Land Theft, Land Back

As I’ve been learning more about Indigenous peoples, I’ve been trying to formulate what this means for me as a White person living on land that was taken from them.

I am looking forward to the series of six webinars,  “Working Toward Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples”. The first, Sovereignty and Tribal Government Relations in the United States and Canada, will be held this Monday, August 10, 7:30-9:00 p.m. Eastern.

We invite Quakers from across North America to seek and share ways of acknowledging and interrupting the ongoing harms stemming from Quaker individual and corporate involvement in the land theft and genocide against Indigenous Peoples on Turtle Island. With gratitude, we will be accompanied by Indigenous Peoples as planners, advisors, and presenters.

Working Toward Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples

Click here to register

As highlighted above, there are two broad categories of wrongs against Indigenous Peoples, land theft and genocide. Until recently, I’ve studied the genocide. Researched the history and consequences of the Indian boarding/residential schools. And in particular the Quaker involvement in those schools of forced assimilation and cultural erasure.

Lately I’ve begun to concentrate on land theft, which is both complicated and simple. Complicated in terms of multiple native peoples who lived on the land at various times in history. Complicated by broken treaties between White settlers and Indigenous peoples.

But simple in the sense that the concept of owning property is a colonial tool that I don’t see as valid. If you believe that, then what now?

I think there is a great fear among White people, especially those who own property, that “their” property will be taken from them. That is one of the points in the video below. This interview was recorded at PowerShift Canada 2012, Oct 28 in Ottawa on unceded Algonquin territory.

“We acknowledge that settlers are not entitled to live on this land. We accept that decolonization means the revitalization of indigenous sovereignty, and an end to settler domination of life, lands, and peoples in all territories of the so-called “Americas.” All decisions regarding human interaction with this land base, including who lives on it, are rightfully those of the indigenous nations.”

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James


Recognize whose lands these are on which we stand.
Ask the deer, turtle, and the crane.
Make sure the spirits of these lands are respected and treated with goodwill.
The land is a being who remembers everything.
You will have to answer to your children, and their children, and theirs—
The red shimmer of remembering will compel you up the night to walk the perimeter of truth for understanding.

As I brushed my hair over the hotel sink to get ready I heard:
By listening we will understand who we are in this holy realm of words.
Do not parade, pleased with yourself.
You must speak in the language of justice.

Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, Joy Harjo

President Donald Trump
May 5th, 2020
Re: Five Asks for May 5th – Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Awareness Day

Honor the treaties and recognize Indigenous land sovereignty.

Your natural resource extraction development plan to offer loans to the tanking oil industry affects the safety of Indigenous womxn. The same is true with opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Permian Basin to fossil fuel extraction, greenlighting pipelines like DAPL, KXL and Line 3, allowing mining at sacred sites like Bears Ears National Park and taking lands out of trust, which has devastated the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. With large development projects like construction, mining, or fossil fuel extraction comes one of the most violent threats to Indigenous communities, which is the creation of man-camps in close proximity. As James Anaya, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has stated, “Indigenous women have reported that the influx of workers into Indigenous communities as a result of extractive projects also led to increased incidents of sexual harassment and violence, including rape and assault.” The relentless colonization of our territories has a direct correlation to an increased rate of violence against Indigenous Peoples–in particular womxn, children and LGBTQIA+ and Two-Spirit folx. It is no longer a “word of mouth” issue as many organizations and academics, and even the Canadian government, have recently delved into researching man-camps in Indigenous territories and have reported disturbing stories and statistics.

Ay hai kitatamihin, Mvto, Iheedń
The Seeding Sovereignty Collective

If we, collectively, want to fight climate crises, then we need to reclaim land-based ethics—ethical relationships to the land and the other-than-human. These ethics are earth-centered, meaning they are driven by the immediate needs of the land, not peoples. Land-based ethics in an Indigenous context can be understood through the stand-off at Standing Rock itself, particularly through the discourse of “protector, not protester.” Here, Native peoples are citing a sacred responsibility to care for the land—to act as its stewards, responsible for protecting and nurturing the life force within it. In short, the needs of the people are met through the land, so the needs of the land must be met by the people.

This ethic was most clearly articulated through the daily activities of the Sacred Stone Camp, the central hub of the #NoDAPL movement. Sacred Stone Camp was named for the sacred place where the pipeline would pass near what Lakota and Dakota or Oceti Sakowin peoples call “the river Inyan Wakan Kagapi Wakpa, or River Where the Sacred Stones Are Made—wakan translating as sacred or holy.”5 Historically, this had been a place of ceremony, so naturally the camp itself held ceremony around the clock, whether in the form of sweat lodges, all-night singing and prayer, or tribally specific dances; all actions, great and small, were directed at protecting the lands in their entirety were an expression of this larger ceremony.6 Here, Oceti Sakowin’s land-based ethics are communicated through praxis: Protecting the water is about ensuring the future life and wellbeing of the people and the land. The two are co-extensive, in the same way that affirming their sacred relationships to the lands and the spiritual power within them affirms Oceti Sakowin sovereignty, since it is this mutuality with the land that evinces Indigenous expressions of sovereignty.7

Inspired by these acts of refusal, Indigenous peoples from all over the Americas (and beyond) gathered at the camp to collectively honor these sacred lifeways as the source of all authority. Together, they supplicated the spirit world and coalesced their spiritual power, singing, dancing, and praying this protection into being. These expressions of ceremony were celebratory and community building, but also pedagogical: They were teaching non-Native people about Indigenous land-based ethics and protocols.

Land-Based Ethics and Settler Solidarity in a Time of Corona and Revolution written by Natalie Avalos, The Arrow, July 9, 2020

Our culture and our tradition is the land. We are directly connected to the land. It’s our spirituality. We cannot be forced to be away from our land.
Nine days since we took the land back.
It feels like something you don’t normally do. (laughter) Its revolutionary, right?
I don’t think anyone’s ever really evicted like a 6 billion dollar pipeline before.
People get confused about what we want as Native people. Like “what do you want?”
Just like, “land back!”. Don’t need any reconciliation, don’t want money, like I don’t want programs or funding or whatever.
(whispers “land back”)
Funny though, when I said that to my Dad, Wet’suwet’en people, if you tell them about LANDBACK, they’re like “we never lost the land, anyway.” Which is true.

This entry was posted in decolonize, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Seeding Sovereignty, Uncategorized, Wet’suwet’en. Bookmark the permalink.

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