Thoughts, Plans, & Practices from Reclaiming-Tradition Ritualists
* Acknowledgement of Land & First People by Mariah Sparks and Witchlets in the Woods
* Land Acknowledgment for Pagans and Witches by Raven Hinojosa
Witchlets in the Woods
Acknowledgment of Land and First People: A Guide for Rituals
Adapted by Mariah Sparks from this online toolkit:
Mariah Sparks and Witchlets in the Woods Family Camp offer this statement and process for engaging with the First people of the land on which camp is held.
For Use in Opening and Closing Rituals at Our Camps
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather, a place we now know as Mendocino Woodlands Camp two, is the traditional territory of the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo. We recognize and respect the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo as the stewards of their sacred lands since time immemorial, and we bring blessings, gratitude, and appreciation as guests, that we extend in friendship.
We will take a mindful moment to appreciate and assess our own place within a complex and harmful history of colonialism. We accept the wisdom and our responsibility to repair harm caused to Indigenous People and the land.
We continue to commit to engaging with the community about what it means to occupy space on Indigenous land.
We acknowledge the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo and their ancestral land and commit to continue engaging in efforts at decolonizing land relations.
Decolonization involves dismantling structures that perpetuate the status quo and addressing unbalanced power dynamics. This work is both personal and interpersonal.
Decolonization is an ongoing process that requires all of us to be collectively involved in relationship building, creating spaces that are inclusive, respectful, and honor all marginalized people.
As a powerful magical community, we express our commitment to end racism against BIPOC by acknowledging the people whose land we are on. As we honor the land with our ritual practice, we honor the people of the land, and we commit to engaging in community with each other about our collective responsibility, reciprocity, respect, and relationships with Indigenous Peoples.
Settler colonialism depends on the White supremacist values that Indigenous Peoples are not worthy of honoring land treaties. California First Nations have survived waves of genocide by multiple colonizing forces including the Catholic missions, the Mexican period, the gold rush, and government sanctioned militias. Land, resources, ,culture and family connections were systematically attacked, while disease and indentured servitude ravaged Indigenous communities.
Currently, California is home to nearly 200 tribes, both federally recognized and unrecognized. If the original 18 treaties with the Indigenous Peoples of California were honored by the state and federal governments, tribes would possess over 7,500,000 acres of land in California. However, tribes collectively possess only about 7% of their unratified treaty territory today.
Witchlets in the Woods respects California Indigenous Peoples’ sovereignty, self-determination, cultural revitalization, and resource protection within every region of California.
If we are not Indigenous to this territory, we are guests, accountable to the land and the First People.
We acknowledge that we are guests of the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo. We are the beneficiaries of the historic and current violence that make it possible for us to be here. It is our intention to give back in word and action to the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo, in the spirit of accountability and reciprocity to heal from historic and current harms.
Together we will build allyship in our actions and our words, reflecting our commitment to engage in group reflection and stand ins solidarity with all First Peoples.
We intend to hold space for spiritual insight, cultural humility, and healing, in order to build healing relationships on honest communication, trust, respect, reciprocity, and commitment to dismantle the settler colonial mindset and decolonize our engagement.
Decolonization is the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches.
An American Genicode1846-1873: The US and The California Indian Catastrophe by Benjamin Madley
Bad Indians by Deborah A. Miranda
California Through Native Eyes by William Bauer Jr.
MIDDLE GRADES & TEENS
Ancestor Approved, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
An Indigenous People’s History of the US for Young People by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese
Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson
We Are still Here! By Traci Sorell
We Are Water protectors by Carole Lindstrom
The Water Lady by Alice McGinty
Land Acknowledgment for Pagans and Witches
by Raven Hinojosa
In historical terms, Pagans are defined as the regionally based, non-hierarchical, polytheistic, and animistic culture bearers of pre-Christian Europe. That definition holds true for modern Pagans and Witches across the world who root their practices in those traditions. In our animism and regionality, we center relationship with land. In our polytheism and aversion to dogmatism and hierarchy, we center relationship with each other. Taken as a whole, it’s a tradition of relationship, from warp to weft. The practice of land acknowledgment within the tradition of Paganism is the acknowledgement of indigenous land stewards and of the sacredness of the land we stand on within ritual space. With relationality at its center, I believe it is a direct expression of what it is to be a Witch.
Before I came to Reclaiming, when I was inventing and cobbling together from the zeitgeist my own ritual structures, I opened with an acknowledgment of the land itself. It felt right to pause on the threshold of a magical working to include and invite the community of earth around me, wherever I might have been. Along with casting a circle, acknowledging nature and nature spirits had the function of defining sacred time and place and thus igniting the active relationship with spirit/life force that turns a set of actions in performance into a ritual.
Since then, I’ve seen the land acknowledgment part of regular ritual treated in a myriad of ways, each valid and appropriate to the moment. It’s been a remembering of genocide, a call to action for social justice, a real time reckoning with privilege and accestral wounding, an invocation of the faeries, or woods, or ecological web, a weaving together of all of these, and others. I’ve struggled with the feeling of hollowness in tribal land acknowledgments that aren’t backed with activism or relationship with First Peoples. At the same time, I’ve missed the vital ritual piece of connecting with actual land spirits when First Peoples are centered to their exclusion. I’ve often heard these struggles and others reflected from my fellow Witches, sometimes within the land acknowledgement itself. Nevertheless, land acknowledgment in the context of ritual never fails to serve as agent of relationship, starting with the ritualists and connecting outward, to land and traditional land stewards.
In Reclaiming, the axiom, “You are your own spiritual authority,” can be heard a dozen times at any camp. Along with the decision making practice of consensus grown from Reclaiming’s anarchist roots, it points to the individual in relationship to spirit as the seat of authentic authority. It reacts against the oppressive structures of power common to world religions, politicals, and cults. It sets in motion a counteraction to group dynamics that, left unchecked, can mow over quieter voices and put people in positions of leadership on a pedestal. Polytheism supports this ethic of autonomy. Whether the Gods are treated as sources of mythological story-wisdom or as objective spiritual powers, polytheism works against the over-culture mindset of monotheism/patriarchy/colonialism. These pointy pyramid shaped ideologies provide an all too handy justification for bigotry. Equality in relationship to each other is foundational to Reclaiming and Witchcraft in general.
Animism is another connective common ground. In practice it's necessarily regional, finding expression in relationship to this tree and that mountain, in the same way that humanism is founded in everyday interactions between people. Animism allows the Witch to rejoin an already enchanted earth community of living characters, biological and geological. We follow a liturgical calendar set to the sun and the moon, and include the over-souls of animals, stones, and nature spirits in our rites and practices. The lineages of modern Witchcraft vary tremendously, but they all agree that when it comes to nature, there is no such thing as the mundane. Through an expansive consciousness that includes the human story in the ecological web of the world, and vice versa, we Pagans center our relationship with land.
This piece argues that land acknowledgment in all its forms rises from the core of Witchcraft and Paganism. As polytheist animist regional equality lovers, we can approach it with authentic spaciousness. Land acknowledgment ritually situates us in history, geography, and cosmology. In circle, where sacred time and space has placed us at the axis of world-creating consciousness, we can know that our right intention, our will, is the active ingredient that transforms those fumbling words into an action of right relationship. In concert with supportive relationships with local Land Back movements led by indigenous people, land acknowledgment repairs and creates this world and all the worlds. Saying it is to say, we are Witches.
Raven Hinojosa is a queer Latinx poet, writer, and witch. Queer love, animist spirituality, mixed Latinx heritage, and the navigation of trauma define her work. She lives in the unceded Ohlone territory of Alameda, California.