Check out my page "going beyond land acknowledgement" for more information on how I write (and go beyond writing) my land acknowledgements.
Cayuga Nation History
The lands now known as Tomkins County, NY, and the surrounding areas, were traditionally inhabited by the Cayuga (Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ) Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which was formed in the 12th century by the Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Mohawk Nations under the Great Law of Peace. Every member of the Cayuga Nation is also member of one of five clans – Bear, Heron, Snipe, Turtle and Wolf – each of which has a Clan Mother, whose role it is to take care of her clan members, and Council Representatives who form the decision making body of the Nation. According to the Cayuga Nation webpage:
Although the Cayuga Nation remained neutral [during the Revolutionary War] ... Cayuga villages were destroyed and its orchards burned during the campaigns of General Sullivan and Colonel Butler. The Cayugas were forced from their homeland and the land was dispersed in parcels to American soldiers. In November of 1794 it appeared that the wrongful taking of Cayuga land would be made right. The Treaty of Canandaigua [kan-uhn-DAY-gwuh] ... affirmed the Cayuga Nation’s rightful reservation as 64,015 acres of sovereign land. Unfortunately, the Treaty was ignored by New York. The Cayuga homeland was not returned to its owners. For the next 250 years the Cayuga Nation pursued its land claim against New York State.
Fascinatingly, two native nations from the region now known as the Carolinas were adopted by the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ in the 1700s: the Saponi and the Tutelo (Deyodi:ho:nǫˀ). It turns out that my move from Durham to Ithaca echoes some historical context, and I'm eager to learn more about this diaspora as I continue to research the Finger Lakes region's history. The History Center in Tomkins County maintains an excellent list of resources on Gayogohó:nǫˀ history and land acknowledgements, as well as a short history by Kurt Jordan: The Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫɁ People in the Cayuga Lake Region: A Brief History, available for purchase ($10). You can also read more about the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation at their tribal webpage, or in the "Durham" accordion tab below.
The Cayuga Nation in the Present
According to the Cayuga Nation Tribal History webpage: "The State of New York still claims that the Cayuga Nation has no reservation and will not permit the Cayuga Nation free use and enjoyment of a Treaty established reservation. The Cayuga Nation continues to fight for its Treaty Rights today and will continue to seek to have these rights upheld by the State of New York and the United State of America."
Recently, New York State returned over 1,000 acres of lands to the Onondaga Nation. Read more here from Sid Hill, Tadodaho (chief) of the Onondaga, Keeper of the Flame of the Six Nation Haudenosaunee Confederacy: "Why we accepted a thousand acres of land back from New York State: As Onondaga, we view this as only the first step toward a broader acknowledgement of our land rights."
Finally, local leadership and land ownership disputes within the Cayuga Nation have made national headlines in the New York Times: "Bulldozing. Kidnapping Claims. Inside a Battle Over a Tribe’s Future. What’s behind the internal power struggle within the Cayuga Nation in New York?" Or, for local coverage by the Ithaca Voice: "Years long dispute in Cayuga Nation sees tribal arrests, trials beginning."
For more about Ithaca and Cornell, read my page about land-grab universities.
The Gayogohó:nǫˀ Language
The word "Cayuga" is an Anglicization of "Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’", roughly pronounced "guy-yoh-KOH-noh", with the G further back in the throat than an English G, and the KOH elongated, as you might pronounce some Hawaiian or Finnish long vowels. In this 2018 video, Stephen Henhawk gives an excellent breakdown of the word's pronunciation and meaning, "the people from the muddy, moist area" -- or, more formally, "The People of the Great Swamp". Gayogohó:nǫˀ is an endangered language; there are fewer than a dozen first-language speakers at Ohswé:gęˀ and around Cayuga Lake. You can learn more about the Gayogohó:nǫˀ language through the Gayogohó:nǫˀ Learning Project.
In addition, take a look at this page to understand why the autonym (self-described term) Haudenosaunee (hoh-den-oh-SHOH-nee or hoh-den-oh-SOH-nee) honors these peoples more than the colonial term "Iroquois". Haudenosaunee derives from two words in the Seneca language: Hodínöhšö:ni:h, meaning "those of the extended house," and Hodínöhsö:ni:h, meaning "house builders". (English-Seneca dictionary).
WHere i earned my Ph.D. (Durham, NC)
I live in what is now called Durham County, North Carolina. These lands were stolen by English colonists from the peoples inhabiting them long before I or my ancestors arrived here. Much of these lands were ceded during and after the Cherokee Treaty of 1828.
As with the lands of any sovereign peoples, the territories of native tribes and nations shifted over time, but what we now call Durham and Orange Counties were at various times the home of the Shakori (shah-KOR-ee), Eno (EE-noh), Tuscarora (tusk-uh-ROH-ra), and the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation (oh-kuh-NEE-chee, suh-POH-nee; "OBSN"). While the Shakori and Eno peoples relocated and integrated with the powerful Catawba (kuh-TAW-buh) Nation, the Tuscarora, OBSN, and Catawba continue as distinct tribes to this day. You can find their tribal webpages here: OBSN, Catawba, Tuscarora.
The Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation (OBSN)
The Indigenous peoples of what is now North Carolina form many vibrant communities across this state and others; these peoples' lives and achievements and histories should be celebrated. I'll focus a bit more on the OBSN here, as their tribal grounds are closest to my current home.
Originally known as the Ye'sah or Saponi peoples, the OBSN has roots in the Ohio Valley, where around 1000 years ago they were forced by a powerful enemy to relocate to south-central Virginia. Nathaniel Bacon’s rebellion in 1676 pushed the Occaneechi into the area now known as the Triangle for many years before returning to Virginia in 1713. Between 1790 and 1920, white intolerance caused a mass migration back to Alamance and Macon counties, to a settlement known as “Texas”.
The Occaneechi people reorganized in 1985 as the Eno-Occaneechi Association, Inc., and amended the name to the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in 1995. The OBSN was officially recognized by the state of North Carolina in 2002.
That same year, plans began for a tribal landback program, the Occaneechi Homeland Preservation Project, breaking ground in 2005 with the purchase of 25 acres of Texas settlement land in Alamance County. These lands are now the site of a permanent ceremonial ground, tribal orchard, and tribal museum, with more in store. The official tribal grounds of the OBSN are located in Burlington, a 30 minute drive from Duke’s campus.
Check out the OBSN's own land acknowledgement and brief history; I have heavily relied on these resources to write this land acknowledgement.
Where I Conducted my Ph.D. research (Kruger nP, South Africa)
Kruger National Park, South Africa
I worked on lands that have for hundreds of years supported the Shangaan Tsonga peoples, notably the Makuleke tribe.
As South Africa's oldest national park, the Kruger National Park has an incredibly complex history regarding colonization, resettlement, dispossession, and other relations with indigenous peoples.
Before being expelled from their lands, members of the Bantu ethnic group Tsonga resided in what we now call the Kruger National Park. In the early 19th century, King Shaka Zulu sent warriors led by Soshangane (so-shan-GAH-neh) to conquer the lands of the Limpopo and Mpumalanga region. Soshangane instead incorporated the Tsonga and nearby Nguni people into the Shangaan tribe. Soshangane remained and taught the now Shangaan tribe advanced Zulu fighting techniques.
In 1898, The Government Game Reserve (later Sabi Game Reserve) was founded by then-president Paul Kruger; in 1926 the park was officially named a National Park. This conservation and game reserve establishment of course came at the expense of the Indigenous peoples already living in the park:
Thousands of black African people were forcibly removed from the lands that were designated for the park and suffered enduring harms from this displacement, from mistreatment by park officials and from wildlife attacks.
Because of this bloody history of colonialism and being driven out of their own lands, the current relationship with native Shangaan Tsonga peoples is complicated and fraught. Many of these people work as game guides and park rangers, but as with many such communities, poaching is a problem in Kruger (and, one could argue, lies in an ethically gray area between destruction of wildlife and rightful use of traditional tribal lands).
In particular, the Makulele tribe of the Tsonga people currently reside outside the Kruger Park. After the end of apartheid, their land titles were returned; this was the first successful land restitution claim with a South African national park post-apartheid. Currently, around 12,000 members of the Makulele tribe work and live in and around the Kruger Park, and are integral to the economic health of the region.