At the outset of Microsoft’s Inspire partner conference this week, co-hosts Aliesha Pulliam, a communications manager, and broadcast journalist Elise Hu, offered two public disclosures that are becoming increasingly common in regional corporate and government gatherings:
The first was a description of their appearances and ethnicity for members of the audience who are visually impaired. And the second was an acknowledgment that the Redmond conference was taking place on traditional tribal land.
“We need to acknowledge that the land where the Microsoft campus is located is traditionally occupied by the Sammamish, Duwamish, Snoqualmie, Suquamish, Muckleshoot, Snohomish, Tulalip, and other coastal Salish people since time immemorial,” Pulliam said, “a people who are still continuing to honor and bring to light their amazing heritage.”
For Seattle mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk, this acknowledgment is a great first step in recognizing a people and their history. But, she added, it is only a first step.
“I’m glad they are doing it,” said Echohawk, who is a member of the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation and of the Upper Athabascan people of Mentasta Lake. “Land acknowledgments are a bit controversial because we hope that it’s not just an acknowledgment but that it’s actually is movement toward supporting the leadership of the local tribes.”
A spokesman for Microsoft confirmed the company will make these statements before all of its public events and that the company has been doing so since March. The city of Seattle and other municipal governments make similar announcements before public events.
Echohawk said she’s seeing more of these statements all of the time. “This has become more and more of a process for Seattle businesses. Microsoft has always been savvy,” she said, adding, “but it can’t stop there.”
The public statements, she said, make audience members think about literally where they are sitting and what it has meant historically. But it also brings awareness of the issues within the tribes and is a call to action for the population as a whole.
“The Native community, we have the highest rates of infant mortality, we have the highest rates of homelessness and poverty. And it is because of colonization, of taking over land and resources,” she said. “When someone tells people that they are on tribal land I hope they recognize they have the opportunity to move beyond the acknowledgment and move toward putting resources back into the community.”
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