This Land

Our office is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, across the Mississippi River from Fort Snelling and less than a mile from the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. This area marks the beginning of a special landscape known as the driftless region that extends south and east into parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. The driftless region escaped the flattening effects of retreating glaciers during the last ice age and is consequently characterized by steep, forested ridges, deeply carved river valleys, and geology made distinct by spring-fed waterfalls and cold-water trout streams. Ecologically, the Driftless Area’s flora and fauna are more closely related to those of the Great Lakes region and New England than those of the broader Midwest and central Plains regions. Westward from here are the wide open grasslands that long ago featured thousands of grazing bison. North and East are the deep woods and rocky shores of the Boundary Waters, and the thousands of trickling streams that are the headwaters of the Mississippi.

The landscape of the Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minnesota is particularly beautiful and fertile—it is a central attractor and feature of life here. The shapers of our city paid particular attention to public open space, we have hundreds of parks, parkways, bikeways and outdoor spaces that are a large part of our wellbeing, daily rhythms, and sense of belonging. We grew up here and we feel deeply connected to this place, yet, this land is not our land.

Despite the connections that may have been formed, we are relative newcomers to this land [1]. Only in the mid 1800’s—just a few generations ago—white settlers began making claims on this land, claims based on deception, disruption, theft and genocide. This land was stolen from the people who lived here for thousands of years.

Who walked here before us?

Where our offices reside, indeed the entire state of Minnesota, is on the Dakota land they called Mni Sota Makoce. Mni Sota Makoce has been inhabited for over 8,000 years (some accounts as old as 12,000 years). Just a few hundred years ago, in the 1600’s, when white people began arriving, it was inhabited by the Dakota and Anishinaabe [2] peoples. Specifically, the place where the Mississippi (Wakpá Tháŋka )and Minnesota (Wakpá Mnísota) rivers meet is a sacred place known as Bdoté and is central to Dakota creation stories. Where we live is Dakota Homeland. This land is their land.

How did we come to call this land our home?

This land came to be a part of the United States through violent takeover and displacement, coercive treaty negotiation, and theft (broken treaties)—all supported by intentional cultural genocide and perpetuated by an ongoing false narrative that native populations are a thing of the past. White settlers moved onto this land when it was already inhabited—inserting themselves onto a landscape that was cultivated by a high functioning, sophisticated, sovereign nation with a rich culture and heritage. The white settlers interacted with the existing nation and its people through violence, disregard, and a clear intention to erase them from the land and history that belonged to them for thousands of years [3].

Tribal nations negotiated as one government to another government, preserving their sovereign land, rights, and privileges through treaties. We, white people, have upheld none of our agreements, violating 100% of the treaties we made with these stewards and residents (they would not use “ownership”) of this land.

The land on which the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis reside was ceded under threat of military force in a treaty signed in 1805 [4]—a treaty only signed by two of the seven native leaders present at negotiations. While our own local military valued this land at $200,000, only $200 was given at the time of the signing and the federal government only ever agreed to pay $2,000.

By 1849 Minnesota was officially a territory of the United States and the desire to establish homesteads on this fertile land was high from white settlers. The threat of military force and trading pressure resulted in the 1851 treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota [5] in which nearly the entirety of current day Minnesota and eastern Dakotas were ceded (a total of 21 million acres @ only 7.5 cents an acre). The federal government retained most of the fee for paying perceived debts to white settler traders, establishing schools for cultural assimilation (aka cultural genocide) and for relocation of the Dakota populations. Only 5% interest was paid annually for 50 years.

The treaties of 1851 also called for setting up reservations on both the north and south sides of the Minnesota River. But the U.S. Senate changed the treaties by eliminating the reservations and leaving the Dakota with no place to live. Congress required the Dakota to approve this change before appropriating desperately needed cash and goods. President Millard Fillmore agreed that the Dakota could live on the land previously set aside for reservations, but only until it was needed for white settlement. By depriving a nation of access to its own land, untold hardship and starvation ensued over the following years. White settlers and the creation of this state are directly responsible for the deaths of 10,000s of rightful residents of this land.

Why did whites settle here?

When white people came to this land they saw the forests, the rivers and the rich topsoil. They saw the abundance of wildlife, the bison, white-tailed deer, black bears, and beavers. They saw lumber, agriculture, and commerce. They saw wide open land, free from the structures of European settlements and without the cultivated rows of crops, and mistakenly thought this was wild, unmanaged land. Yet, what made the top soil so rich was the highly complex regenerative food ecosystem that the Dakota people used to nourish their families in a way that would ensure that future generations would also thrive. The settlers did not see the Dakota people, their rich culture, or their wise ways. Instead, the settlers imposed their order on the land, extracting natural resources such as iron, lumber and topsoil for the purpose of empire building. Minneapolis and Saint Paul became a hub of white commerce, the Mississippi River the perfect resource for milling flour and moving lumber and agricultural products to the rest of the empire.

Why a land acknowledgement?

It is important to acknowledge that this is still indigenous land. Until new agreements are made and honored, sovereignty to sovereignty, it will remain indigenous land that was stolen through colonial theft and violence. This is not just an issue of history, it is an issue of our collective future. Indigenous people are not relics of the past, they are still here.

“We are still here, and we continue to demonstrate our talents and gifts amidst a backdrop of ongoing colonialism and oppression. We are worth celebrating.” From Native Gov

Acknowledging the truth is one way of giving thanks. It is one step toward undoing erasure and making visible what goes unseen by dominant culture. There are wounds and wrongs that get between us, between our common humanity. We are not co-equals creating a life together. We must continue to seek healing and a future in which we can all be connected. Acknowledging the past and our current reality is a step toward an imagined, shared future.

While this is not “my” land, I feel a deep connection to it. This land is a centering place, a spiritual place. The prairie, the forests, the waters of the lakes and rivers, the cliffs and valleys of the driftless region—my ancestors did not live here, but this land is deep in my bones. I don’t know what it feels like to live on land that is free of this violent history, land that my people have walked on for thousands of years. I wonder what that would be like. I cannot quite feel it, but can imagine how devastating it must be to exist in someone else’s version of your future.

There is an irresistible invitation in this moment of climate change, environmental damage, broken food systems, and economic injustice to become aligned with Indigenous self-determination and land stewardship. The Dakota way of life offers us a viable path to a future of abundance, in community with other people and this land.

“As a Dakota person, your No. 1 duty is to be a good relative: to other people, to the planet, to your ancestors — through honoring their spirits. … They say [the word Dakota] means friends or allies, but it really means being able to make peace with other people. The word for peace treaty, Wodakota, means ‘peace with everyone’.” Marlena Myles, Educating Through Art and Innovation

If you let this penetrate you, if you begin to shift your mindset toward regenerative landscapes and stewardship of land, you will see the world differently, abundant and full of beauty, connection, community and possibility.

Our reasons for acknowledging that this is not our land extend beyond this place. We travel and work in many places, all over the globe. Wherever we are, we are always walking on someone else’s land. Acknowledging the history of this place we call home opens up a more honest conversation about the history of other lands we walk on. It calls us into curiosity about the people of these lands, their struggles and their culture. It calls us to question our assumptions, the narratives that keep the status quo in place. The impact of colonialism is global and ever present. Acknowledging this allows us to see beyond the easy narrative and begin uncovering what is really going on. It is only from this place of honesty that we can begin to make real and lasting change toward a future that holds us all as whole.

What do we hope this land acknowledgement provokes for you?

We want this to be an invitation to:

  • Learn more about the indigenous people living today.
  • Be curious about how to live regeneratively and as stewards of the land.
  • Go beyond the easy narratives and curated histories of the lands you occupy or travel to—dig in and question, what else could be going on here?
  • Immerse yourself in the scholarship and lived experiences of indigenous land. occupation, colonization, and impacts of white supremacy culture. Here are a some concepts you might investigate: scramble for Africa, doctrine of discovery, maps of indigenous lands.
  • Write your own land acknowledgement. Here are a few places to start—Guide to indigenous land acknowledgments and the OnBeing land acknowledgement.

The map on this page was purchased from and made by Marlena Myles, a Native American artist (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscokee Creek) and designer based in Minneapolis.


  1. “Why the term “newcomer”? Non-indigenous people are relatively new to the land now known as the United States. They came for many different reasons — to escape religious or political oppression, to find a passage to the East, to discover new sources of wealth and property, to spread Christianity. Millions of Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas as enslaved people. Thus, the term “settler” does not accurately describe every early immigrant.” From the US Dakota War website,
  2. Dakota anglicized is part of the Great Sioux Nation and member of the Seven Council Fires. The Anishinaabe is anglicized as Ojibwe.
  3. The doctrine of discovery initiated in the 1100’s in Europe form the cultural narrative basis for the colonization and violent seizure of land not inhabited by Christians.
  4. Read more about the treaties negotiated for the land now known as Minnesota here.
  5. This map shows land cessions via treaties over this period of time.