GRIC Assists in Development of Land Acknowledgement Statement for Heard Museum
Gila River Indian News
The Heard Museum recently installed a land acknowledgement statement honoring the ancestral lands of the Akimel O’otham. These acknowledgements are primarily used in the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand to honor the land’s original stewards and their tenure.
On May 2, the land acknowledgement statement was installed in the museum’s permanent exhibition titled Home: Native People in the Southwest, which highlights the rich culture and history of the Southwestern tribes. The statement is near the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh display.
“I’m very proud of the Heard Museum’s Land Acknowledgement Statement,” stated Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis. “It encapsulates the history of this land and the inseparable connections [the] Akimel O’otham have to the State of Arizona.”
He continued, “The Heard Museum houses many of our treasures as O’otham and Pee Posh, and this is a fitting dedication for all visitors to understand where exactly they are located.”
In 2019, the Heard Museum’s Program Committee began the process of developing a land acknowledgment.
Committee member Dr. David Martinez (Akimel O’otham/Hia Ced O’odham/Mexican) is an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community and is a Professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University.
Dr. Martinez led a special sub-committee to further research, evaluate and draft a land acknowledgement for approval.
“Working on the Heard Museum’s land acknowledgement statement was an immensely rewarding experience,” Dr. Martinez said.
“While the process was not without its challenges, I was gratified to see the statement build a bridge between the museum and the Akimel O’otham, on whose ancestral land the museum has thrived since it opened in 1929. More importantly, visitors from all over the world will know that when they walk the Heard Museum’s galleries that they are walking on the Akimel O’otham Jeved.”
According to Heard Museum Director and CEO David M. Roche, several examples of land acknowledegments from other art museums and organizations both locally and nationally were reviewed to aid in the development.
Dr. Martinez then drafted a land acknowledgement and presented it for feedback to the Four Southern Tribes: Gila River Indian Community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community, and the Tohono O’odham Nation.
“Dr. Martinez was the perfect individual to craft this message [not only] as a respected scholar, but also as a member of the Gila River Indian Community,” Gov. Lewis said.
After the tribes made revisions, GRIC Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Barnaby Lewis provided additional consultation on the statement. Then, with his approval, a final draft of the land acknowledgement statement was presented to the Program Committee and Museum Board of Trustees.
“The Heard is an art museum that seeks to honor Indigenous creative expression and culture through our exhibitions, publications, and programs. Respect and care for the land has been a source of inspiration for exhibitions like “Rain”, and our upcoming exhibition “Substance of Stars”, for which both Professor David Martinez and Barnaby Lewis are advisors.” Roche stated, “It’s important to note that many of the works within the Museum’s collection, from basketry to pottery, are direct extensions of the land.”
He continued, “I believe that the Land Acknowledgement will educate our visitors that the Heard Museum currently resides on the ancestral lands of the Akimel O’odham and will remind them that their rich culture of creative expression still endures. It is also a way to affirm our ongoing commitment to building and nurturing our relationships with Indigenous communities locally, nationally, and internationally.”
The Heard Museum, located in downtown Phoenix, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free for Native Americans with tribal I.D. For more information, visit heard.org