Land Reparations & Indigenous Solidarity Toolkit
This is a brief guide for Resource Generation members and other folks with access to land to support in education and resource sharing around land reparations. We hope these resources can support us in taking collective action towards land repatriation to Indigenous people in the ongoing struggle against colonization. This is not a comprehensive guide, but rather a starting point. This guide was compiled by the RG Land Reparations Group in 2018.
There is no blueprint for how to work towards land reparations and land returns to the Indigenous people of this land. Every region, location, and tribe is different in the history of colonization, and in the political landscapes of Indigenous struggle and organizing. This brief guide is a compilation of some educational resources on colonialism, decolonization and solidarity, and links to some inspiring case studies and examples of settler descendants who have returned land to Indigenous people, as well as some initial questions/best practices to consider when beginning to think about working towards land repatriation to Indigenous people.
Wealth is based in finite resources. Wealth, even what’s based in the stock market, is ultimately tied concretely to land. “Land” here means all the world’s resources and ecosystems that keep us alive and well — water, vegetation, food, minerals, buildings, and more. The life-blood that flows from land is finite, tangible, vital. It is currently, especially in the U.S., almost exclusively privately controlled by individuals or corporations whose ownership the law is designed to protect. Land is controlled this way because of European colonization. The historic and ongoing theft and control of land, real estate, and resources has led to the extreme concentration of wealth among a small group of people that exists today.
In Resource Generation’s mission — to be working toward the equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power — we name the “equitable distribution of land.” This is a tactic and a specific outcome that young people with wealth are well positioned to influence. As an economic justice organization, focusing on this reparation of resources is one fundamental way we can contribute to and strengthen the holistic project of decolonization — but it must be in concert with other aspects of anti-colonial practices and principles, which are determined and led by Indigenous people. Decolonization and “the equitable distribution of land” is simultaneously about Native sovereignty, self-determination, and rights; and about the Earth and its resources being sustained, cared for, and lived with symbiotically. Colonization disrupted the communal responsibility to land inherent in Indigenous nationhood, and turned land into a private commodity for wealth extraction and accumulation. Therefore, a decolonial lens of returning land to Indigenous nations, not just individuals, is necessary to avoid reproducing those dynamics. To talk about true “redistribution of land” with a decolonial lens is seeking to address the question, “what would it look like to truly tend to the harm of wealth extraction done by colonizers [US-focus in RG but this is worldwide]?” Another way of putting this is – we are trying to get to the root causes of injustice.
Colonialism is both a root and result of racism and capitalism. A primary cause of the racial wealth divide is colonialism: white Europeans’ theft of land, resources, human bodies and their labor. In order to end racial capitalism, we must disrupt and end colonization.
Colonialism is a root cause of many other “isms” and injustices.
- Colonization by white Europeans brought indentured servitude; targeting poor people from Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and elsewhere that laid the groundwork for ongoing exploitation of the working class.
- Colonization is at the root of racism. White Europeans justified land theft and genocide by asserting that they were a scientifically superior class of human beings.
- Colonization by white Europeans introduced a strict Christianity-backed patriarchy that created and enforces gender roles and binary with the use of sexual violence, transphobia, and homophobia.
- Colonization by white Europeans imported and amplified a culture of greed and an economy of capitalism that led to the enslavement of Africans and seeded our current penal system.
U.S. colonialism and imperialism has shaped the history and present lives of Black, Latinx, Asian, and Arab people in the U.S. and abroad. Non-Native people of color have a different relationship to settler colonialism than descendants of White Europeans. Be it from forced migration through slavery, economic migration due to U.S. extraction of resources in South America, U.S backed imperialist land grabs, refugee resettlement due to U.S. wars abroad, non-Native people of color in the U.S have suffered from colonialism and imperialism, and have also been brought into the settler-colonial project that is the United States. As a community that is vastly majority settlers, we have a responsibility to center and work in solidarity with Native folks.
This new guide is designed to support members in partnership with movement leaders to support Indigenous and Black land access in the continued exploration of ways to distribute land, wealth and power.
Educational articles around colonialism and decolonization:
- How to support Standing Rock and confront what it means to live on stolen land
- Decolonization is Not A Metaphor
- Resources on connections between stolen land and wealth accumulation
- Decolonize Resource list
- For our Nations to Live, Capitalism Must Die
- Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex; An Indigenous perspective & provocation.
- Indigenous Environmental Network’s Indigenous Principles of Just Transition
- Resources for Land Justice
Some questions and best practices to consider:
1. What is the history of any land you indirectly/directly have access to? What Indigenous people historically or currently inhabit that land, and what is the history of how it was stolen? (Get started by checking out this decolonization homework from the Catalyst Project and this map of Native land)
2. Who are the Native people/communities where you live or where the land you have access to? What is the political landscape of both recognized and unrecognized tribes where you live? Are there any local efforts that are led by Indigenous people?
3. Start the slow process of building relationships with Native people where you live. Be patient. This work is relational and because of colonization Indigenous people and struggles are often less visible/invisible. Are there local events or cultural centers you can show up to? Are there individuals you are connected to that you can build relationship with?
4. What are the visions and struggles of Indigenous people/tribes in the area you live or have access to land in? Show up and support the visions and struggles that are ongoing. This might be fundraising for land or other resources, or inviting local tribes to utilize land that you have access to. De-commodifying land in the long term and returning lands to disenfranchised and Native people is ideal, and we must be working within the visions and struggles of Indigenous people/tribes.
5. What does informed consent look like in the offer for donation or transfer of land? Acknowledging that land transfers/land repatriation can be complex, can you consider and discuss how there can be a choice on behalf of the donation recipient of whether to accept the offer, and how to support the entire process and success ongoingly if so.
6. Learn about the specifics of what is possible as far as land transfers. Land can be transferred to individuals or cooperatives of individuals, collective ownership and control is important for maintaining long-term control of land, as private ownership is more vulnerable to dispossession. There are different ways donors can transfer land to land trusts- donation vs title transfer vs charitable sale. Learn about different options and discuss with partners. (See the guide below from the Sustainable Economies Law Center about different options for how to transfer land.)
Below are several examples of current or recent land return efforts. This includes organized fundraisers for land return, as well as individuals who have returned land to Native communities.
• Mashpee Wampanoag (Cape Cod) — Native Land Conservancy was founded in 2012 in Mashpee, Massachusetts, and is the first Native-run land conservation group east of the Mississippi, and this story about the first parcel of land donated to the Native Land Conservancy by an individual
• Maidu (Sacramento) — Land Stewardship Council returns ancestral California land
• Ponca (Nebraska) — Nebraska farmer signed a deed returning ancestral tribal land back to the Ponca Tribe
• Wabanaki (Maine) — First Light Learning Journey A collaboration of 25 non-Native conservationists controlling 2 million acres in Maine, and Wabanaki tribal members to build towards collective awareness of Native land left and move towards land resourcing sharing with Wabanaki people. Notes on process here.
Land taxes, cash & other returns
• Individual transfers $250K to Ute Tribe in Utah for stolen land Professor paying reparations for great-grandfathers’ profiteering
• Sogorea Te Land Tax: land tax in Bay Area, traditional Ohlone land, for non Indigenous people to pay into the Shuumi Land tax to acknowledge the history of colonization, land theft and the Ohlone community.
• Non-Profit Making a Land Return towards Sogorea Te Land Trust
• Duwamish Real Rent: Land tax in Seattle area
• FEDCO seeds – indigenous royalty
• There are currently many Indigenous-led, land-based anti-pipeline camps seeking on the ground support, supplies and legal support, such as The L’eau Est La Vie Camp.
Legal Reference Resource:
This guide covers different land transfer mechanisms, including full value sale, charitable (bargain) sale, full donation, donation of a remainder interest, revocable transfer on death, donation by bequest, and sale or donation of easement.
Sustainable Economies Law Center’s resource on different ways to transfer land
Legal Note: While Sustainable Economies Law Center made every effort to reference and confirm the information in this guide, tax and real estate law are complex areas of law that change frequently and vary depending on context. As a result, you should not rely on this guide as a substitute for legal advice from a lawyer familiar with your particular circumstances.
- Donate to any of the ongoing land tax/ land returns struggles.
- Host a fundraiser and direct money towards supporting Indigenous organizing.
- If you have access to land and are interested in land repatriation to Indigenous people, begin building relationships with people and see if there is interest in local land returns.
- This is not available for everyone who has access to land, so another way to move towards land repatriation is to sell acres of land and give the proceeds to support ongoing Indigenous-led organizing or land return struggles.