Land acknowledgments alone are never enough, but they help to dispel America’s origin myth, revise our relationships with the stolen lands on which we reside, and honor their original stewards. As someone who lives and works on the unceded territories known as New York, I would like to acknowledge and honor the Lenni-Lenape people, the original custodians of these lands, and all the other Indigenous peoples who have been or have become part of this region. I recognize the complexities of my positionality as a member of the Eelam Tamil diaspora, born on the ancestral lands of the Setalcott people and raised in the U.S.—a nation founded upon genocidal settler colonization and land theft whose legitimacy requires the erasure of its systematic violence—because genocidal violence in Sri Lanka kept my parents from returning home.
As a disabled scholar, I commit to material actions within my means as requested by local Indigenous organizations like The Manna-Hatta Fund, including donating money to Indigenous-led organizations and supporting Indigenous-led grassroots campaigns for environmental protection, the removal of tributes to colonial war criminals, and the return of stolen property, like ceremonial objects and land.
In New York City, I find myself local to many of these protest movements. On- and off-line as my bodymind permits, I protest land theft, expansion, and occupation without reparation.
As a disabled person whose vista is often limited to my New York City apartment, I acknowledge that I teach and write on the traditional lands of the Wappinger people.1 Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have pivoted to Zoom,, and as the Feminist Media Studio reminds us, while Zoom is the “custodian” of the video conferencing platform where we virtually meet and teach, we continue to occupy stolen land in the multiple territories where we are physically located. A product of Silicon Valley that has profited greatly from the pandemic, Zoom is headquartered on the unceded territories of the Muwekma Ohlone, who “have historically understood about sustainability, about communal societies, about giving gifts to those who passed by, and about sharing space.” Zoom might provide us with collaborative working and networking space, but it disguises and alienates us from the need for restitution, reparation, and justice.2
In Sri Lanka, over a decade after the end of the armed conflict, Tamils in the North and East (Eelam) and abroad are still struggling to reclaim their land from military occupation. Under the guise of national security and as part of an overt Sinhalization effort, the government has internally displaced Eelam Tamils and occupied their lands, including ancestral homes, businesses, memorials, religious sites, and LTTE cemeteries, using them for agricultural purposes or commercial profit.3 As an Eelam Tamil American who often writes about the Tamil genocide, I strive to cite and engage with Eelam Tamil knowledge, amplify Eelam Tamil histories, and support Eelam Tamil people in the North-East of Sri Lanka through Tamil-led organizations like People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL).
Indigenous land will always be Indigenous land. Eelam will always be Eelam. Our fights are complementary and intertwined.4
1 The Native Governance Center, Decolonize This Place, and Safe Harbors NYC.
2 The Feminist Media Studio.
3 Tamil Guardian and PEARL Action.
4 Adapted from “Acknowledgments,” This is About the Body, the Mind, the Academy, the Clinic, Time, and Pain.