The Pledge of Allegiance is supposed to start the day for students in the Anchorage School District, although some teachers ignore it. Now, the Anchorage School Board’s Governance Committee is considering adding a “land acknowledgement” as a required performative ritual.
The proposal has been discussed since at least March. Sponsored by School Board President Margo Bellamy and member Carl Jacobs, it is on track for approval this month, before the start of the school year.
The land acknowledgement statement would be required at the beginning of certain official events: Before school board meetings, commencement ceremonies, regional or state competitions or events, and professional conferences, a full land acknowledgement statement will be required to be read aloud.
At the start of every school week, at athletic competitions, before intramural school events, and at regular gatherings, an abbreviated land acknowledgement will be read to express “collective values.” For instance, before a school play or concert.
A land acknowledgement is a political statement that forces people to confess that they are colonizers and that the land they are on belongs to someone else — tribes, ancestors of original settlers. Others are simply “visitors from elsewhere.”
Some schools in the district ignore the requirement that the Pledge of Allegiance be recited. That district rule, which has been on the books for years, says, “The Pledge of Allegiance will be held as an opening ceremony at all ‘formal’ assemblies involving resource speakers and visitors. The principal and faculty should determine when the Pledge should be held for other assembly meetings. The Pledge of Allegiance shall be recited daily at the start of the school day. It is the expectation that an opportunity shall be provided for all students and staff to salute the flag with the Pledge of Allegiance during morning announcements daily. Students or staff exercising their right to not participate in the flag salute must demonstrate respect and courtesy, whether standing or seated.”
School Board member Dave Donley, the lone conservative on the board, has visited schools in the district and has said during school board meetings that some teachers are ignoring the Pledge of Allegiance. At the very least, he knows of schools that do not broadcast the Pledge over the loudspeaker, so there is no way to know if it is being done in individual classrooms.
The most recent Governance Committee meeting where the land acknowledgement is discussed is at this link:
The draft of the land acknowledgement resolution includes:
“This Resolution recognizes the importance of honoring and recognizing the traditional lands of the Dena’ina People, discusses a historical and researched take on the values and uses of a Land Acknowledgement, and offers a non-exclusive list of occurrences when the official Land Acknowledgement statement should be read.
“Whereas a Land Acknowledgment opens the opportunity to establish meaningfully aligned values with the contributions, innovations, and contemporary perspective of Indigenous peoples; and
“Whereas a Land Acknowledgement is an actionable statement that marks our collective movement towards decolonization and equity; and
“Whereas these lands and waters have been cared for and continue to be cared for by the Dena’ina people through traditions passed from generation to generation, and since the late 19th century, the Dena’ina homeland has been subject to the greatest settlement, urbanization, and population growth of any Alaska region; and
“Whereas the Eydlughet and K’enakatnu Tribes have lived and subsisted on the lands and waters between the Chugach and Talkeetna mountains for thousands of years, long before Anchorage was “founded” and developed by visitors from elsewhere; and
“Whereas a Land Acknowledgment is a formal statement recognizing shared values between the Anchorage School District and the traditional Indigenous relationship with the land5 that should avoid metaphorizing or tokenizing; and
“Whereas a Land Acknowledgement is done in ceremonies where outside stakeholders are invited to gather to collectively express shared values, shared commitment, and mindfulness of decolonization; and
“Whereas a Land Acknowledgement requires diligent and intentional mindfulness of what is being said, otherwise it turns the ongoing relationship between land and Indigenous values into an “empty gesture” to “honor … this century’s mascot”; now, therefore
“The Anchorage School Board resolves that as of the date of approval for this resolution, that all Anchorage School District schools and programs will honor, acknowledge, and respect the unceded Dena’ina lands during public gatherings and will be expected to use a Land Acknowledgement for all gatherings open to the public including but not limited to the starts of school weeks, athletic competitions, and intramural school events.”
The Governance Committee is preparing to move the land acknowledgement requirement to the full School Board soon. The next Governance Committee meeting is at 1 pm on Aug. 10, with information about how to watch it at this link.
The next regular School Board meeting is at 6 pm on Aug. 16, with information about it at this link.