Inclusive Communications

Inclusive Language

When we share stories in text, audio, and video, we strive to be accurate and respect the dignity and humanity of our partners and community.

Sometimes this means using more words to convey a message; sometimes it means using text, audio, and video to communicate the same thing; sometimes the community we are writing about will have a preferred term to use instead of one we may prefer.

As MacArthur Staff decide what words to use or stories to tell, we consider the audience, the context, and the relationships at play. We also provide guidelines for asset-based language to serve as a resource and provide options on the use of language. Our resources include a glossary, inclusive alternatives for some commonly encountered phrases, and grammatical guidelines. We emphasize that when we communicate, our aim is to be in right relationship with the communities we seek to serve.

These are some of the principles we include, alongside more specifics:

  • Seek and respect self-identifications.
  • Name specific communities; name the systems you seek to change; name the strategy; name equity.
  • Use proper nouns, or names used for and by persons, communities, and organizations, because they convey respect, understanding, acceptance, and clarity.
  • Only identify race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and other identifiers when they are relevant to the content, avoid tokenizing.
  • Use inclusive and accessible language and design.
  • Center people and avoid using adjectives as nouns for people.
  • Use the active voice, emphasize agency.

We emphasize solutions and assets over problems and deficits. When we talk about communities with whom we work, we emphasize their personhood, dignity, and agency, rather than their challenges and disenfranchisement.

Our thinking on communications is not intended to ignore historical inequities. We recognize grant applicants often find it necessary to highlight deficits and disparities in funding requests to make the case for support. We, however, will not define people by the challenges they face. We will highlight their strengths, aspirations, and contributions to society. We will also demonstrate how inequitable systems, rather than individual actions, created the current conditions that exist. 

Language is fluid. We are committed to continually review, revisit, and refine our use of language to be as representative and inclusive as possible.

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We are committed to increasing access and participation for people with disabilities at MacArthur events, both at the Foundation and at outside venues. We are also working to ensure that our invitations to such events are more welcoming. We have benchmarked our website against standards for accessibility for people with disabilities, made significant enhancements, and are eager to share what we have learned with our grantees. We have made it easier for visitors to access our historic headquarters building, and we are modifying our emergency preparedness communications and practices to improve our support for tenants and guests with disabilities.

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Our Land Acknowledgement

Our Chicago office is situated on the lands of the Potawatomi people. They were the stewards of this land and lived, loved, and cared for it until forced out by non-Native settlers. Tribes that have historical relationships with the lands in greater Chicago and Northern Illinois through trade, travel, and habitation also include the Odawa, Ojibwe, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Miami, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Mascouten, Kickapoo, and Meskwaki, as well as mound builders and other tribes whose names have been lost as a result of genocide and ethnocide of European colonialism and United States expansion. This land continues to be home to Indigenous people. Chicago is home to one of the largest urban Indigenous populations in the United States.

Our mission leads with justice, and we must reckon with historical and ongoing injustices, erasures of Indigenous people, and appropriations of their lands, cultures, and resources. We are connected to Indigenous people in Chicago, Illinois, and around the world. We are committed to partnering with and supporting Indigenous people and nations as they continue to advocate for and maintain sovereignty and self-determination, educational opportunity, economic development, healthcare, cultural preservation and promotion, and in all other ways that promote Indigenous communities and support truth, healing, and reconciliation between Native and non-Native people.

Bodéwadmikik ėthë ték i MacArthur Foundation miktthéwiwgëmëk. Nëko shna wgi këwabdanawa shodë kik, minė gé shode shna anet gathë dnezwat, neshthé wėth bgeshmok wthë igwan wgi zhë nashkëwaywik. Winwa gé zhé, nëko shna wgi dnezwêk shode Zhegagoynak, gi Odawa, Ojibwe, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Miami, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Mascouten, Kickapoo, Meskwaki zhenkazwik minė gé anet Gété Neshnabék. Ngodêk shna shodë wgi dnezwêk bwamshé byawat gi ktthemokmanêk. Mégwa shna ngom shodë dnezwêk gi neshnabék, manék godë neshnabék ėthë dawat shode Zhegagoynak.

Nnedwéndamen gé ninan wéwénė ėwi mnozhë'aywat minė ėwi wdeténmaywat godë neshnabék. Nde ndo with miktthéwimak neshnabék, nëkmëk shna wthebyéwêk. Bédo wina ėwi nizhokmëwayak thayék gi neshnabék thak shna gégo nigan wthë igwan ėnkëmgezwat... ėzh dbakwnëgéwat, ėzh kenomagéwat, shonya ėzh mkëmwat, mshkëkiwen, minė gé neshnabé zhetthkéwen. Nnedwéndamen gé ėwi nsetwaywat gi neshnabék.

Translation by Bmejwen / Kyle Malott, an enrolled citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.


Potawatomi (pah-tuh-WAH-tuh-mee)
Odawa (oh-DAH-wah)
Ojibwe (oh-JIB-way)
Peoria (pea-OR-ee-ah)
Kaskaskia (kahs-KAHS-kee-ah)
Miami (me-YAH-me)
Ho-Chunk (HOE-chunk)
Menominee (meh-NOM-ih-nee)
Mascouten (MEH-skaw-tin)
Kickapoo (kih-KAH-poo)
Meskwaki (meh-skw-AH-key)

It is important to recognize that the United States was founded on the genocide and removal of Indigenous people. By enacting land acknowledgements, we are working to recognize a more truthful history of this country and our community. This is one step toward healing the land by speaking to it and saying the names of its caretakers, Indigenous people.

A land acknowledgment should always include recognition of the land itself and its relationship to Native people. It recognizes a historic relationship and the current moment in time while also acknowledging that Native people are still living and thriving.

Finally, the land acknowledgement is a call to action for the Foundation, and others, to address their relationship with Native people and organizations that work on behalf of Native people. Acknowledgment alone is a small gesture and should be accompanied by authentic relationships and informed action in partnership with Indigenous people.

We acknowledge a special responsibility to Potawatomi people. We are dedicated to partnering with and supporting Indigenous people—individuals, organizations, and communities—and integrating that partnership in our work. We understand this is a journey that does not end. We will not get it right every time, but we believe it is important to commit to consistent efforts to supporting Indigenous people.

In 2020, we began an intervention in our building lobby to address and challenge the White supremacist narratives on display in the Marquette Building. We have established partnerships with Chicago-area organizations and organizations elsewhere that support Indigenous people, communities, economic opportunities, and well-being.

The land acknowledgement will also have a physical place in the Marquette Building’s lobby exhibit, which was developed with advice and curation from this advisory group along with other scholars and consultants in the area.

One area of our Equitable Recovery grantmaking supported the Self-determination of Indigenous Peoples. We approved 15 grants totaling $16 million to organizations that uplift Indigenous communities to enable autonomous pursuit of a recovery guided by their priorities, cultures, and practices.

Representative grants

American Indian Center, a Chicago grantee, working as a cultural and community resource for Chicago’s Native American community.

IllumiNative, a Journalism and Media grantee, working to advance Indigenous narratives in film and media.

Nia Tero, a Conservation and Sustainable Development grantee, working to advance Indigenous people’s stewardship of vital ecosystems.

Pennington County Sheriff and 7th Judicial Circuit, a Criminal Justice grantee working to reduce disparities in jail incarceration for Native Americans

NDN Collective, an Equitable Recovery grantee, supporting the self-determination of Indigenous peoples, including efforts to improve the underlying conditions contributing to poor health outcomes from COVID-19 in Native American communities.

Native BioData Consortium, an Equitable Recovery grantee—which is led by Indigenous biomedical scientists and governed by a board and community advisory group that includes tribal experts in precision health, technology, law, policy, business, ethics, and cultural matters—working to use health data for quality-of-life improvement and to ensure that advances in genetics and health research benefit all Indigenous people.

For more than 40 years, we have been committed to Chicago, its people, and its strength and vitality.

Chicago is a global city with vibrant, diverse neighborhoods and a strong civic culture. And yet Chicago’s legacy and continued practice of systemic racism create unequal access to resources and opportunities for communities of color. Chicago’s Indigenous community has been harmed by systemic policies and practices that inhibit their access to resources and opportunities, in addition to the legacy of settler colonialism and genocide. We must reckon with our history and partner with Indigenous people as we work to create a more equitable city and just world.

Our Just Imperative demands that we interrogate our policies, processes, and practices to live our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A land acknowledgement is one way we have been called to work toward equity and inclusion for Native people. In recent years, starting in Canada and New Zealand, land acknowledgments have become a process to recognize the Indigenous people of a place and responsibilities to them. These land acknowledgments are becoming more common in the United States, and the Foundation has embraced this opportunity to recognize the First People of Chicago and surrounding region and the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to them. 

We partnered with the American Indian Center in Chicago and a team of advisors and experts from Chicago’s Indigenous community to develop this land acknowledgement, rooted in history and the recognition that Chicago remains an Indigenous, though colonized, place. This is a living text and is part of a learning process, informed by our partners, advisors, and experts. We recognize that the acknowledgement also presents a certain perspective on the history of this land. Many others who make land acknowledgements in Chicago identify the Council of Three Fires, which includes the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi, as the Indigenous people of this land, among other tribes originating in the Great Lakes region. While many Native nations have strong ties to Chicago, we chose to center the Potawatomi people because of the history of their relationship to the land and of their long advocacy for sovereignty in Chicago, specifically.