Jonathan Sims is a media producer and former appointed official at the Pueblo of Acoma. He covers news and writes a column on Indigenous People's issues for The Paper.

The founders behind Bow and Arrow Brewing Co. in Albuquerque want you to add another bar trick up your sleeve: knowing the ancestral lands your beer was brewed upon. Yes, you are on Native land, and so is your beer! In celebration and advancement of Indigenous Peoples Day and Native American Heritage Month, Bow and Arrow brewed up the Native Land Label. A collaboration of breweries using a “Land Acknowledgment” label. If you haven’t heard of Indigenous land acknowledgment, it’s a movement that is now a regular part of the tools we as Native people use to offset the usual colonial constructs. It’s being able to proudly acknowledge whose tribal ancestral lands we stand on at any time. The “Americas,” North and South, were all once Native land, and it is important for those residing in those territories to understand who was there before them and whose Indigenous land it will always be.

Bow and Arrow Brewing is the only Native-owned brewery in New Mexico and will soon release the “Native Land” label, an idea that allows brewers nationwide, Native or not, to share their local ancestral land identity with their consumers. Here’s how it works: When a brewery signs up with Bow and Arrow, they must discover the land claim they are on and also promise to provide a part of the sales to a Native American nonprofit. Bow and Arrow’s proceeds will provide help to First Nations Development Institute for their Stewarding Native Lands initiative. The label artwork will be sent to the participating breweries to package their own Native Land Label.

Co-founder Shyla Sheppard explains, “It’s visibility. A lot of times Native issues, Native people, are dismissed. We’re seeing people step up and in different industries, Native people like Deb Haaland and Sterling Harjo finding ways to share a story and kind of planning and changing the narrative. And so we saw this as an opportunity to do that. A lot of the non-Natives are having to step up and do some research and figure out whose ancestral land are they on. And a lot of them didn’t know. So they’re learning. It’s a great learning opportunity for them to build a sense of awareness,” Sheppard said.  

It’s that awareness that opens the doors to many conversations. What an easy way to begin to broach a complicated subject matter: the proverbial “over a beer.”

“I think, really importantly, it’s not only acknowledging the people who came before them. What it’s also been about is thinking about how they can impact the Native people who still exist, because we’re still here,” she said.

Bow and Arrow have 18 participating breweries and counting. The initiative will run through the spring, providing breweries with larger batch schedules to get involved. Homebrewers, small batch brewers and large-scale brewers are all welcome.

So if you are looking for an interesting conversation starter and a damn fine beer, look no further than your own Bow and Arrow Brewing. You can cop some in person (608 McKnight Ave. NW) or online. For more on the Native Land Label go to bowandarrowbrewing.com/nativeland

To learn more about land acknowledgments visit nativegov.org/news/a-guide-to-indigenous-land-acknowledgment/

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Jonathan Sims is a media producer and former appointed official at the Pueblo of Acoma. He covers news and writes a column on Indigenous People's issues for The Paper.