University of South Florida Says Its Campus Belonged to Native Americans

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The University of South Florida acknowledged this week that its campus in Tampa is located on land once occupied by the Seminole people and other Native Americans, an admission meant to give context to the Thanksgiving holiday most Americans are celebrating Thursday.

In a statement released earlier this week, the university’s department of anthropology said it recognized “the historical and continuing impacts of colonization on Indigenous communities.”

The Tampa Bay Times said the acknowledgement was drafted by a diversity and inclusion committee, which consulted with members of the Seminole tribe.

Native Americans were the first people to inhabit the Tampa Bay area. European forces brought disease, slavery and destruction to Indigenous cultures. During the Seminole wars of the 1800s, President Andrew Jackson called for the removal of the Seminole people from the area.

The acknowledgement “is something that’s been a long time coming,” said Sarah Taylor, a faculty member who chairs the diversity and inclusion committee. “Acknowledging the land you’re on and land you’re using is a traditional behavior of many Native American groups. It’s a sign of respect. Acknowledging this is important to being able to start a dialogue.”

Over the last decade, other universities, including Northwestern, the University of Illinois and the University of Connecticut have issued land acknowledgment statements.

“It’s a continuation of the rise in awareness of issues of social justice, systemic racism and the silences that have surrounded our understanding and knowledge of different communities and people which are contained or often hidden within the national story,” said Antoinette Jackson, chair of the anthropology department.

“This acknowledgement is part of that trajectory, especially on the heels of the Black Lives Matter statements that people were putting out over the summer because of the rising issues that culminated with George Floyd’s murder.”


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