Indigenous Wisdom & Landback

Welcome to the first ever episode of Pathways for People and Planet, a Core Pathways Podcast! This episode discusses Indigenous ways of thinking about and relating to the land. Topics include Indigenous stewardship of land, land back movements, Indigenous knowledge as it relates to the climate emergency, and land acknowledgements. 

Listen Here:


If you don’t have the time to listen all the way through, here are the locations of our specific questions within the episode:

  1. What does decolonizing the sciences mean to you? (8:30) 
  2. Why is landback so important to you in your respective areas? (15:25)
  3. How does landback relate to the climate emergency? (20:40)
  4. What are some resources and opportunities that exist on the Georgetown campus and beyond? (34:35) 
  5. How do you define land acknowledgment? Can you address Georgetown’s land acknowledgment? (40:45)
  6. What barriers complicate attempts to give lands back to Indigenous communities? (43:55) 
  7. What can we learn from land and plants? (49:00) 

Indigenous knowledge and movements are topics we had minimal familiarity with prior to this collaboration. Through our planning and involvement with this group and topic, we’ve established a better baseline understanding of historical and ongoing struggles and implications of Indigenous relationships to the land. We realize this is just the beginning of more thoughtful engagement with these issues. We also have come to understand the importance of pairing words with actions when it comes to engaging with Indigenous resistance movements. We hope this podcast can be a starting point for members of the Georgetown community, and beyond, who are seeking deeper consciousness of and involvement in the work of native people everywhere. We are extremely grateful to Abigail, Shelbi, and Cinthya for their continued and thoughtful guidance as we worked to intentionally create this podcast.

Abigail Hils moderated this conversation between Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner and Cinthya Ammerman Muñoz. Further information on our participants can be found below! 

Abigail Hils (she/they): 

Abigail Hils (she/they) is a Program Associate at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Inclusive STEM Ecosystems for Equity & Diversity.  She is a mix of Niitsítapi (Blackfeet), Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk), and white. Hils’ research and work focus on catalyzing and sustaining systemic change and transformation to achieve inclusive and equitable access in the STEM workforce. Her areas of expertise are community/collaborative science, making science accessible and inclusive (language, disability status, and gender identity), and ecological monitoring methodologies. She also advises several organizations for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusive practices, culture, and policies. 

Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner (she/her):

Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner (she/her/hers) is a Payómkawichum/Kúupangaxwichem (Luiseño/Cupeño) assistant professor of philosophy at Georgetown University. She is a first generation descendant of the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians in San Diego County, California. Meissner’s areas of expertise are American Indian and Indigenous philosophy, feminist and non-western epistemology, and philosophy of language. Meissner teaches and writes about Indigenous knowledge and language systems, specifically how those systems relate to land, climate justice, sovereignty, resistance, memory, feminisms, intergenerational knowledge transmission, critical social work, and coalition-building. Meissner also consults on trauma and resilience-informed approaches to Indigenous pedagogy, decolonizing curriculum design, and tribal child welfare. 

Cinthya Ammerman Muñoz (she/her): 

Cinthya Ammerman Muñoz (PhD Native American Studies, University of California, Davis) is a multiheritage interdisciplinary scholar from Wallmapu, ancestral Mapuche homelands in southern Chile. She joined the Georgetown Humanities Initiative for the 2021–22 academic year as an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Emerging Voices postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Ammerman’s work centers on hemispheric relationality, emphasizing the interconnectedness of the American landscape to contest the imagined geopolitical boundaries of settler nation-states. Her dissertation “The ‘Dream of a Chilean California’ and the Colonization of Wallmapu” establishes largely neglected socioecological connections between Mapuche and California Native homelands, that foreground the intersection between the history of colonization and the current climate crisis.

Land Acknowledgement
This podcast is hosted by the Core Pathways Initiative, an initiative started out of the Red House, and housed at Georgetown University, that is focused on changing the core curriculum at the University. All Core Pathways courses and programming take place (either virtually or in person) physically situated in the original ancestral homelands of the Piscataway and Nacotchtank (Anacostan) people.

The lands within present-day Washington, DC have been occupied and cared for by the First Nations People since as early as 9,500 BCE. The Nacotchtank Tribe is most closely associated with the DC area, having lived on the eastern side of the Potomac River. The Nacotchtank Tribe was loosely associated with a larger confederation known as the Piscataway Chiefdom until English colonialists encroached on their lands. The nascent disease environment introduced by the colonizers proved deadly for the Nacotchank People, and eventually forced them to retreat to Anacostine Island (today’s Teddy Roosevelt Island) in the face of population decline. The Nacotchtank Tribe then solicited protection from the Piscataway Chiefdom and their remaining members were absorbed into the greater Piscataway Tribe. The Piscataway Tribe is now represented by the (1) Piscataway Indian Nation and Tayac Territory and the (2) Piscataway Conoy Tribe, both of which are recognized by the State of Maryland and remain active today.

As an organization that focuses on educational transformation, we acknowledge the role that we have played in supporting forms of knowledge that historically, currently, and continually devalue indigenous ways of knowing. Even as we strive to change current methods of learning at Georgetown University, we are complicit, both historically and today, in upholding colonized education systems that disappear Indigenous history and knowledge.

The Core Pathways Initiative acknowledges that the land on which we host our events was, and is, still inhabited and cared for by the Piscataway Conoy and Piscataway tribes. We are grateful for their past and continued stewardship of this land. The Piscataway and Piscataway Conoy tribes, especially their children, have powerful voices that have often been silenced throughout history.



Georgetown Specific:

Native American Student Council Petition: 

Indigenous Studies Working Group: 

Other Resources

Native land map 

Tuck and Yang, “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor”

Robin Wall Kimmerer, “Weaving Traditional Ecological Knowledge into Biological Education: A Call to Action” 

Esme G. Murdock, “Mirroring Nature” 

Tending the Wild Documentary:

Jaclyn Diaz, “A historic rainforest and other lands have been returned to Indigenous Australians” 

C.F. Black, The Land is the Source of the Law 

Eduardo Galeano “Open Veins of Latin America” 

Baldy, Cutcha Risling (2021). “What Good is a Land Acknowledgement,” Humboldt County, Native American History, and Decolonized Futures

Lee, Robert and Tristan Ahtone (2020). “Land-Grab Universities,” High Country News.

Murdock, EG. (2019). Mirroring Nature, Earth Island Journal.

Max Liboiron Lab:

Dr. Liboiron, Pollution is Colonialism:

Lizzie Wade, “Native Tribes Have Lost 99% of their Land in the United States” 

Ferrell et al., 2021 “Effects of land dispossession and forced migrations on Indienous people in North America” 

Schuster, Richard and Ryan R. Germain, Joseph R. Bennett, Nicholas J. Reo, Peter Arcese (2019). “Vertebrate biodiversity on indigenous-managed lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada equals that in protected areas,” Environmental Science and Policy (101), 1-6. 

Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake (2014). “Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 3 (3): 1-25

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. (2012; 2nd Edition) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books.

Whyte, Kyle (Forthcoming, 2021). “Time as Kinship,”  The Cambridge Companion to Environmental Humanities, eds. Jeffrey Cohen and Stephanie Foote, Cambridge University Press. 

Whyte, Kyle. (2017). “What Do Indigenous Knowledges Do For Indigenous Peoples?,” Keepers of the Green World: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Sustainability, eds.  Melissa K. Nelson and Dan Shilling.


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