An Indigenous-led environmental, cultural and political movement that seeks to place Indigenous land back in Indigenous hands. The concept for this movement began when Colonizers first came into contact with Indigenous tribes over 500 years ago, and tribes fiercely defended their sovereign right over their ancestral territories. However, Land Back as a movement with the power to mobilize not only different Indigenous communities, but non-Indigenous allies in the fight against environmental injustice, was catapulted into broader mainstream consciousness in recent years. #LandBack began trending on social media during the height of the No Dakota Access Pipeline (#NODAPL) protests on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation between 2016 and 2017, which helped highlight the struggles Indigenous communities were facing.
Following the protests at Mt. Rushmore in July of 2020, the Indigenous organization NDN Collective created a formal Land Back campaign that launched later that same year. Although acquiring sovereignty over stolen lands is a key goal, Land Back seeks to heal and reclaim other things that are connected to land reclamation: languages and ceremonies, governmental sovereignty, food, and housing security; equitable access to healthcare and education. All part of a larger goal to dismantle white supremacy and uplift BIPOC groups.
What Are The Key Differences Between Colonial and Indigenous Land Management?
There are two big differences between the Indigenous and Colonizer relationship with nature. Historically, the general vibe of Colonizer culture as modeled in the Bible is that nature is something to control and dominate: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. (Genesis, 1:26-28)” In contrast, many Indigenous tribes believe in a cosmological relationship with all things and value reciprocity between themselves and the land. Human beings are viewed as equal to nature, not above it.
Can Indigenous Land Stewardship Mitigate Climate Change?
Research shows that lands managed by Indigenous communities in Brazil, Australia, and Canada are equally and sometimes even MORE biodiverse than special conservation lands managed by the governments. Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International discovered that Indigenous-led actions against fossil fuel projects in the US and Canada have prevented or delayed a quarter of annual carbon dioxide emissions from both countries.
Examples of Indigenous Land Reclamation
The Esselen tribe purchased 1,200 acres in Big Sur, California after 250 years to be used for educational, cultural, and conservation purposes. In January of this year, the group Save the Redwoods League, purchased 523 acres of forest in Mendocino County and then transferred ownership of the property to the Intertribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, which consists of a group of 10 Native tribes who will serve as the protectors of the land in partnership with the League.
These success stories demonstrate that adopting Indigenous land stewardship practices and returning land back to Indigenous people is not only beneficial to all, but possible.
NDN Collective: LandBack
Indigenous Climate Action
Stop Line 3
Seven Indigenous Climate Activists You Should Know About
International Indigenous Youth Council
Indigenous Environmental Network
Return the National Parks to the Tribes
National Parks Should Be Controlled By Indigenous Tribes, One Writer Argues
This Land Is Their Land
Should Native Americans control national Parks? Examining an argument for reparations.
Ethnic Cleansing and America’s Creation of National Parks
National Parks are beautiful, but the way they were created isn’t.
There’s A Global Plan to Conserve Nature. Indigenous People Could Lead the Way.
Why Protecting Indigenous Communities Can Also Help Save the Earth
Don’t Downplay the Role of Indigenous People
Study: Indigenous resistance has staved off 25% of U.S. and Canada’s annual emissions
Redwood Forest in California is Returned to Native Tribes
Inigenous Peoples Defend the Earth’s Biodiversity – But They’re in Danger
What Can Traditional Indigenous Knowledge Teach Us About Changing Our Approach to Human Activity and Environmental Stewardship in Order to Reduce the Severity of Climate Change?
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Perspective: Indigenous land stewardship holds solutions for the future of the Amazon
Indigenous experiences in the U.S. with climate change and environmental stewardship in the Anthropocene
Vertebrate biodiversity on indigenous-managed lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada equals that in protected areas
Forest Gardens Show How Native Land Stewardship Can Outdo Nature
Protect indigenous people’s land rights and the whole world will benefit, UN forum declares
Indigenous people are the world’s biggest conservationists, but they rarely get credit for it
A Brief History of the National Park Service
Gov. Gavin Newsom floats $100M plan for tribes to buy land