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I appreciate your thorough and balanced article on the land acknowledgments controversy. 

Land acknowledgements can be more than "settler contrition theatre." To be historically accurate—and therefore more informative to students—they should report how many times the land may have been taken or retaken by migrating tribes over millennia. Columbia University historian Jacques Barzun offered a relevant historical summary in his book From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present (2001):

"The Caribs whom Columbus first encountered had fought and displaced the Anawaks who occupied the islands. The Aztecs whom Cortez conquered had originally descended from the north and destroyed the previous civilization. To the north and east many of the tribes lived in perpetual warfare, the strong exploiting the weak, and several—notably the Iroquois—had slaves. In short, what happened on the newfound hemisphere in early modern times continued the practice of the old: in ancient Greece alien tribes marching in from the north; likewise in the making of the Roman Empire, in the peopling of the British Isles by Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and Normans; in France, Italy, and Spain by Franks, Normans, Lombards, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and later by Arabs. Everywhere the story is one of invasion, killing, rape, and plunder and occupation of the land that belonged to the vanquished. Today, this fusion or dispersion of peoples and cultures by means of death and destruction is abhorred in principle but flourishing in fact. Africa, the Middle and Far East, and South Central Europe are still theaters of conquest and massacre."

French writer and philosopher Pascal Bruckner described modern Europeans as “[b]rooding over its past crimes ... always ready to feel pity for the world’s sorrows and to take responsibility for them.” In a context where much of the rest of humanity refuses to engage in comparable self-flagellation (Russia, for example, is busy rehabilitating Stalin), single-minded European and American contrition could begin to look suspiciously like a new form of congratulatory exceptionalism.

--Gary Pavela
University of Maryland (Honors College faculty and Director of Student Conduct, retired)

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