President’s Message – May/June 2021

By Jessica Jenner

Greetings my friends in librarianship. If you are reading this message, I am still the President of AzLA and thank the Board for allowing me to continue in this service to you all. Most likely members are not aware that I have been working on the development of an AzLA  land acknowledgement statement for over six months now. Thus far my efforts have been a huge failure. The development of a statement started out with the best of intentions and I drafted a lame statement based on the statement that was created by the ASU Libraries. Well this turned out to be worse than a great faux pas. I was ignorant and had no business even attempting to write a statement that acknowledges the owners of every inch of land in the United States. After this masterful screw up, I met a very fine human (no surprise he was a librarian) who has been educating me to the proper protocols for approaching the creation of a land acknowledgment statement.  

The most important lesson I learned is best defined in two important questions: Why are we writing this acknowledgement? What has pushed us to do this now? If we cannot answer these two questions then we are not ready to develop a statement. Well I was nowhere near answering these two questions last fall when I started and realized I had much to learn and contemplate before I ever reached a point of putting pen to paper. My contemplations and meditations on the subject have turned into a lengthy research process that is ongoing with no end in sight yet. The content of my research has involved in depth conversations with the true owners of the state of Arizona. I am learning; however, I am a long way from enlightenment.  

I now know why I am writing this statement. I need to acknowledge that all land in the lower 48 states, Alaska, and Hawaii does not belong to the current owners, it belongs to the people who were here before colonization. I also know what has pushed me to do this now. As I have mentioned in my last two messages published in this newsletter, I am done, and now is the time for action. I have also learned that I alone cannot write this statement. A wide range of individuals from all over the state is required in the creation of the land acknowledgement statement. In fact, I would say that we need to form a committee made up of a broad cross section of all members of AzLA, community and state leaders, and, most importantly, a large group of the true owners of this state. We need to reach out to representatives of all Arizona tribes to better understand the specific aspects of our state’s colonialism. Building this relationship with all local tribes will be a great first step past just writing a land acknowledgement statement. This is also important because we have much more to account for than just writing a statement.  

You see, America’s story has the implication that American’s are white and all other Americans that are not white have a qualifier attached to the designation, for example Native American, or African American. This is just another way of maintaining the master narrative of whiteness. If we don’t get past this simple truth, we will never be able to admit that all land is Native land. All aspects of life under colonization have benefitted from the oppression and exploitation of Native people and resources. Our statement will be more than words my friends in librarianship. It will be an expression of our willingness to listen to the true owners of this state, to learn from them, to respond appropriately, to reform, and to repatriate. I can tell you I am ready to acknowledge that every inch of this state is the property of the tribes of Arizona and needs to be deeded back to them immediately. I believe there are many more of us ready to admit this too. Live well my fellow friends in librarianship, we are a part of the most noble profession in the world.

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