Ketchikan’s City Council could soon add a new element to its twice-monthly meetings. The council is considering acknowledging the First City’s first inhabitants at the start of each session.
Every Ketchikan City Council meeting starts exactly the same way: a few bangs of the gavel, a call to order and a roll call. Then, most people place a hand on their hearts, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and then council members get down to business.
But there could soon be a new element:
“The Ketchikan City Council would like to respectfully acknowledge the traditional first people of this land in Ketchikan, the Tongass Tlingit people,” read Council Member Emily Chapel during the council’s September 17 meeting. She’s reciting what’s known as a “land acknowledgement.”
Former Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand President Richard Jackson explained it during a council meeting in August.
“Traditionally, when we meet as a people, the Tlingit or the Haida or the Tsimshian, we acknowledge the people that lived on the land,” Jackson told the council. “It doesn’t mean sovereignty, it’s an acknowledgment of the people who have been here.”
Chapel first asked the council to consider adding a land acknowledgement to its meetings earlier this summer. It got unanimous support. It’s up for a final vote on Thursday.
If it passes, Ketchikan’s council would join the Anchorage Assembly and the Fairbanks school board, among others, in formally recognizing its forebears before conducting the public’s business.