Sharing the report of the Indigenous Working Group

December 19, 2022

To the members of the MIT community,

In an April letter reflecting on MIT’s Indigenous history, I detailed the steps we would take to advance Indigenous scholarship and support our Indigenous community, including charging an ad hoc working group. Today I write to share the working group’s report and describe the path forward.

Working group charge

Last spring, I asked Chancellor Melissa Nobles and Institute Community and Equity Officer (ICEO) John Dozier to co-chair a working group of faculty, staff and Indigenous student leaders to advise me on three issues that I did not feel equipped to address alone:

  • How MIT should use the funds it has allocated for Indigenous efforts
  • Whether MIT should develop an official land acknowledgement statement or a statement of relationship with Indigenous communities
  • How to ensure that the MIT administration maintains open, regular communication with Native communities

After considering these questions together this fall, the working group submitted its report to me and MIT’s senior leadership. Following careful review, we are committed to act on the group’s recommendations.

I urge you to read the report to gain a deeper understanding of the issues the group grappled with. For now, here’s a brief summary.


MIT will use the funds it has allocated for Indigenous issues to support our two Indige-nous student groups: the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and the Native American Student Association (NASA). While my April letter presented the funding in the context of the Morrill Act of 1862, which established MIT as a land grant university, I want to be clear that the funds we are providing represent a positive investment in MIT’s Indigenous community and a commitment to strengthening the Institute’s relationships with Indigenous people.

Land acknowledgement/Statement of relationship

At least for now, MIT will not develop an official Institute-wide land acknowledgement statement or a statement of relationship. A common theme in the group’s report is the need to build relationships with Indigenous communities, people and Nations rather than rush to symbolic actions. That work must precede an official statement.

At the working group’s recommendation, we have updated the language that frames the statement currently posted on the ICEO site to provide context and encourage an active, rather than passive, commitment to relationship building. The ICEO will regularly revisit the question of an official statement as this work progresses.

Open, regular communication

The question of how MIT’s administration should maintain open, regular communication with Native American communities will be one for MIT’s next president to consider. But the group identified human resources – leaders, supporters, advisors and connectors – as essential in this work. Melissa and John have shared the working group’s report with President-elect Kornbluth to ensure continuity as she takes on her new role.

Additional recommendation

At the working group’s request, I have asked Leila Kinney, executive director of Arts Initiatives, and Chris Bourg, director of Libraries, to identify space on campus for an exhibit of Indigenous art. Both have graciously agreed to help. Longer term, we will ask the leaders of an effort to diversify the Institute’s public art collection to take special care to ensure Indigenous representation. This is a small but important step that I hope will begin to address the feeling of invisibility on campus that Indigenous members of the working group described.

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As I wrote in April, our actions reflect an acknowledgement that we have work to do, but they also reflect a commitment to move forward in ongoing dialogue and partnership with Indigenous communities. I am grateful to Melissa, John and the entire working group for helping us advance that commitment.


L. Rafael Reif