I’ve recently been learning and writing about land and Indigenous peoples. That is a cautionary note because this is another of those complicated issues that I am led to study on my journey as a White settler seeking ways to understand the genocide of Indigenous peoples.
There is so much that has been written about the concepts of land. One of the many reasons for participating on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was to develop friendships with native people. In part so my new friends could help guide me, showing me what was true and what not. I say showing rather than teaching because one of the principles of justice work is those experiencing injustice should not be asked to teach others about their oppression. By showing I mean sharing our stories with each other. Walking, eating and camping together. Thus any errors are my own, since I need to be respectful about what I ask of my friends.
Issues surrounding land generate strong reactions. Native peoples have strong relationships with the land, including deep spiritual connections. The idea of private ownership of land was foreign to them. So they usually didn’t understand treaties they were forced to sign, supposedly giving ownership of the land to White settlers. Then those treaties were broken. More treaties forced the native peoples to give up more and more of their land. Then those treaties were broken.
Those who own property now often feel great anxiety about the idea of having their land taken from them. Expressing this a land theft, or stolen land evokes strong emotions. The current land owners have made their own connections with the land. Have financial connections, such as the price they paid for the land. And those who farm the land depend on what is grown for their livelihood.
There is a way that Nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.—Linda Hogan, Chickasaw
My friend Paula Palmer has written an article that I find helpful. The Land Remembers: Connecting with Native People through the Land, Friends Journal, February 1, 2020.
I travel in Quaker ministry with a concern for seeking right relationship with Indigenous peoples. In my workshops I ask people to think about our country’s history of genocide and colonization, which we don’t think about very much, our schools don’t teach very much, and our government never acknowledges. I ask people to think about what happened here. I then ask them about Native people in our communities today and ask what we might do to develop relationships that are based on truth, respect, justice, and our shared humanity. Many people say they don’t know any Native Americans. This might be true, or it might not be: Native people are not always recognizable. But what is true is that many of us don’t feel any connection with Indigenous people. It’s hard to start to imagine what it would mean to work toward “right relationship” with them.
I think the land can be our connective tissue. Most of us are connected to land somewhere: the land where we live today, the land of our ancestors, the land where we were born, the land where we vacation, the land we love for whatever reason. On the North American continent, all the land we know and love was known and loved first by Indigenous people. And Indigenous people say the land remembers.
If the land we love could tell us what it remembers, what would it say?
The Land Remembers: Connecting with Native People through the Land, Paula Palmer, Friends Journal, February 1, 2020.