#LANDBACK is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples.
Above all, LANDBACK is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism.
One of the main areas of work of my Indigenous friends is related to the concept of LANDBACK. When I recently asked how I could best support them, they said “LANDBACK”.
My Spirit agrees, because agitating to stop the profligate use of fossil fuels has been my life's work. Extraction projects involve the theft of land, even when defined as legal by means of eminent domain. But the concept of LANDBACK is a new path of exploration for me, and I will need guidance, from the Spirit and all things human and non human.
As I began to learn about LANDBACK, I realized I was familair with the concept, if not the words.. I grew up in rural, farming communities. I was puzzled by fences, and the idea of land ownership.
Many white people have been learning about the concept of land acknowledgement. Native people ask, now that you (white people) have acknowledged whose land you are on, what next?
But the idea of “landback” — returning land to the stewardship of Indigenous peoples — has existed in different forms since colonial governments seized it in the first place. “Any time an Indigenous person or nation has pushed back against the oppressive state, they are exercising some form of landback,” says Nickita Longman, a community organizer from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada.
The movement goes beyond the transfer of deeds to include respecting Indigenous rights, preserving languages and traditions, and ensuring food sovereignty, housing, and clean air and water. Above all, it is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism. Although these goals are herculean, the landback movement has seen recent successes, including the removal of dams along the Klamath River in Oregon following a long campaign by the Yurok Tribe and other activists, and the return of 1,200 acres in Big Sur, California, to the formerly landless Esselen Tribe.Returning the Land. Four Indigenous leaders share insights about the growing landback movement and what it means for the planet, by Claire Elise Thompson, Grist, February 25, 2020
My first real introduction to #LANDBACK was when I heard Denzel Sutherland-Wilson talk about LANDBACK in January, 2020, in the video below. IAnother video below is about the terrifying time when Royal Canadian Mounted Police had him
in the sights of a sniper rifle as he was protecting his land.
The idea of Indigenous peoples leading justice work is often heard but had not often been practiced, in my observations. But recently there has been a noticeable rise in Indigenous led activism.
What I am learning is #LANDBACK is about much more than returning control of public lands to Indigenous peoples. Following is an outline of the concepts of #LANDBACK.
#LANDBACK is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples.
It is a relationship with Mother Earth that is symbiotic and just, where we have reclaimed stewardship.
It is bringing our People with us as we move towards liberation and embodied sovereignty through an organizing, political and narrative framework.
It is a long legacy of warriors and leaders who sacrificed freedom and life.
It is a catalyst for current generation organizers and centers the voices of those who represent our future.
It is recognizing that our struggle is interconnected with the struggles of all oppressed Peoples.
It is a future where Black reparations and Indigenous LANDBACK co-exist. Where BIPOC collective liberation is at the core.
It is acknowledging that only when Mother Earth is well, can we, her children, be well.
It is our belonging to the land – because – we are the land.
We are LANDBACK!
Above all, it is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism.
I am a white Quaker. LANDBACK is not something I have previously discussed with other Quakers. I am concerned because many Friends have trouble dealing with some of the history of white Quakers, and other white people in this country.
Although we are glad our white ancesstors participated in the Underground Railroad, for example, quite a few white Quakers were involved with the slave trade, and "ownership" of enslaved people.
A large number of white Quaker families traveled westward from the Eastern seaboard, and settled on, unceded Native lands.
A number of white Quakers were involved with the forced assmilation of Native children. As I'm learning, attempting to erase native language, ceremonies and kinship are also things that need to be dealt with as among the things stolen from original peoples. They are part of the LANDBACK concept.
Many white Friends are uncomfortable with their white privileges today. We need to learn the truth about these histories, and find ways for reconciliation and healing. Healing for Indigenouse peoples, and ourselves.
I’m having a great deal of difficulty getting my white friends to see the fundamental injustices of the culture of white supremacy and capitalism. Beyond the moral imperative, this is even more urgent to understand now as change is being forced
upon us. As environmental chaos rapidly worsens. As our political and economic systems fail. We will be forced to adapt. As dangeous as environmental collapse will be, that will present opportunities to build better communities.
Implementing the concept of Mutual Aid is a way we can do that..
As I've begun to raise these issues with white Friends, I have encountered the ignorance of many regarding some of our history. And resistance to change. Fear in response to the ideas of LANDBACK.
But not universally. Perhaps despite the contributions of white religious peoples to Indigenous genocide, attentiion to the Spirit will find we should engage with LANDBACK and Mutual Aid. For example, I was very grateful to receive the following response from my friend and fellow Quaker, Marshall Massey, which I am sharing with his permission.
As far as archæology can tell, no one actually lived on any of the land within fifty miles of where I, personally, live, until the 1870s, when whites came to use it for transshipment. It was too dry and barren and empty to support people who
just lived *here*. There’s a part of the Bighorn River Canyon about 90 miles southeast of me, where very small numbers of people like the Anasazi lived in Anasazi-style cliff dwellings, at about the time of the Anasazi, perhaps 800 or
1200 years ago. They fished the streams, hunted the nearby hills, and probably cultivated small patches of ground. But that was long before horses arrived, and they had no real reason to come the long distance (it would have been a week
or more on foot) from where they dwelt to where I live, except perhaps in curiosity about what the land looked like.
By the time the natives of my area had horses, my area, along with most of the broad stretch of land from the Bighorn to the Rocky Mountain Front — 400 miles and more miles across — was an area that the nearest tribes (Crow and Blackfeet)
hunted buffalo and other prey on horseback in, but did not settle in, and did not regard as a possession. They rode across it, from their own edge to the other tribe’s edge, to raid the other tribe’s dwellings on the far side, to steal
horses and count coup and work revenge. They spoke of this to the European-Americans: “This all belongs to the Great Spirit,” they said, “and the Great Spirit meant us to have the use of it, but not to own it.” If you want an exact quotation,
here is Crowfoot, a chief among the Blackfeet, speaking some time around 1885: “We cannot sell the lives of men and animals; therefore we cannot sell this land. It was put here for us by the Great Spirit and we cannot sell it because it
does not belong to us.”
We have a similar testimony in the Bible — would you believe it? Funny coincidence. “The earth is YHWH’s,” it says, “and the fullness thereof.” (YHWH is a Hebrew word which some modern scholars believe began as a representation of the great
wind that fills all the sky, or the great breath that animates all beings: the great spirit.) You may know this passage: it appears in Deuteronomy 10:14 and Psalm 24:1, and is repeated in I Corinthians 10:26. Not that the Bible matters
much to liberal activists any more, though; most of them would much, much rather get the same teaching from some other source, anywhere else but their own tradition. Nonetheless, this teaching in the biblical tradition is why the believers
in the early Church held all things in common and committed all their resources to look after one another. How can anyone really own what God has put in place for all, especially in cases where someone else has an unmet need? Deuteronomy
and Psalms represent wisdom teachings that date back three thousand years, and were I a betting man, I would bet the wisdom of non-possession goes back to the dawn of thought about such things — millions of years back, to when our ancestors
and the ancestors of chimpanzees were one people.
I have begun to think that many modern Americans — including, unfortunately, many modern, Westernized native Americans, and at least equally unfortunately, also many modern Quakers — will never, never let themselves comprehend the idea of non-ownership. Their souls are too far shriveled. Surely the land must have been someone’s property, whenever there was anyone even remotely able to make a claim. But this was the testimony of the natives of that time, and of Friends as well. And I believe it is the truth. You might as well claim that somebody owns the sun
Canadian Friends Service Committee released a statement in support of the ongoing protests by the Wet’suwet’en Nation people and hereditary chiefs in opposition to proposed pipelines on unceded land. The statement includes that “The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms rights and related obligations to ensure that conflicts like this will not be addressed violently or militarily but rather resolved with negotiated solutions.” It is a reminder that climate change is a peace and justice issue.
CFSC stands with all Wet’suwet’en people
CFSC stands with all Wet’suwet’en People CFSC stands with all Wet’suwet’en people in their efforts to ensure their human rights are protected. We feel any use of force by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the opposite of reconciliation. Respectful dialogue is what is needed. The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the need to reconcile pre-existing Aboriginal sovereignty with assumed Crown sovereignty. The Wet’suwet’en People have rights in their territories that must be respected. Governments should engage in good faith with the Wet’suwet’en to resolve their concerns. Sustainable development protects lands, territories, and waters. Sustainable development also includes the protection of human rights. CFSC is taking this situation very seriously and is in ongoing dialogue with our Indigenous partners in the region, supporting them as requested..
Bear Creek Friends (Quaker) meetinghouse is in the Iowa countryside. Many members have been involved in agriculture and care about protecting Mother Earth. A number of Friends have various relationships with Indigenous peoples. Some Friends have worked to protect water and to stop the construction of fossil fuel pipelines in the United States, such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.