Renaissance at Rand Middle School held a land acknowledgment ceremony Oct. 7 to recognize that the school resides on what was once the land of the Lenni Lenape tribal nation. 

Leading up to the event, Renaissance teachers Anthony Colon and Rodney Jackson met with Reverend Dr. John R. Norwood, a member of the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape tribal nation, who was instrumental in guiding the land acknowledgement, according to a district press release.

“A tremendous amount of work went into planning this important and impactful Land Acknowledgement at Renaissance,” principal Maria Francisco said. “The time and effort dedicated to this event allowed our students to use critical thinking strategies as they learned about the impact that colonialism has had on native people in the Western world. 

The Renaissance's land acknowledgement statement reads as follows:

Renaissance Middle School, as part of the Restorative Justice Initiative, acknowledges that the land our town and school is built on is part of the traditional land of the Lenni Lenape People. The Lenape People lived in harmony with one another upon this territory since ancient times. During the colonial era and early federal period, many were removed west and north (Indian Removal Acts) but some also remain among the continuing historical tribal communities of NJ. We acknowledge the Lenni Lenape as the original people of this land and their continuing relationship with their territory. In our acknowledgement of the continuing presence of these tribal communities in their homeland, we affirm our respect for the heritage and legacy of their people. We hold to the aspiration of the great Lenape Chief Tamanend, that there be harmony between the indigenous people of this land and the descendants of immigrants to this land, "as long as the rivers and creeks flow, and the sun, moon and stars endure." 

Before the ceremony, Colon and Jackson also collaborated with teachers John Garzon, Susan Thomas and Edward Woodward to create lessons and discussions that focused on the impacts of marginalization, colonialism and land-based injustice on indigenous people historically and today, the release says.

Art teacher Woodward, his students and Norwood worked together to create a flag to be displayed in the school’s lobby, according to the release. The flag imagery blends the school symbol, a lotus flower and a box turtle.

“Students were able to partake in discussions that provided historical insight; specifically, as it relates to the story of Christopher Columbus,” Francisco said. “Students were able to recognize that social justice issues are not new, and as a result, found feelings of compassion and appreciation for others in their own communities.”