Land Acknowledgement: Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

Land Acknowledgement: Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

By Kevin O'Rourke

Kevin O’Rourke is a member of Pongo Poetry Project’s Board of Directors.

Like many progressive community organizations across the Puget Sound region, Pongo Poetry Project begins its meetings with a land acknowledgement. We acknowledge that the land we gather on was stolen from native peoples, “who continue to be the true stewards of this land.” Pongo’s land acknowledgement ends with a call to learn about ways to engage with and support Indigenous peoples.

And now is a great time to do just that, because November is National Native American Heritage Month. First made official in 1990, the month recognizesthe significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growthof the United States. These include everything from cultivating corn (now the most-produced crop in the world), to inventing the hammock and the kayak.

However, what’s less often acknowledged—but is no less important—are the hardships many native peoples and communities face.

For example, the poverty rate among Native Americans is more than double that of the U.S. population (23% vs. 11.4%); Native American child poverty rates have been high for decades.

Native Americans are also disproportionately incarcerated. According to the 2020 US Census, American Indians and Alaska Natives made up just 1.3% of the country’s population, but 2.6% of federal prisoners are Native American and 5.5% of Washington State’s prison population is Native American. Similar numbers are seen in Washington State juvenile detention facilities.

So how can you get involved? To start, here are a few Northwest Native American organizations:

  • Mother Nation “offers culturally informed healing services, advocacy, mentorship and homeless prevention in Washington State.”
  • The Urban Native Education Alliance empowers “Native youth through education, culture, and tradition.”
  • Last but hardly least, the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation “provides an extensive array of culturally responsive services and programming to Seattle and King County’s urban Native community.”


Kevin O’Rourke lives in Seattle, where he works in communications and teaches writing. His first book, the essay collection As If Seen at an Angle, was published by Tinderbox Editions; he is currently working on several follow-up projects, including a book about surviving suicide. Other writing has appeared in the LA Review of BooksKenyon Review, and Think Global Health, among others. Learn more at

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