Acknowledgment: the First Step in Healing

I wish you well as 2021 begins to give way to a new year. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be at peace.

We at Prison Yoga Project appreciate the opportunity to spend time with our families and friends with an emphasis on gratitude at this time of year. We’re also called to acknowledge the truth obscured by the narrative woven into this American holiday. 

Acknowledgment is the first step in healing. Today we come in deep reverence to honor those who came before. The Land in which we work, play, love, and serve was cared for, cultivated, honored, and tended for tens of thousands of years before European colonization and genocide. 

Our Prison Yoga Project core team lives and works on Abenaki & Penobscot Land, Tongva Land, Kumeyaay Land, Osage Land, Quapaw Land, Ohlone Land, and Coast Miwok Land. We stand in and acknowledge our commitment to the freedom of all people and our relationship to Indigenous people and wisdom. We recognize our shared history and are devoted to the fight for Indigenous sovereignty.

We also want to call attention to the alarming, disproportionate numbers of incarcerated Native Americans. Native people made up 2.1% of all federally incarcerated people in 2019, more than double their proportion of the total U.S. population. You can learn more about the state of incarceration among Native American people in the US from the Prison Policy Initiative.

Prison Policy network also cites, “Native women are particularly overrepresented in the incarcerated population. Their over-incarceration is another maddening aspect of our nation’s contributions to human rights crises facing Native women, in addition to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women(MMIW) and high rates of sexual and other violent victimization.”

Indigenous communities are still suffering from the impact of colonization, residential schools, genocide, stolen Land, addiction, and their culture and language being made illegal at recent points in our history. Indigenous activists are still murdered daily in the global south, fighting for land rights, our Earth, and the future of our global community. Their liberation and honoring the treaties of our first nation people directly impacts the future of our planet. 

There are many ways we can show up in right action for Indigenous communities. One initial step you can take is to investigate the Land you currently live on. Who tended and cared for the Land where you were born. A good place to start is We also encourage you to spend some time researching to learn more; for example, you might search “Kumeyaay land acknowledgment” to see what you can find. If this is already a practice of yours, engage your community and family in these conversations as well. 

Finally, we would like to recommend an episode of the On Being podcast called “The Freedom of Real Apologies.” From the description, “Layli Long Soldier is a writer, a mother, a citizen of the United States, and a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation. She has a way of opening up this part of her life, and of American life, to inspire self-searching and tenderness. Her award-winning first book of poetry, WHEREAS, is a response to the U.S. government’s official apology to Native peoples in 2009, which was done so quietly, with no ceremony, that it was practically a secret. Layli Long Soldier offers entry points for us all — to events that are not merely about the past, and to the freedom real apologies might bring.”

Grateful to you, our community, as we work collectively to bring our shadows into the light. 

May you be well, 
Blaire Embrey
Community Engagement Manager