The Whitney is located in Lenapehoking, the ancestral homeland of the Lenape. The name Manhattan comes from their word Mannahatta, meaning “island of many hills.” The Museum’s current site is close to land that was a Lenape fishing and planting site called Sapponckanikan ("tobacco field"). The Whitney acknowledges the displacement of this region’s original inhabitants and the Lenape diaspora that exists today.
As a museum of American art in a city with vital and diverse communities of Indigenous people, the Whitney recognizes the historical exclusion of Indigenous artists from its collection and program. The Museum is committed to addressing these erasures and honoring the perspectives of Indigenous artists and communities as we work for a more equitable future.
About Land Acknowledgment
Land acknowledgments are formal statements that affirm the ongoing relationships between Indigenous peoples and the land where an institution or organization resides. The acknowledgment is specific to the site where it is given, provides context and information about that place, and recognizes the past, present, and future presence of Indigenous people and their connections to the land. It also can offer accountability for how an institution or individual will work toward a greater inclusion of Indigenous perspectives.
The Whitney’s land acknowledgment statement was written by the Museum’s Indigenous Artists and Audiences Working Group (IAWG), a group that consists of staff from the curatorial and education departments. The group is in dialogue with Indigenous artists and community leaders, who helped us to create this statement, and the Museum’s staff and board offered feedback and suggestions at various points in the process. This land acknowledgment is a “living document” and will evolve as the Whitney deepens its relations with Indigenous communities.
About the Whitney’s Site
Four hundred years ago, when the Dutch arrived in what is now Manhattan, there was a Lenape fishing, planting, and trading site called Sapponckanikan (tobacco field), near what is currently the foot of Gansevoort Street close to the Whitney Museum’s current building. The Sapponckanikan area was occupied seasonally, and its location adjacent to one of the narrowest widths of the Hudson River allowed for trade with other Indigenous nations in the region.
Manhattan is at the center of Lenapehoking, which reaches from Western Connecticut to Eastern Pennsylvania, and the Hudson Valley to Delaware. As a result of centuries of colonialism, today the Lenape are dispersed throughout the U.S. and Canada. The Lenape diaspora includes five federally recognized nations in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Ontario. This diaspora is a result of the ongoing consequences of settler colonialism that continues to displace and dispossess Indigenous people from their lands.
Alongside the Lenape, many other Indigenous nations have ancestral ties to what is now known as New York city and state, including the six Haudenosaunee nations - Seneca, Cayuga, Tuscarora, Mohawk, Oneida, and Onondaga - and the Shinnecock and Poospatuck on Long Island. New York City is also home to a diaspora of Indigenous peoples from around the world.
American Indian Community House
The American Indian Community House (AICH) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization serving the needs of Native Americans residing in New York City.
The Lenape Center, based in Manhattan and led by Lenape elders, has the mission of continuing Lenapehoking, the Lenape homeland, through community, culture, and the arts.
Native Land Digital is a Canadian not-for-profit organization which strives to create and foster conversations about the history of colonialism, Indigenous ways of knowing, and settler-Indigenous relations, through educational resources such as the map and Territory Acknowledgment Guide.