Over the years, there has been a growing movement of Native Americans to reclaim land stolen over the centuries. This struggle has been going on for decades but has accelerated with successes over the past few years.
Some recent history of this movement is in order. The LandBack movement was officially started in 2018 by Aaron Tailfeathers, a member of the Kainai Tribe of the Blackfeet Alliance of Canada. LandBack quickly became a hashtag on clothing, beaded ornaments, and other works of art.
In 2020, in response to the Mount Rushmore protests, the Indigenous organization NDN Collective drafted a LandBack Manifesto titled: “Reclaiming Everything Stolen from the Primordial Peoples.” The LandBack campaign officially kicked off on Indigenous Peoples Day 2020. The Manifesto covers land, language, ritual, food, education, health, governance, medicine, and kinship.
But the basic LandBack problem is simple: “Give us back the land.” For many and perhaps most Indigenous people, land acquisition is primarily an economic issue, for the stronger an Indigenous country is economically, the stronger it is in all respects. other aspects of his existence: working for a high salary, maintaining the language and traditions, being able to hunt, engaging in agriculture, accessing clean water, building adequate schools and housing, sustainability, strengthening sovereignty and expanding jurisdiction.
All of the above are also mental and spiritual builders. So far, campaigns have been directed towards public lands, including national parks and, if feasible, private lands. These targets did not seek to vacate anyone’s home.
But then again, it was first and foremost about getting the Indigenous lands back into the hands of the Indigenous while solving all the other problems. There are many facets to this struggle. This war is not new but one that has been dreamed and pursued in various ways for centuries, indeed since colonial times. The difference now is that more attention is coming from non-indigenous societies. Indigenous activists are seizing the time to increase and consolidate demand. In addition, LandBack campaigns are taking place not only in the United States but also in Canada and during the Mapuche struggle in Chile.
The goal is to decolonize the land
There are striking, concrete examples of lands going towards decolonization and being placed under tribal jurisdiction. Each tribe’s LandBack issue is unique. But each Indigenous nation’s war was an integral part of the broader Indigenous struggle across North America and beyond. The following examples illustrate the complexity, variety, and similarity of these struggles. Again, these missions were primarily aimed at federally held land.
In 2015, Mashpee Wampanoag reclaimed 300 acres of ancestral land after decades of effort. The acreage is placed in federal trust, which means the land cannot be taken away without federal approval. This gave the tribe sovereignty over the land, allowing them to build houses, schools and have a tribal police force on the land. Then, in a shocking turn of events, the federal government under Trump reversed the decision and title to the land was legally left open. But on December 22, 2021, the Biden Department of the Interior under the direction of Deb Haaland reversed the Trumpite decision and restored the Mashpee Wampanoag Reserve. A great victory for the Native Americans!
In 2019, the Unified Methodist Church returned ancestral land in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, to Oklahoma’s Wyandotte Nation. The Wyandotte Indian Mission was founded there in the early 1800s by an African-American Methodist missionary, John Stewart. In 1819, the federal government made a treaty promise with the 148,000-acre Wyandotte Nation in Kansas. But when Wyandotte arrived in Kansas, there was no vacant land.
In 2020, Six Nations’ Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) set up a roadblock on 1492 Land Back Lane to close a housing development on their unconcessioned land in Ontario, Canada.
In July 2020, the Esselen Tribe purchased a 12,000-acre ranch near Big Sur, California, as part of a multi-million dollar deal. The reclaiming of these traditional lands protects old-growth forests, wildlife, and the Little Sur River, which leads to another point: The LandBack Movement protects the environment and nature.
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is making claims in Illinois. Remember that Chicago is located on the land of Potawatomi.
The people of Lakota demanded the closure of Mount Rushmore and the return of all public lands in the Black Hills to the “original stewards”.