4 Ways to Honor Ancestors of the Place Where You Live When You are Not Native to that Land
by Elsa Asher
When you live on land that you are not native to, you are a guest. Whether your family came as colonial settlers, by force in captivity to be traded as slaves, by political persecution or seeking asylum, it is important to honor the place and the ancestors of the land where you live. Of course, your social-ancestral location offers a nuanced experience of how you relate to the land you are on, and I by no means seek to diminish those real differences. I am offering a general introduction here, acknowledging that this is a large subject and one which contains multitudes of experience and perspective. I write this as a person whose lineages come from many different places and has never lived on land that I am native to.
1. Acknowledge them
When you facilitate a workshop, introduce an event, or hold a meeting, acknowledge whose land you are on. Use the native language’s word(s) for the place. Here is an excellent resource about land acknowledgement from meztli projects. If you don’t know whose land you are on, native-land.ca is a good place to start.
2. Pay your local native land tax
Offer a gift to your local indigenous land tax or a local indigenous-led organization that focuses on a particular theme you care about, e.g. social services, land trusts, etc. You can give annually based on your income, and also include other factors in your giving calculations, e.g. do you rent or own your home, do you run a business on this land, etc. Alternatively, you could give a monthly reoccurring gift, offer a percentage of your overall monthly income from your business, or give based on a component of your business, e.g. percentage of each session or product.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, California go to the Shuumi Land Tax; and if you live in Seattle, Washington go to Real Rent Duwamish. If you know of other native land taxes, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add it to this list.
If there is not a native land tax in your area, get together with 2-3 other people and start one! To learn more about creating a native land tax initiative, email email@example.com (a free guide is forthcoming, based on the process of a currently forming New York City reparations initiative).
3. Know where your own people come from
Introducing yourself includes naming the place(s) your own ancestors are from. If you don’t know where your people are from, seek to discover this information. “Where your people are from” isn’t a fixed thing, in that you may be asking, how far back do I trace, when in the timeline do I count that they were from a place? These are good questions, and it is up to you to decide the answers, based on your own family’s ethnic and tribal backgrounds.
4. Connect with your ancestors
If you are not already healing your family lineages, to ensure the ancestors of your 4 primary lineages are well, begin to do so. To learn more about ancestral lineage healing, check out ancestralmedicine.org. You can also schedule a complimentary consult to learn more about the ancestral healing process. If your family lineages are well, or even if one of your lines, e.g. your mother’s maternal lineage, is well, ask the lineage if they have anything to share about how to show up well living on the land where you live. You can ask your well ancestors to convey a message to the ancestors of people whose land you are on, though do this without an expectation of engagement in return. With the presence of your ancestors, make offerings to the land and the ancestors of the place where you are a guest.
May our well ancestors support us in our work of decolonization, of dismantling systems of oppression, and making reparations in response to the land theft, genocide and resource extraction of colonization. May our work be guided by their wisdom and backed by their love.