Jackson Counties. They continue to speak and share their language, and to practice and pass on their way of life.
Two hundred years ago, the land where St. Dunstan’s now stands was the outskirts of a Ho-Chunk town, presided over by Chief Kau-kish-ka-ka or White Crow. The residents were caretakers of a sacred landscape, including the fox effigy mound that remains nearby. Later, when this land had been emptied and taken for farming and speculation by white settlers, Ho-Chunk still returned to hunt, fish, and honor the graves of their ancestors. Settler children grew up in the farmhouse behind the church hearing stories of “Indian ponies” eating their father’s hay.
St Dunstan’s now stands on this land, seeking a new relationship of truth-telling, honor and respect.