Olney Theatre Center is situated on unceded land that is the ancestral home of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe. We are grateful for the territory upon which we gather today; and we respect Maryland’s Indigenous peoples, the original stewards of this land. There are approximately 25,000 self-identified Piscataway tribe members currently living in Maryland. As a non-profit arts institution, we are committed to reflecting the community we serve, and creating partnerships with the Piscataway tribe people and Urban Indian communities to highlight the continuing contributions of native artists and create pathways between Indigenous peoples and Olney Theatre Center.
As we honor this history, we also seek to better understand the complex systems of oppression that are integral to the development and history of the Olney area. This includes further necessary research to uncover and address the history of our land ownership and conditions of sale that might have involved members of the historic, free Black community based in Sandy Spring. Finally, while Olney was a rural area at the founding of the theatre, its suburban development, like much of the rest of the country's, carries a legacy of racism that excluded people of color from homeownership for many years through discriminatory lending policies by the Federal Housing Authority, the GI Bill and exclusionary land covenants in local developments. As we venture to become a better anti-racist theater, we must seek to rectify the disparities in who we serve so that everyone can feel at home in our spaces.
What is a land acknowledgment?
Over the past decade, more and more institutions have chosen to recognize and respect the Indigenous Peoples who serve as traditional stewards of the land they now occupy through a formal Land Acknowledgement. In truth, Land Acknowledgements are a centuries-old custom among Native nations and communities; today they serve as a powerful reminder of the dispossession experienced by Indigenous peoples, who formed dynamic and thriving communities and confederacies more than 10,000 years before European colonizers arrived on these shores. They also educate people about the complex and often uncomfortable history underpinning the community in which they live. Last, they remind all of us to be humble before the achievements of the past, so we never try to erase that history. While a Land Acknowledgement is only a small step in healing centuries-old wounds, it demonstrates the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories, and in our case, invites members of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe to feel at home at Olney Theatre Center.