Flipping the Script Towards Health Equity: A Call for Native Land Acknowledgment

Posted by: Dwanna McKay, Sara Mata, Stephany Parker on Monday, October 12, 2020

Nutrition and health professionals often discuss, research, and write about social determinants of health. We acknowledge health disparities among marginalized populations and inequitable access to foods, places, and spaces for healthful lifestyles. However, at what point do we acknowledge how settler colonialism promulgates inequitable access to healthful lifestyles, as well as the complexities regarding the damaging sociohistorical and contemporary contexts of policy, poverty, historical trauma, and food systems? 1
 
For more than five centuries, Indigenous Nations and their citizens have responded with resilience and resistance to the violence of settler colonialism and the continuing institutional erasure of indigenous histories and cultures.2 The sincere acknowledgement of indigenous lands provides a critical public intervention—a first step in taking responsibility for the collective historical trauma 3 experienced among native populations. 4
 
We assert land acknowledgment can serve as a pathway towards health equity in part by flipping the script from one that minimizes the impact of settler colonialism in health disparities towards one that recognizes enduring relationships between Indigenous Nations, their territories, health, and well-being. Land acknowledgment demonstrates organizational commitment to creating relationships with Indigenous Nations based on respect, responsibility, and reciprocity.
 
Acknowledgment of historical and contemporary contexts of forced removal in relation to health disparities is a necessary first step to the attainment of health equity. Building authentic and equitable partnerships with Indigenous Nations is also essential to building trust, inclusion, health, and healing among Indigenous Peoples.5
 
As we approach Indigenous Peoples’ Day in October and Native American Heritage Month in November, we call for a time of critical reflection, education, and solidarity with Indigenous Nations. It is our belief that now is the time to acknowledge that settler colonialism, stolen land, and historical trauma are embedded within health inequities and to come together with solutions to redress systems of oppression functioning to maintain inequities.
 
This editorial was originally published in the October 2020 issue (Vol. 52, Issue 10) of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.