At the outset of Microsoft’s Inspire partner conference this week, co-hosts Aliesha Pulliam, a communications supervisor, and broadcast journalist Elise Hu, offered 2 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 viewers 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 nonetheless continuing to honor and bring to light their incredible heritage.”
For Seattle mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk, this acknowledgment is a worthy 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 towards supporting the leadership of the native 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 identical bulletins before public events.
Echohawk said she’s looking 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 viewers members think about literally where they are sitting and what it has meant historically. But it also brings consciousness of the issues inside the tribes and is a call to action for the inhabitants as a whole.
“The Native community, we have the highest charges of toddler mortality, we have the highest charges of homelessness and poverty. And it is because of colonization, of taking over land and sources,” she said. “When somebody tells people that they are on tribal land I hope they recognize they have the opportunity to move past the acknowledgment and move towards putting sources back into the community.”