Caitlin Doherty ’26
On Oct. 9 2023, recognized widely as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, President Berger-Sweeney released a draft of a land acknowledgement for Trinity’s campus, which will recognize the previously indigenous regions that the college now occupies. Land acknowledgments have become a common step that U.S. colleges have taken to recognize their histories, and a number of Trinity’s peer institutions, including Bowdoin, Middlebury, Tufts and Williams, have released land acknowledgements throughout recent years. “At Trinity, we have a natural connection to the Indigenous communities of our region. Situated just west of the Connecticut River, Trinity sits on land that has sustained countless generations of Indigenous people. Native faculty, staff and students have been integral members of the community, though not always in ways that have been fully recognized,” she wrote in an email to the campus community.
The land acknowledgment begins by recognizing the Wagnuck native land, called Suckiag, that the college and much of the current city of Hartford was built upon. “The word ‘Hartford’ is an English term. The traditional… and the real name of Hartford would be Suckiag,” said Chenille Jake ‘24, a native member of the Navajo Nation, in an interview with the Tripod. “We put these places into a very sacred place if we call it by its ‘real’ name… And that’s why we have the term Suckiag in the statement.” The draft additionally recognizes its role in the colonization and disenfranchisement of Pequonock, Wangunk, Podunk, Tunxis, Wappinger, Nehantic, Nipmuck and Mahican peoples. Jake reflected that during her firstyear, she quickly realized that “Trinity College didn’t have a place for native students… There were no student organizations, there was no form of anything for native students or indigenous students.” However, she is encouraged by the commitment Trinity makes within the acknowledgment to welcome and uplift indigenous members of the college community and hopes that this announcement will provide needed momentum to institute further support systems on campus.
In November 2022, Chief of Staff and Associate Vice President for External Affairs Jason Rojas, sent out an invitation to students, faculty and staff to serve on the Land Acknowledgement Committee. Chenille, alongside three other students, eight members of the faculty and staff, and alumnus Mixashawn Rozie ‘12, met numerous times throughout the past year to discuss and draft this land acknowledgement with care and attention. The committee has left the draft open to comments until Dec. 1, following which final revisions will be made and the official acknowledgement will be released publicly
The release of this draft aligns significantly with Trinity’s bicentennial year. “Knowing that this is the 200th year and we’re thinking about the future… We also need to think about the past,” said Chenille Jake ‘24. The work to make Trinity’s campus a more safe and welcoming space for indigenous and native peoples will continue through the Land Acknowledgement Committee and other efforts. As President Berger-Sweeney reflected, “Issuing a land acknowledgment is but a first step in recognizing and supporting Indigenous communities. A necessary next step is to develop and articulate commitments beyond a land acknowledgment that will serve as an action plan to support Indigenous communities.”