Indigenous Land Tax: One Way that RG Strives to Create Policies that Reflect Our Values

RG has been reflecting as an organization on ways to pay respect to the Indigenous people on this very important day and on all days.

What are ways to create policies that begin to respect the Native communities who continue to steward land and lead the movements that are integral to all of our liberation? The nonprofit structure is not designed to enable sharing resources and often limits the ability of organizations to act in integrity with collective values. So what does it look like within the nonprofit model to begin finding the edges of those ideals? Resource Generation is trying out creating policies that reflect our values and we want to share a little about what we’re up to as an invitation to others, individually and organizationally. For RG, as a community of young people with access to wealth and class privilege it is essential that we (staff and members) take the time to learn about the Black and Native lead organizing locally and nationally and to support in whatever ways we’re able.

To quote our vision statement, “Resource Generation envisions a world in which all communities are powerful, healthy, and living in alignment with the planet. A world that is racially and economically just in which wealth, land and power are shared.” So what are the small ways we can create policies that move us towards that vision? One is focusing in on what we know, that all wealth is built off of the land and that we are all tied to the land. Domestically and internationally, much of our membership base has family wealth from access to land gained through displacement. In particular in the states, being descended from early settlers who benefited from stolen land, or who currently have ties to extractive real estate industries that push out poor and working class people of color, especially Black people. Great harm has been caused by systematically and violently disenfranchising Black and Indigenous communities from access to land stewardship and to the power and self-determination that can come with land access. Thus, we believe in the necessity of land reparations. 

Resource Generation has done internal political education as a staff and with members around Black and Native land redistribution. One of our core values is supporting the leadership of those most directly impacted by systemic violence and harm. We understand learning to be in service of action and so one way to reflect our values around land reparations is to follow the leadership of Native communities asking for settlers to “pay rent” to the tribes whose lands we occupy. Each staff member has an allocated amount to pay to the tribe whose land we’re on and each time we have a national gathering we pay rent to the tribe whose land we visited. As all things are, this is an imperfect experiment but one worth learning from and continuing to shift in the years to come. The land tax, which we count as part of our budgeting for rent, is not a primary part of our budget – we are a nonprofit that fundraises to keep up all of our general operating costs – however adding this budget line helps us feel more in line with our values around redistribution. Creating values-based policies isn’t a way of assuaging guilt or looking for accolades, it’s a way of moving towards integrity.

RG envisions a world in which all communities are powerful, healthy, and living in alignment with the planet. A world that is racially and economically just in which wealth, land and power are shared.

We are inspired by the different models of collectively-held Native land taxes. This includes the Duwamish Real Rent campaign, the emerging Manna-Hatta Fund, and the Shuumi Land Tax (see below for more information). These models help us to reimagine a tangible way of giving back and supporting Indigenous organizing. For example, when we are able to pay the Shuumi Land tax, those funds support the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an urban Indigenous women-led community organization that facilitates the return of Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone lands in the San Francisco Bay Area to Indigenous stewardship. “Sogorea Te creates opportunities for all people living in Ohlone territory to work together to re-envision the Bay Area community and what it means to live on Ohlone land. Guided by the belief that land is the foundation that can bring us together, Sogorea Te calls on us all to heal from the legacies of colonialism and genocide, to remember different ways of living, and to do the work that our ancestors and future generations are calling us to do.” 

Many organizations are barely scraping by or are strictly bound to grant conditions. We know this may not be an option for all orgs, but for those who are in a position to, we invite you to make paying an Indigenous land tax part of your policies as well. And you don’t have to be in an organization to make this part of your life, you can individually look up and pay rent where you live or travel (more info on how to do that in the resources section below). In recent years many organizations have started doing formal land acknowledgements as a way to combat erasure of Indigenous communities, this is a free way to show solidarity. 

These are tiny drops in a deep well, not the systemic changes needed to bring us towards mass land returns to Indigenous communities and reparations to Black communities. It’s just a place to start, a way to show intention. At Resource Generation we also have commitments to the Movement for Black Lives with set goals for how we as a community want to be part of resourcing their vital work. As a community of young people with access to wealth and class privilege, many of our members are also involved in ongoing action and reflection around Black and Indigenous land reparations. Land reparations requires individual commitments, organizational policies and collective culture shifting and institutional change, as we continue our journey we invite you to do the same. 


For partial list of resources: