Relationship Building and Congregational Work Key to Land Acknowledgement at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska
What affectionately came to be known as SIP–Summer Indigenous Programming–began with already-established relationships, a strong desire, and a congregation eager to move forward. For two years, the Unitarian Church of Lincoln had considered adopting a meaningful land acknowledgment honoring the indigenous peoples who once made our land their home as well as establishing a concrete and continuing relationship with those who continue to be members of our community.
In March 2022 a team of five members, who knew each other from their work together–on the church’s anti-racist task force, via participation in Beloved Conversations Within, and in 8th principle research–offered to put together a six-week summer indigenous educational program. Sunday service speakers and events (films, talks, an art exhibit, and powwow) centered on Lincoln indigenous peoples, past and present. At the end of that time, a land acknowledgment built on knowledge and relationship would then be discussed and crafted. We were fortunate that our program coincided with the Nebraska University-Lincoln’s Center for Great Plains Study symposium, “A Year of Reckoning and Reconciliation: Conversation, Learning, and Connecting,” focusing on how residents of the Great Plains might best reckon with the violence, conflict, and abuse that has occurred in our region and move toward healing, justice, and reconciliation.
Our work began sooner than we expected. In April of 2022, we learned a land developer had obtained approval from the city to build a large apartment complex across the street from the oldest and most-used Native sweat lodges in the city. There had been no discussion with the Native community. On May 1 at about midnight, a group of Native community members and others erected the Niskithe Prayer on the site. Many church members as well as our minister supported the efforts of the Camp over the summer and continue to support their efforts to protect their holy site today. These actions and the events following into the summer gave immediacy to our programming and offered a forum for more native voices to be heard. The end of May brought a potluck dinner with Oklahoma visitors of the Otoe-Missouria tribe whose ancestors ceded the land that Lincoln now occupies.
Our formal program kicked off on July 3 with a service outlining summer plans in the morning and anchoring our summer of learning with “Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change,” an interactive program offered as part of the Boulder Friends Meeting’s Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples work. Summer Indigenous programming ended Sunday afternoon, August 21, with the second land acknowledgment crafting session. The program was enhanced by a resource guide to speakers, programs, informational, literary, and other sites to provide more in-depth information. The promotion included a summer calendar that was continually updated as information became available, the church monthly newsletter, and EBLASTS twice a week to inform and/or remind congregants of what events were coming.
As a final note beyond our planned programming, in September our congregation welcomed members of the Otoe-Missouria tribe home to Lincoln when they traveled here for Otoe-Missouria Day, a proclamation by Lincoln’s mayor acknowledging that our city sits on their ancestral lands.
If you have questions or would like copies of our resource guide and calendar, please reach out to Judy at email@example.com.
The UCL SIP team