Land in RG

The saying goes “all wealth comes from the land,” but how does that apply to your or your family’s access to wealth? Whether it comes from a factory, business, real estate, inheritance, the stock market or somewhere else, there’s a very good chance that the wealth under your or your family’s control is indeed ultimately tied to land. And just as all wealth somehow intersects with the land, all struggles for liberation do as well. Internationally and domestically, there is a call ringing out from those who have been stolen from their lands, had their lands stolen, or were otherwise forcibly removed from place: the call to governments, corporations, and wealthy individuals to give land back.

With land comes the opportunity for sovereignty, cultural preservation, self-determination, and for some, wealth accumulation. These are all key components of power. The ruling class has never been interested in sharing land, and thus, nor sharing power. The past and present is full of examples of governments and corporations seizing land – most obviously and extensively from Indigenous communities – while simultaneously denying access to land to Black communities and other communities of color. One example is the infamously unfulfilled “forty acres and a mule” post emancipation (wherein not only was no land given but land was actively taken from freedmen). Other examples include the trail of endless broken treaties, acts of war, and forced relocation policies designed to dispossess Indigenous people of their inherent responsibility to their land base as part of the insatiable appetite of colonial expansion. The first bill in the U.S. to bar a nationality by name was yet one more example of an attempt to limit people of color – in this case, Japanese farmers – from owning land because of the threat it created to white farmers. For a more comprehensive timeline of the history of Black, indigenous and POC land loss in the U.S. click here.

The U.S. legal system and government attempts to limit who owns land to white, upper class, Christian, cisgender men has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on who maintains state-sanctioned power. The state would not have gone through such strenuous and violent attempts at regulation, restriction and displacement if land were not so central to wealth accumulation.

As a multi-racial community of young people with access to wealth and class privilege, our family histories may include colonizers and those who were colonized, landowners and those forced from their land, and ancestors who fought against imperialism and then immigrated to the U.S. – and are complicit with settler colonialism here. Regardless, a key marker of our access to class privilege and wealth today is homeownership and the ability to purchase and sell land. Whatever our individual ties to “property,” all money generated from the stock market is reliant on the commodification of the earth’s resources in order to exist and all young people with wealth with investments in the stock market are direct beneficiaries of these extractive practices. And for those of us who earn a high wage through the tech industry, we must recognize that industry is reliant on mining the precious components that make technology possible.

Given how much effort has gone into limiting working-class BIPOC communities from accessing land, we know land redistribution is a pivotal aspect of undermining imperialism and supporting larger efforts towards reparations and decolonization. From Puerto Rico, to Hawaii, to the Philippines, to Palestine, around the world, we know that the impact of colonial conquest on the land and its inhabitants runs contrary to life.

Having seen the painful outcomes of land in the hands of those seeking profit over connection, land returns are a way to shift power directly back to those from whom it has been stolen. On a small scale this might look like: turning over control of land your family has access to Black farmers, helping working-class BIPOC organizations buy a building so that those and other organizations can operate out of it rent-free, paying land tax to the tribe whose land you occupy, supporting social justice organizing in another country that your wealth is tied to, or securing housing for others. The glory of land justice work is that it can look like so many things.

On the policy and systems-level, this might look like reimagining how and who stewards public land as the LANDBACK campaign demands a return to Indigenous hands. Or supporting bills like the Breathe Act which invites us to reimagine public safety and how spaces are policed. Locally it might look like putting your time, energy, resources, and connections as someone with class privilege into fighting for affordable housing. It might also look like supporting and amplifying anti-colonial calls for independence globally.

Here are some of the resources on land reparations we’ve pulled together with the collective support and wisdom of members in the Land Reparations working group:

  • Land Justice Guide includes different tools, templates, and resources for doing land returns along with a list of Black, Indigenous and People of Color Land projects and organizations to support.
  • Land Reparations and Indigenous Solidarity Toolkit includes case studies and educational resources for non-Native communities on being in solidarity with Indigenous organizing.
  • RG’s Indigenous Land Tax policy includes information about RG’s organizational land tax policy values with suggestions for individuals and other orgs to adopt the practice.

Organizing around land reparations, like all of RG’s work, is a long-term transformative process and ongoing practice of accountability that is most effective when done collectively.

Connect with others by joining the Land Reparations listserv, peer accountability counsel, and/or leadership team. Reach out to jes(at) or complete this form to get plugged in.