New England Secondary School Consortium

Acknowledgement of Harm

Acknowledgment of the harm done during our first webinar

Jess DeCarolis, Vermont Agency of Education:

In our first webinar the VT DEW Task Force opened with a land acknowledgment activity. Our activity did not give due respect or time to ensure that we (and you) could give proper acknowledgment by understanding the history, bringing to the present and honoring the Native peoples and lands that we occupy.  

One of our respected colleagues was kind enough to bring this failure to our attention; to communicate the harm we caused, the pain we inflicted, and our perpetuation of oppression when we make individuals and peoples invisible.  

We can’t undo the harm we caused but we can work to repair it. We offer sincere apologies to our colleagues and fellow Vermonters of the Algonquin-speaking family bands native to Vermont, recognized and unrecognized, and living here today. Currently, I  am speaking to you from the lands of the Nulhegan Tribe; the Memphremagog Band; the Northern Co’wasuk Indians. We acknowledge that our activity failed to acknowledge our fellow citizens at all when we did not speak to the history of theft, oppression, and the impact of practices such as eugenics on Native Vermonters and others, and the long-lasting impact of these practices that continue to be felt and harm today. In so doing, we subsequently failed to acknowledge the land, history, strength, dignity, and the social, political, and stewardship contributions — past, present, and future — of Algonquin-speaking Vermonters. We ask that you visit the VT DEW webpage to learn more about land acknowledgment practices, including a forthcoming learning opportunity through Shelburne Farms and Gedakina that will be a three-part series of workshops on writing land acknowledgments and connection with place.  


Mark Kostin, Great Schools Partnership:

I too want to apologize for my actions during our first webinar. In the ongoing personal reflection that has followed my grave error, I have learned that land acknowledgments, among others, offer recognition and respect, remind us that colonization is an ongoing process, and ought to inspire ongoing action and relationships. My facilitation accomplished neither of these. I am forever grateful to our colleague for helping me realize the gravity of my misstep and I know that this important lesson came at great expense to this colleague and to other indigenous people.

I am grateful to live and work on the land of what is now partially known as Maine. I wish to acknowledge the ancestral tribes who lived and died to care for this land for at least 13,000 years. Along with the currently recognized tribes – the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and the Penobscot Nation – I wish to acknowledge the unrecognized tribes and the Native People living here made. So often our actions and our ignorance render them invisible. My recent realizations are affirming my commitment to learn and do more.

We appreciate the opportunity to learn forward in failure with humility, love, and respect.  

Jess DeCarolis (Vermont Agency of Education) and Mark Kostin (Great Schools Partnership) 
on behalf of the Vermont Diversifying the Educator Workforce Task Force.



To learn more about land acknowledgments and how to deliver or facilitate groups engaging in land acknowledgments please visit: 


To learn more about some of the Native family bands of Vermont please visit: