Andrews University Releases Land Acknowledgment Statement

At Andrews University on November 10, Michael Nixon, Vice President for University Culture & Inclusion, read a land acknowledgment statement for the Southwestern Michigan campus. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Now that Andrews recognizes the grave evil perpetrated against the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi tribe, will they give it back to the rightful owners or continue to perpetuate the evil into next generations by claiming that the passage of time makes the sin irrelevant? It is time to cede the property, but there’s really no chance that will happen. Instead Andrews will apologize for it and continue to commit that crime every day they remain on the land.

1833? Rally? Well, who did the Potawatomi take the land from, for they were not here from time immemorial? And who did that group get it from?

And why is Andrews the only one that had to deal with this? What about the one(s) who sold it to them, and the ones before that? And then there is title insurance etc.


This is such a naive position.

Take Germany after WWII. Hitler, the one voted in by the German people ravaged Europe: millions of deaths and billions of material loss, plus all the problem of the living.

What should we have done? Well, they were to blame, so perhaps they should be made to pay, with goods or lives. But they had nothing to pay with.

So what did we do? Assisted the guilty to save Europe from a greater danger, Russian hegemony.

To insist that Andrews is dong a deep wrong not to give back the land is silly. The guilty have been long dead, and even the ones abused have been long dead. To throw up in the faces of the living the evils of the long ago past is to wrong the present.

And no, the passage of time does not make the sin irrelevant, but it does make it incapable of righting without doing injustice to others now.


If you live in a house, the land you live on was taken from the Indians are you going to give it back to them? If you live in an apartment the land you live on was taken from the Indians. Are you going to give it back to them? How long will you continue to commit a horrendous crime against them by living on land that belongs to them?


This is not a “black & white” issue. At best you might be able to roll back one step of history but even that will potentially cause chaos. Historically there are very few places on earth where one group of people has not be displaced by another.

What is the purpose of the statement? The first step towards reconciliation is acknowledgement of the wrong. It doesn’t undo the wrong but it is a big first step.

In AUS it took a very long time for the government to acknowledge publicly the wrong done to the original inhabitants of the country. Eventually they were dragged “kicking & screaming” to the point of making a Sorry statement.

Today many organisations including private, public and government groups will offer an Acknowledgement of Country before meetings or major events. The statement will go like this - “(organisation name) acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.” Other acknowledgments,if local will be more specific and name the nation, tribe & family/clan on whose land the event occurs.

So why make the statement? To acknowledge the wrong. To respect the traditional owners. In general they won’t get the land back but we should respect they were the owners.

As a side note, crown land (government owned land) if it is leased for a specific use but is not used as intended may be returned to the traditional owners.


Perhaps Australia is a bit different than America. Here, the land was held by many different folk before today, so there was not any permanent “owner”. There, I believe the aboriginal people have been the only ones.

The problem with a statement is that some such as sdaequalitynow feel they can press forward with litigation, advocacy and all manner of actions to resolve what they think sdaqn. said, a grave evil. So, does the land go to the Potawatomi, their predecessors or just whom? And some like can just not get enough virtue signaling to be satisfied.

The initial action was taken by government representatives. Any compensation needs to be made by government as a representative of the people it represents. There is no harm done by the current owners acknowledging that a past wrong was committed against the traditional owners occupying the land at the time it was taken.

While Robert speaks from the Australian perspective, here in New Zealand we are even further along the reconciliation/restoration route. This typically involves government agreeing to hand back to the traditional owners some parcels of land, that are owned by the government. Sometimes these are handed straight back to government as reserves and parks. Other times these are commercial or other properties that the original people can profit from. In some areas a joint approach will arise in managing assets. Always there is a significant amount of cash, and an acknowledgement of the wrong that was done.

My observation is that generally this has worked well. Some iwi have developed significant businesses, which feed back into the development of their people. A wholistic approach is taken to the management of the land, resulting in better environmental outcomes.


This is what right wing pundits call “virtue signalling” which they claim gives credence to a wrong but is essentially meaningless.

Another example is Pacific Union College’s apology to their LGBTQI+ group GASP for not allowing them a table at a festival. Not a ghost of a chance PUC will ever allow GASP any official recognition, but PUC feels bad about it.

Acknowledgment of a wrong without corrective action is perpetuating the wrong with full knowledge that it is wrong. Andrews squats on stolen land and feels bad but won’t do anything about it because they have been committing this crime long enough as to absolve them of guilt. Nice.

Have any people at Andrews even bothered to visit a “reservation” where the generations of displaced persons have suffered in poverty that has only been relatively relieved through gambling casinos and immensely bad conditions are perpetuated among the vulnerable? Andrews University profits from generational sin, and the displaced native peoples suffer from generation poverty to this day!

Don’t dismiss the need to take this another step further and return the land, with interest and from then on “rent” the land for a fair value going forward for the benefit of the children of the displaced indigenous peoples. It is the right thing to do. The wrong has been admitted, now correct it if Andrews wants to be a blessing instead of a curse on the land these generations later.

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That’s just sublime.

Have either of you given you land back to the “owners”? If not than you have no grounds for speaking. .

I do not deny that wrongs were done. It’s just that it is not justly possibly to rectify the wrong. How far do you go back? Who gets compensation? How does anyone know if the claim is legitimate? One poster said that the government should compensate. But you folks argue for Andrews, and innocent buyer of the land. What is the right way? How much litigation is necessary?

Just stating, “return the land with interest and rent it at fair value…” is naive. Andrews had nothing to do with the taking of he land in the first place, and are generations removed. How is it fair to punish them?

LIke I said, one cannot justly rectify the wrong.

I’ve tried to figure out the likely impetus behind your comment, in a way that makes it unoffensive, but I can’t get there. As stated, it seem judgemental and dogmatic, as if you’re sure you have the moral high-ground and just really need to let us know.

But that can’t be right, can it? Please explain.

In any case, after some contemplation, I think my compliment of a particular part of Sam’s post is appropriate: Saying you’re sorry for a wrong you’ve committed and doing nothing to right it is a hollow response.

That noted, I’m not at all sure that Andrews did anything wrong - any more than any of us alive today who own property in North America. Or Central America. Or South America. Or Europe.

I agree that you can’t just return the land, just like we can’t go back to the good-old-days (that never were). We can only go forward. Still, there must be things we can do as a country to at least partially rectify the land-grab that was US American expansionism - which we only just gave up after Hawaii became a state.

The first step may be influential public acknowledgement, and perhaps a public information campaign, forcing us to face what we as a country did. I’m not sure, but it seems like a reasonable start, which is what I think Sam is saying as well.


Why is my comment offensive? Sam says Andrews should give back the land, then rent it from the “owners”. He has done nothing of the sort, as far as I can tell, but calls others out to do something he is unwilling to do. Sounds just a tad like hypocrisy, but I suppose calling that out is against the rules?

I don’t know that I have the moral high ground, but Sam, if he wants to be credible, and he seems to assume that he does have it, should do as he implores others to do, I am just saying that to act as he wishes us to is not just. Andrews is not guilty of anything, and you seem to agree. How many generations of the children does God allow for punishment of the fathers? Third or Fourth as I recall. Perhaps Sam should consider that mercy as well.

I suppose convincing the government to do something would be the least unjust. But then present day taxpayers, who had nothing to do with it would be forced to shoulder the expense. Not really fair either. And actually as Biden has shown, the easiest way to take care of these sort of problems is inflation, the hidden tax. Won’t endear you to the electorate, though.

I agree with you, however this does not describe the situation with Andrews University. They were acknowledging a wrong that was committed, but not by them.

If I was the person who disposed the land owners and later said “Sorry for taking your land, but I ain’t givin’ it back” - that would be wrong. It is difficult to hold later generations guilty for the actions of previous ones. To make the acknowledgement is far better than saying nothing.

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I can hardly believe the cavalier attitude of some of the commentariat.

First, I own no land. My ancestors were brought here against their will and now I pay rent to live where I do. I recognize certain realities of my situation.

I also know it is a crime to purchase stolen property, of to retain it once you know it was stolen. But like pieces of Egyptian history now sitting in the British Museum that doesn’t change the reality. At least Britain hasn’t claimed the right to Egypt. It did return India after great struggle. In other words, there is precedent for returning land wrongfully stolen from the inhabitants.

Andrews is in receipt of stolen land and knows it. But they will not do anything about it other than say some words. Let me put it plainly - their contrition is a lie that they hope will make them look good. They’re just being “trendy” but lack sincerity.

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I am the one that is cavalier?? Do you not see what a huge deal you are talking about? Have you contacted the home owners around Andrews to give up their land? How about the Ace Hardware down the street, or the youth camp across the street? Your idea is the absolute epitome of cavalier with all kinds of unforseen consequences.

The situation here is so different than that of India or Egypt. The people there were not displaced as they were here. Britain did claim Egypt and India as colonies, but did not migrate to displace the people.

My problem with your suggestion is not that there was no wrong involved. Just that it cannot be righted without doing more wrong. The ones wronged are long dead, and cannot be compensated. And the ones doing the wrong area dead as well and cannot be punished.

How about this: The Confederate states voted to leave the union. There is nothing in the constitution that says they could not do that. And yet they were made to return by force of arms. Should the South be compensated for that unlawful invasion? Their property was confiscated and the land destroyed.

Do you see how difficult this is? I spoke of Germany, but you have not answered that. It is jsut not so simple as you think.

I hardly expected this to degenerate to having to respond to your defense of the confederacy. If you wish to discuss that, then you would need to talk about the fact that the Confederates had kept people in slavery for several hundred years. Further, although they were required to return to the union after the Civil War, they still got to live on their land.

In any case, this is a useless discussion, although your responses seem to underscore the point I’m trying to make.

Perhaps, if you were more aware of the area that the university is in, you will see the immense poverty of some of the poorest areas in the United States just a few miles away in Benton Harbor.

The main point is that the statement made by the university is a first step, and the ultimate journey would lead to the rectification of what has occurred. The displaced people’s still have ancestors living in poverty, and some of the most inhospitable places in the United States.

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Difficult topic.

I think Andrews is in the right on making such a statement. And possible further action might be warranted. I’m guessing those establishing Andrews in 1874 did not intend to disenfranchise native people, I’m sure they never thought of it as theft. At the time the prevailing “white” belief is that native peoples needed to become civilized, which of course led to native schools, forced conversions and worse.

I don’t know Andrews financial situation, probably not an extremely wealthy school (unlike University of Michigan which has assets/endowments exceeding 10 billion dollars), but perhaps Andrews might find it valuable to open a dialogue with the Pokagon Band which recognizes their rights, but also recognizes Andrew’s rights as an inhabitant of said property for nearly a century and a half.

Beyond questions of land tenure and reparations, statements like this have a lot of value in correcting the European settlement myths. I suspect North America has at least as strong a myth as we do in Australia, where the standard story is that noble settlers carved out an honest agrarian lifestyle from the wilderness. And so we honour our ‘pioneers.’ (Cue log cabin, horse and plough, big hats and beards.) In reality, every part of Australia bears the stain of murder and rape as those same pioneers violently took land (that was already being cultivated in indigenous ways that European eyes couldn’t recognise).

Ironically, since our bicentennial commemorations in 1988, Australians have become increasingly aware that our nation’s history extends, not 200+ years, but 60,000+ years. In addition to remembering the frontier wars, this also provides the opportunity for migrant Australians to learn from indigenous wisdom, to start to understand ‘caring for country’ and to value those things that are uniquely Australian.

Colonisation has left a legacy of indigenous disadvantage. Much effort is being expended now to redress this disadvantage, but first we had to make a national apology and to shift thinking from ‘fixing the Aboriginal problem’ to facilitating indigenous communities to implement their own solutions.

I am not defending he Confederacy. My issue is the use of force. They were made to rejoin the Union by force of arms, against their right to secede from the Union. Succession was not made constitutionally illegal till 1867 (Texas vs White.), but was made illegal by the civil war.

Force was used in both cases, and was felt to be legitimate at the time. And time has made it impossible to justly settle such issues. Unless you want to use force again. .

Your are still the cavalier one.