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New StoryMap Exhibit dives into UMD Restorative Justice

Morrill Reckoning: Acknowledging Indigenous Lands that Funded the University of Maryland has been added to UMD Libraries StoryMap collections.

Text Morrill Reckoning: Acknowledging Indigenous lands that funded the University of Maryland.

In honor of Native American Heritage Month and as part of the University of Maryland's (UMD) commitment to restorative justice a new online exhibit, Morrill Reckoning: Acknowledging Indigenous Lands that Funded the University of Maryland, is added to the University Libraries StoryMap collections.

Dr. Lisa Carney, MLIS 2023, created this University Libraries sponsored exhibit in fulfillment of a certificate practicum requirement.  The exhibit contributes to UMD initiatives to promote Indigenous knowledge, decolonization efforts, and restorative justice supported by a 2022-2023 Teaching and Learning Program Grant, Decolonizing Education to meet the Demands of Climate Change led by Patricia Kosco Cossard [LIBR].  The exhibit is co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which hosted a webinar with the authors of the Land-Grab Universities project that inspired its creation  on September 28, 2022.  "This is an outstanding resource, well designed, and offers critical content and understudied history that is important for people to consider in our local communities and beyond," remarks Dean of the University Libraries, Adriene Lim. Cossard adds, "This exhibit is an important real world action that fulfills the UMD Land Acknowledgement."

The Morrill Reckoning exhibit documents the process by which land of over 30 Native American nations was forcibly expropriated and sold to fund the endowment of Maryland’s flagship university, by means of the Morrill Act of 1862. It features data from the Land-Grab Universities project coupled with archival documents and GIS maps to show the paper trail of dispossession and the geographic impact on tribal nations.  One map shows the current distribution of Tribal governments and reservations, linking to each nation’s website and history section. “I want viewers to understand that these are contemporary sovereign nations, each with their own histories to share,” Carney explains.

Carney created the site while completing a Masters in Library and Information Sciences on her way to becoming an archivist. Previously, she earned a PhD from UMD’s Spanish Department for collaborative work with Indigenous communities in Latin America. She was inspired to create the exhibit after attending the September 2022 webinar in which the authors, Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone, invited the audience to use their data for local projects. Her goal was to create a resource to support a continued, community-wide reckoning. According to Carney, “this is an exhibit about an ongoing issue, not a bygone historical event. These Native nations continue cultivating their communities while treaty promises remain unfulfilled and university endowments still accrue interest from the initial sales proceeds.”

Carney collaborated with advisor Assistant Professor Diana Marsh (INFO) to work on the UMD Land Grab project for her Museum Scholarship and Material Culture program (MSMC) certificate. The program trains students in scholarship and applied work in museums, and its capstone is a semester-long practicum with an institutional partner, here the University Libraries. Marsh notes, “I was thrilled to see this kind of relevant, reparative work taken on for the MSMC certificate. These are exactly the kinds of projects we hope to support.”

Dr. Marsh, who works to reconnect Indigenous communities with colonially-held archival collections, drawing on new technologies and ethical standards, further notes, “Carney’s MSMC research also showed how inadequate typical university land acknowledgements are. We often acknowledge the Morrill Act when we begin our talks in the MSMC program and in the INFO college, but this project allows us to see where and how Indigenous lands were taken, how the university has profited, and just how many Native nations we need to work with, listen to, and give back to. UMD has a lot to do to repair our relationships, and compensate or make amends with Tribes appropriately.”

“This is exactly what we’re here for—for students to be inspired by ideas and make them their own,” says Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Georgina Dodge. “I’m delighted that Lisa heeded the call to action from the Land-Grab UMD webinar. This new resource will allow the UMD community and the public alike to learn about and engage with the hard truths and continued implications of the Morrill Act.”

The Libraries' GIS and Data Services Center has been on the frontline to provide instruction and technical guidance to author web applications that facilitate the sharing of impactful stories in an immersive way, enhancing data accessibility for academic teaching, learning, and scientific research.  ArcGIS Online StoryMaps, developed by Esri, is a cloud-based platform that empowers users to craft visually engaging digital stories using maps, images, videos, text, and multimedia elements. The Morrill Reckoning StoryMap is also published on the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA-GIN) Geospatial portal, a data discovery tool collectively managed by the Geospacial Information Network (BTAA-GIN) membership.  UMD will lead network members to tell their own stories as their BTAA-GIN Land Ackknowlegement Action Plan calls for. A news post in BTAA Geospatial Information Network News & Highlights featuring the storymap expands reach to a broader national audience. Spatial information and other digital content used in this story map is openly available for research, teaching, and learning needs for the UMD community and beyond, contact the Center.  

Rico Newman (Choptico Band of Piscataway Indians) encourages further research, "Thank you for this work. Please turn the lights onto this part of history that is either unknown or misunderstood. Those who have and still benefit from this largesse need to know the scales are not balanced. Many are not aware of or fail to appreciate the impact of native land seizure across this country."  

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities' Statement of Land Acknowledgment says "The United States has achieved many great things, but it also has a complex history with dark and cruel periods, including the mistreatment of Native Americans and the taking of a great deal of their land.  Unquestionably, the history of land-grant universities and other public universities intersects with that of Native Americans and the taking of their lands."  

With this exhibit the University of Maryland joins the land-grants University of Connecticut, Iowa State, Ohio State, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota, UC-Berkeley, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Michigan State, Oregon State, Colorado State, and Cornell University in reckoning with their own Morrill legacy inspired by the Land Grab University research and datasets.

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