UND acknowledges it's on land once occupied by Native Americans

Students gather around the eternal flame on the University of North Dakota campus in this file photo. Forum News Service

UND has issued a statement acknowledging the campus sits on land once occupied by Native Americans.

The statement comes after more than a year of research and discussions with local tribes and leaders, said Stacey Borboa-Peterson, director of student diversity and inclusion at UND. Borboa-Peterson said the process to put together the acknowledgement was just as important, if not more so.

The acknowledgement included the expertise of more than a dozen cultural leaders, experts and elders. It was approved by the UND Student Senate, Staff Senate and University Senate. Then-Interim President Joshua Wynne signed the statement into official use earlier this year.

“It's important that we recognize and we acknowledge individuals who were here before us,” Borboa-Peterson said. “It’s a way to acknowledge them, but also to recognize that that presence is still here. That it's not gone. While there may be other things that occupy the land, their presence is still here.”

UND’s statement reads:


“Today, the University of North Dakota rests on the ancestral lands of the Pembina and Red Lake Bands of Ojibwe and the Dakota Oyate – presently existing as composite parts of the Red Lake, Turtle Mountain, White Earth Bands, and the Dakota Tribes of Minnesota and North Dakota. We acknowledge the people who resided here for generations and recognize that the spirit of the Ojibwe and Oyate people permeates this land. As a university community, we will continue to build upon our relations with the First Nations of the State of North Dakota – the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Nation, Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.”

The land acknowledgement statement may be shared at events such as official university ceremonies, critical conversations, performances and/or conferences, as determined by the event coordinators, the university says on its website. University faculty, staff and student organizations are welcome to use the acknowledgement when deemed appropriate.

The university has created a web page for information about the land acknowledgement, which includes the statement, those who helped develop the statement and pronunciations of the tribes.

Borboa-Peterson said she hopes the acknowledgement is used in a variety of venues, whether it’s before university events, on placards on doors or on faculty syllabi if they so choose.

“I also hope that ... it's an opportunity for people to ask questions and to learn about the history of the land here,” she said, whether that might be in a classroom setting or in some other co-curricular activity.

Land acknowledgment statements, like UND’s, have become more prevalent at universities across the countries as campuses recognize how colonialism impacted Native Americans. The North Dakota State College of Science also issued a similar statement this spring. North Dakota State, the state’s second largest university, has not issued a formal statement but a small group is working on one.

In addition to the acknowledgement statement, Borboa-Peterson said student diversity and inclusion has taken to social media for educational programming as a way to educate the campus community about various cultural holidays and topics.

There has also been programming that was launched in December surrounding “intercultural competence,” which is meant to help students form “a deep understanding, awareness, and respect for all cultures and social identities,” according to a UND web page. The page includes educational resources for students, faculty, staff and the community.


Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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