Land Acknowledgment for Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson
Developed in Cooperation with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community
In the spirit of truth and equity, it is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are gathered on the sacred homelands of the Munsee and Muhheaconneok people, who are the original stewards of the land. Today, due to forced removal, the community resides in Northeast Wisconsin and is known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. We honor and pay respect to their ancestors past and present, as well as to future generations, and we recognize their continuing presence in their homelands. We understand that our acknowledgment requires those of us who are settlers to recognize our own place in and responsibilities toward addressing inequity, and that this ongoing and challenging work requires that we commit to real engagement with the Munsee and Mohican communities to build an inclusive and equitable space for all.
This land acknowledgment, adopted in 2020, required establishing and maintaining long-term, and evolving, relationships with the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians. The Mellon Foundation's 2022 Humanities for All Times grant for “Rethinking Place: Bard-on-Mahicantuck” offers three years of support for developing a land acknowledgment–based curriculum, public-facing Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) programming, and efforts to support the work of emerging NAIS scholars and tribally enrolled artists at Bard.
The Master Plan
The significant historic contexts and themes relevant to the development of the Bard campus from a local, regional, and national perspective are explored in detail in the Preservation Master Plan for Bard College, which was created in December 2008 and covers the following time periods:
- Prehistory of the Hudson River Valley (c. 12,500 BCE – c. 1600 CE)
- Contact and Settlement Period (c. 1600–1790)
- Early 18th-Century Estates and Local Farms (c. 1790–1835)
- Romanticism and the Picturesque (c. 1835–70)
- Episcopalian Ideals and the Growth of Theological Education (c. 1850–1920)
- The Early Years of St. Stephen’s College (1860–1910)
- The Fall and Resurrection of the Great Estates (c. 1890–1950)
- Progressive Education and the Secularization of St. Stephen’s College (c. 1900–50)
- The Modern Era (1950 – present)
Prehistory and Settlement
Over time, one general concept has pervaded each period and phase of evolution—that of a shared sense of respect for the natural environment within which the College resides. This consciousness is exemplified through the earliest settlement of Hudson River Valley lands by Native Americans who drew sustenance from the Tivoli Bays, its islands, and surrounding uplands, as well as by the first European landholders who situated their country seats on the bluffs overlooking the Hudson River and the Catskills beyond.
Romanticism and the Picturesque
These early estate owners were followed by successive generations of wealthy proprietors with sophisticated tastes and interests; this natural environment defined and refined the concepts of 19th-century American Romanticism and the Picturesque movement. It also gave birth to the Hudson River School of painting, which expressed the character and desired identity of the new American nation.
St. Stephen’s College
The founding of St. Stephen’s College upon the “rough and rocky hill” represented the influences of the Picturesque in planning the early campus by responding opportunistically to the geology, topography, and prospect of the Bard lands. Faith and environment achieved a synergistic relationship as wild nature was proclaimed to be a source of moral, spiritual, and patriotic inspiration. The belief that nature is a spiritual resource became one of the defining themes of the conservation movement, which took root in the middle of the 19th century.
The Great Estates: Ward Manor
By the end of the 19th century, beliefs that nature could also serve as a healing agent followed in response to increased industrialization and urbanization, particularly found in nearby New York City. The idea of returning to nature for respite and exercise became a key ideal espoused by progressive reform during the early 20th century. The natural and bucolic environment of Ward Manor served as the setting where one social welfare organization, the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, established “fresh air camps” and carried out its mission to serve the less fortunate.
The Great Estates: Blithewood
While the Beaux Arts–inspired redesign of the Blithewood estate is very different from the earlier Picturesque style, it too was influenced by the site’s natural setting. The geometric, symmetrical forms of this style are exemplified by the formal garden, oriented to the same mountain views. Rather than harmony, however, the natural surroundings serve as a counterpoint: the river and mountains are the focus of a more formal vista, and serve as a backdrop to directed views that focus the eye along the main axis of the garden.
The Modern Era
The Modern period of design, which in many other places often ignored context and precedent, worked in tandem with the natural setting of the Hudson River Valley. At Bard, the current campus was shaped by adapting the needs and ideals of the era to the indelible identity of the estate landscapes. The newest buildings on campus, such as the Frank Gehry and Rafael Viñoly buildings, continue to respond to the environment in their own ways, either by reference to the Catskills through the deconstructivist design style of the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, or through the sinuous line of the Reem-Kayden Center for Science and Computation, which responds to both the rock outcrop and north-south axis of the historic core of campus. The Resnick Commons student residences engage sustainable architectural design techniques involving renewable energy, conservation, and a native plant palette.