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​​Land Acknowledgment and Landback

~ Debby Ball

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What is Land Acknowledgment?

“A Land Acknowledgment is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Native peoples as traditional stewards of lands. The statement highlights the enduring relationship between Native peoples and their traditional territories. “ (1)

“Acknowledgment is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture and toward inviting and honoring the truth. “ (2) 

Acknowledgment is an important and necessary action. How can non-indigenous people live in a land that was taken by force, stolen and colonized from its original inhabitants and not acknowledge those peoples history, culture and connection to that land? In recent years, there are allies that have joined with many first nations to draw guidelines and worked toward efforts to foster Land Acknowledgment. It is a good step toward reparation of the wrongs committed and the harms done to the people living in the lands that had been their home long before the white men came. But Land Acknowledgement can only be considered a step to a more right process.

“In a post titled 'Beyond territorial acknowledgements,' Métis writer âpihtawikosisân explains that while territorial acknowledgements are a good step in the right direction, they are only a starting point. âpihtawikosisân writes that 'Moving beyond territorial acknowledgments means asking hard questions about what needs to be done once we’re ‘aware of Indigenous presence’. It requires that we remain uncomfortable, and it means making concrete, disruptive change.'” (3) 

So what is the next step? What is it that is uncomfortable and will bring change. Landback. Landback is a movement gaining momentum and worthy of deep discussion and action. What is Landback?

“Land Back is an actionable solution that genuinely respects the rules of society and the nation. Returning territory to Native nations is about the U.S. government honoring treaties and relinquishing stolen land.” (4) 

Why is Landback an important action that must be discussed and acted on? In addition to reparation and justice, doing what is right, our environment, our planet, is drastically in need of a different perspective than the colonized worldview. In the current model that rules, the land is a resource, a vehicle through which big business and major corporations make money. It is a model that is harming the planet, causing climate change that is close to the tipping point. It is causing the demise of innumerable species. It is a worldview that is unconscionable and unacceptable.

“This approach to addressing historical injustices fundamentally rejects the premise of land ownership and confronts colonialism head-on. Opposed to the traditional nation-state models, for Indigenous communities, natural resources and land are not commodities that exist for the benefit of the individual or collective.” (5)

How do we get there? What are the solutions? How can the solutions be accomplished? And who/what will make the decisions? Will Indigenous Sovereign Nations have a voice as any sovereign nation should?

“NDN Collective launched a #LandBack campaign on October 12th for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and allies are encouraged to sign the petition for the Black Hills to be returned, sign and share NDN’s content, and follow along with the campaign. NDN in their campaign is demanding 4 specific steps that they specified as:

1. Dismantle white supremacy structures that forcefully removed us from our Lands and continue to keep our Peoples in oppression.

• Bureau of Land Management, National Parks Service

1. Defund white supremacy and the mechanisms and systems that enforce it and disconnect us from stewardship of the Land.

• Police, military industrial complex, Border Patrol, ICE

1. Return- All public lands back into Indigenous hands.

2. Consent-Moving us out of an era of consultation and into a new era of policy around Free and Prior Informed Consent.” (6)

It's a discussion that needs to take place. And yes, it will be uncomfortable for some. It will require deep and deliberate action. It will mean looking at the current acceptance of life as is and transforming, through “disruptive change” into what can be. And it is what is right.

Sources (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)  (6)