Monasteries on stolen Native American land


I can see two groups of people who use the term “virtue signaling.” If we take the case of land acknowledgements, there is one group who support indigenous human rights and feel that LAs are a fake way to show a useless/superficial kind of support when there are more serious things to be done to help people who are experiencing the generational impact of racism and colonialism.

The other group wishes that indigenous people would just go away. And so by using the term “virtue signaling” they are able to mock the people they don’t want to hear from.

There is a long history of this, from labeling things as “politically correct” to “woke.” Rather than actually trying to justify their own racist, sexist, etc behaviour, they just mock those who are anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc.

So when people use these terms in a public forum to deride positions you disagree with, there needs to be an awareness of what you are actually doing. Because if what you really mean is “I wish there was some way we could do something more about this situation than just X” then it is better to say that and not use the same terms of people who intend the exact opposite.

Indeed. And LAs go right to the heart of making people uncomfortable. As they should. It’s completely wholesome to feel discomfort when being reminded that you have inherited things from a murderous, racist system.

And that discomfort is a starting point for change.

Yes. And LAs help to break that down into real people with real histories. People can claim that LAs are useless and superficial, but in fact they force a change in understanding the current situation. Acknowledgement is not the only thing people need. But it’s not nothing.


@snowbird you say some things I agree with, and other things that I don’t. But, like I said to Ven. Sujato, I’m not interested in arguing about this point further. I don’t think this forum is a good place to do so. :heart: :pray: The term “virtue signaling” came up earlier in the discussion (before I even got involved), and I just decided to chime in with a brief 2 cents, and I’m now done.

Going back onto the original topic, I’ve heard positive things about the relationship between the City of 10K Buddhas in Ukiah, California, and the local Pomo Natives. This is based on some volunteering I did with the Pomo nation up there…the Pomos seem to have a positive impression of that Monastery. I think the school associated with the Monastery had a good reputation….and perhaps gives it a bit more visibility than Abhayagiri.


Thank you for this link. I spent last night listening to Shaun Nannup and his message of flowing with nature with unconditional love and compassion for all beings :pray:t4:


In the Netherlands there is a growing awareness of our past colonization and the pain we caused to other people. There are official regrets spoken. Also regarding slavery. All kind of abuses are openly spoken of.

Also in our history we tend to idealise people, socalled hero’s, but who caused many problems and suffering. But will this ever change? It seems we still idealise or feel a need (maybe evolutionary) for the strong dictator -like leader.


Most land that was “stolen” has been stolen many times over by different native American tribes throughout the history of the America’s. One tribe would forcibly take over land from another. So my question would be which tribe are we talking about the land being stolen from? The original tribe? Or the very last tribe?
Why would the monestary take on the guilt or responsibility for the many times the land was taken over by different people over thousands of years?

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Hi all, thanks for the discussion. I agree with Ven.@sujato about the problems with the critique of “virtue signaling” and much else, including the reference to Girard, which I hadn’t known. Thank you, venerable.

I’m in North America, sometimes called Turtle Island, and many of us do make land acknowledgments part of our practice more and more now. I don’t agree with the critique that always doing so is unwholesome, but I do agree with the moral principle behind that critique that material reparations are more powerful than spoken acknowledgment. At the large meditation center where I work (Spirit Rock), we have a land acknowledgment, but also have started building relationships with the local Indigenous tribes, and are fortunate to have multiple Dharma teachers of Indigenous heritage in our lineage, so we’ve been able to offer retreats for Indigenous people and allies with an all Indigenous teaching body. This is such an honor to do, and the relationship between our lineage and Indigenous wisdom holders is growing. We are working on more ways to direct resources toward our local tribes, and to support their projects of cultural and ecological renewal.

It’s not easy to repair the kamma of 400 years of colonialism and genocide, but I do think land acknowledgment and real relationship-building are part of the path to that repair.


Humans are like other primates. They are at once nomadic and territorial. This often leads to conflict. Analytically it’s not an easy issue to resolve, much less from a practical position in the real world.

Ah! That’s great to hear! Spirit Rock was actually one of the places I was thinking of that for years had a “land acknowledgement” and a “diversity statement” etc etc but with nothing to show for it.

Thanks for this, Bhante :pray: I forgot that Right Speech always comes before Right Action.

I guess I should tolerate a little more hypocrisy in people, since that’s where change always starts: aspiring to a higher morality than we’re able to achieve.

Indeed, the idea is to shoot for the moon! Even if you miss…



One of the many problems with the idea of “virtue signalling” is that when it is done badly, it’s just hypocrisy. There’s a perfectly good word for that already.

“Signalling virtue” is a virtue-amplifier. It’s how you not only do good yourself, but also encourage others to do good.

Signalling virtues in a false and dishonest way, pretending to be something that you’re not, is just plain old hypocrisy. Why not use that word? Because the people, primarily of the toxic right, who keep ranting about “virtue signalling” are themselves hypocrites in everything they do and say. So it distracts from their actual evil while inventing a vacuous new way of undermining anyone who tries to do good.

Hypocrisy, in and of itself, is not an unalloyed bad. Actually it’s normal to try to present your best face and hide your defects. And as you said:

The point is, we should be reflective and honest about it, and genuinely try to aspire to the values we espouse, even if we sometimes fail.

Don’t get me started on the problem of excessive insistence on moral purity. No really, just don’t.


An acknowledgement of traditional ownership by America’s First Nations is the least Buddhist monastic institutions must do. The same requirement is mirrored elsewhere in the world, including here in Australia


Thank you for raising this issue, @Alakso. I don’t have anything of substance to add, but I think it is an important issue to continue to raise and keep front-and-center. In Canada, we have a horrible history when it comes to the treatment of indigenous people, but I find it positive that a formal Truth and Reconciliation process has been established and that it is an issue that becomes a regular part of dialog in Canada.

This is beautifully said, Bhante @sujato Thank you. May I share this with my staff at work? As a small non-profit, we find telling the story around the positive things we and other organizations are doing in the community (that is, virtue singalling) is an important element of positive change and community support.


I’ve been an American all of my life.

I would know next to nothing about Native Americans if I had not had a Lakota coworker in college.

I imagine the deficit in information is even greater for people from other countries who came to America to build monasteries and meditation retreat centers.

Why not become friends with the people who run these places and tell them about the history?

Many formal meditation sessions start or end with metta.

I can see the people who run such sessions including metta specifically for natives and also expressing gratitude for the use of the land.

Many European Americans who are into Buddhism are also liberal and open to listening to such things.

I would think being Buddhists, Asians in America and Asian Americans also being POC would also be open minded to friendly conversations and doing something as a result.

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I must admit that I’m quite at odds with the majority of people here regarding this political issue and many others. I mean for example there is a tendency here for people to think that capitalism is the devil, whilst I think it’s a good thing. Regardless, if it’s really true that said people are living on stolen land, or it’s really felt that is the case, then shouldn’t said people leave this stolen land and return to their nation of origin? If I felt I was born onto stolen land and benefited from it, I’d leave. Thankful I’m a Welshman living in Wales so a lot of this doesn’t apply to me (unless I go back far enough to the Anglo-Saxon invaders) but if it did and it was stolen land I struggle to see how I could stay.

Virtue signalling is negative because it’s an attempt to show how virtuous you are on an issue when you are anything but. In other words, it’s insincere. The kind of stuff all politicians do at some point. It’s hypocrisy, yes, hypocrisy about your non-existent virtue (on said issue) that you are trying to get attention for. Virtue signalling. With that said, I don’t think people like your good self and others here are virtue signalling. I think you genuinely mean what you say. I just think it’s mistaken, which is different.

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Don’t the suttas recommend not telling people when you have done this or that good Bhante?

I leave this site for a few months periodically, and always come back to pure gold. Capitalism is a good thing? Come on, let’s be real here. The same capitalists who “respect they are on stolen land” aren’t giving it back anytime soon—as you just mentioned in the form of a question, I think—so here creeps in the idea of “virtue signaling” and it earns itself some critical comments. Whatever “social media posturing” and such is required according to “PC culture” will certainly be delivered.

The suttas talk about speaking of attainments and things like that, but the everyday common speak among people, what Bhante is suggesting is of no consequence.

Is there a reference for that? As far as I can tell, in the suttas, gifts to the Sangha are quite public. In modern times, Viharas typically put lists of donations on noticeboards, donors names on buildings, paths, etc. I.e. it is celebrated. Obviously, some may do such things to bolster their pride, but why should we tarnish all people who do good deeds with that implication?

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There is this:

Furthermore, a good person doesn’t speak well of themselves even when asked, let alone when not asked. But when led on by questions they speak well of themselves without giving the full details, leaving many things out. That’s how to know that this is a good person. A good person can be known by these four qualities.


Things are considered stolen if you steal it yourself. Monasteries are not stolen, they are bought. Anyway it was stolen centuries ago.

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There’re certain good things capitalism had done. Eg. lifting most of humanity out of poverty, enabling efficient allocation of resources for technological progress. Free market is generally more efficient than central planning.

Of course, the downside is global warming due to unrecognized externality, which should be recognized as carbon tax. As well as basing economy on the idea of greed.

What history indeed? I don’t think it’s clear to the international folks here. And it’s not mentioned above very clearly. Care to elaborate?

That’s one of the puzzling things for me as an outsider, is the demand that non-native Americans leave? What’s the demand? By whom? What benefit is there to just say in words: “This is stolen land” if there’s no other corresponding concrete action? Or is the demand mere recognition by words? Of course, I am not advocating for ignoring history, or not acknowledging, just wondering the historical/ sociological/ psychological impact of it and why is acknowledgement needed moralistically speaking. If there’s any virtue to signal, I want to know why is mere acknowledgement a virtue?