UNH Land, Water, and Life Acknowledgement

As we all journey on the trail of life, we wish to acknowledge the spiritual and physical connection the Pennacook, Abenaki, and Wabanaki Peoples have maintained to N’dakinna (homeland) and the aki (land), nebi (water), olakwika (flora), and awaasak (fauna) which the University of New Hampshire community is honored to steward today. We also acknowledge the hardships they continue to endure after the loss of unceded homelands and champion the university’s responsibility to foster relationships and opportunities that strengthen the well-being of the Indigenous People who carry forward the traditions of their ancestors.


Listen to the acknowledgement read by Denise Pouliot

Developed by a committee and approved by Tribal Elders, the committee built this acknowledgement with six guiding principles/critical elements:

  1. Include land, water, biota
  2. Capture Abenaki/Penacook historic stewardship status
  3. Recognize current challenges faced by local Indigenous peoples
  4. Recognize relationship of UNH with Indigenous people and place
  5. Include an Abenaki term to describe the local Durham place
  6. Include the spiritual connection to the land

Committee Members:

  • Kathleen Blake - Chairperson, NH Commission on Native American Affairs; UNH COLSA Alum (NREN) and retired science teacher; Indigenous heritage (Wendat, Algonquin and Mi’kmaq peoples)
  • Denise Pouliot - member, NH Commission on Native American Affairs, UNH INHCC member, affiliate faculty for UNH Indigenous Studies minor; Indigenous member (head female speaker of the Cowasuck Band of Pennacook Abenaki)
  • Garret Chapman&- UNH Associate Athletic Director; member, NH Commission on Native American Affairs; Indigenous member (Mohegan)
  • Adam Wymore- member of COLSA DivInE committee with interest in Indigenous issue and science
  • Dan Howard- member, NH Commission on Native American Affairs; COLSA faculty member of COLSA DivInE committee; Indigenous member (Shawnee/Cherokee)

We also want to recognize the work of Svetlana Peshkova and other faculty in the Department of Anthropology who laid the groundwork for the Acknowledgement by building and helping to sustain relationships between UNH and tribal leaders.

Oct. 11, 2021

Dear UNH Community,

Indigenous History Day (October 12th) and Native American Heritage Month (November) are fast approaching and will provide the UNH community with enhanced opportunities to engage in exploration, education and awareness building around the histories and cultures of Indigenous peoples. As part of our efforts to strengthen the relationships and collaborative efforts between UNH and the Indigenous peoples of New Hampshire, we have developed an official land acknowledgement.

Native American Land Acknowledgements are formal statements intended to recognize Indigenous peoples who have been dispossessed and/or show respect to Indigenous peoples who live(d) in a particular location. These acknowledgements typically reference the relationship of Indigenous communities to the land as original stewards. Many colleges and universities across the US, Canada and Australia use land acknowledgements as a way of remembering the past and facilitating understanding of Indigenous histories and cultures while also acknowledging legacies and responsibilities of institutions that were built on traditional Indigenous homelands.

This past spring, UNH created a formal land acknowledgement that was developed and finalized by COLSA faculty and members of the NH Commission on Native American Affairs. It was then approved by Tribal Elders and UNH leadership and has been penned as UNH’s Land, Water and Life (LWL) Acknowledgement. Conversations regarding a UNH land acknowledgement have been ongoing for a handful of years, and the work of Svetlana Peshkova and other faculty in the Department of Anthropology laid the groundwork for where we have landed today. 

The LWL Acknowledgement is intended to help with understanding our relationship to Indigenous communities and honors our commitment to sustaining authentic connections with the Indigenous peoples of our state, including Indigenous members of the UNH community. It also acknowledges the cultures and histories of Indigenous tribes in New Hampshire and represents our ongoing commitment to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. The LWL Acknowledgement and information about the committee members involved in its development can be found on the Office of Community, Equity and Diversity webpage UNH Land, Water, and Life Acknowledgement | Community, Equity and Diversity.

Although use of the LWL Acknowledgement is optional, I encourage its formalized incorporation in UNH events, activities, workshops, seminars and celebrations. Sharing the LWL can occur by reading it aloud at the beginning of an event, which is the preferred method. It also can be included in printed materials like on an event program or leaflet or on an agenda, shared digitally like on a screen or in an app, or through an audio recording. A recording of the LWL Acknowledgement read by Denise Pouloit, affiliate faculty for UNH Indigenous Studies and an Indigenous member of the Cowasuck Band of Pennacook Abenaki, can be found here.

The UNH LWL Acknowledgement is an important step towards recognizing how our past intersects with our present, but is only one step of many towards overall continued awareness and understanding. If you are interested in learning more about the significance of land acknowledgements, I suggest reading, “Why Land Acknowledgements Matter,” by Chip Colwell, which you can find here Land Acknowledgment - Why Land Acknowledgments Matter - SAPIENS.

It is our collective responsibility to practice and promote mindfulness and respectful exchanges towards all members of our UNH and local communities. It also is our collective responsibility to educate ourselves about our past so we can determine how far we’ve come and how much further we still need to go. We are making progress at UNH as we work towards a shared understanding of each other’s humanity, but much work still remains. Forward and onward!

Nadine Petty

Chief Diversity Officer