What is "Land Back"? Honoring Native and Indigenous Peoples this International Day of the World's Indigenous Population

What is "Land Back"? Honoring Native and Indigenous Peoples this International Day of the World's Indigenous Population

Today is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples! One way to honor a community is by learning more about their work, values, and struggles.

In your learning about Native and Indigenous Peoples, you’ve probably heard about “Land Back” efforts, but what does that actually mean? 

In short: Restoring the relationship that was severed through colonization. 

Some believe that when Natives (and Indigenous peoples globally) say, "Land Back," they mean eviction of non-Indigenous peoples/guests/settlers. That, however, is mostly in opposition to what many Indigenous peoples/nations/tribes believe. Instead, they seek to restore the relationship that was severed through the violent and oppressive projects of white supremacy, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism.  

In addition, "Land Back" is not about replicating these systems; it is an alternative to those systems. It is a refusal and a rejection. Ultimately, "Land Back" is about acknowledging the sovereignty (both political and inherent) of Indigenous peoples. 

It is not rooted in commodification and exploitation, but in kinship with the land and non-Indigenous peoples (guests). They want guests to honor and revere their relationship to the lands of their ancestors, and to respect their sovereignty and right to self-determination, self-governance, and autonomy.

Familial Connection to the Land

Indigenous peoples have a familial connection to their ancestral lands. Land is family, not a thing to be bought and sold carelessly. They understand themselves to be stewards of the land, not owners (in a capitalist sense). Their land-people relationship is rooted in kinship, respect, and reverence, and this relationship has been developed through time and cultivated through generations. Even though they have faced forced removal, they have not abandoned or forfeited their connections or responsibilities to their ancestral lands.

Non-Natives should respect that the "Americas" and the Caribbean is still unceded Native land. Their sovereign nations still exist and the names of settler nations are not necessarily the names Indigenous peoples honor or identify with. Therefore, it is important to know whose land you currently occupy out of respect and to work towards ways to ultimately return lands to the original Indigenous stewards.


Learn about the land you live on.

Visit the website Native-land.ca. Their mapping tool is a space for Indigenous communities to represent themselves and their histories, and for non-Indigenous people to learn more about the land where they live. If you are non-Indigenous, use this map to learn about the Indigenous peoples who live on the land where you live or go to school now. If you are Indigenous, use it to learn more about your community and the surrounding communities. You can also use this map to learn about the languages spoken and the treaties that exist in your area.

Acknowledge the land you live on.

It’s become common to acknowledge the land on which you’re living, but just acknowledging it is not enough. Commit to learning about, engaging with, and supporting Indigenous communities. Start by creating an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement together to better understand and appreciate the land you live on. Visit usdac.us/nativeland and nativegov.org/a-guide-to-indigenous-land-acknowledgment to learn how and why to create an indigenous land acknowledgement statement. Talk together about why it is important to honor the origins of your land. Then, talk about why creating this statement is not enough. In what ways could you donate time, money, or other support to Indigenous-led organizations and movements for change? Come back to your statement regularly and continue asking yourself what more you could do.  

Conversation starters for little learners: 

  • What role does land and place play in your life? 

  • Why do you think land and where we live is so important in our lives? 

  • Why is land an issue of social justice?  

Special thanks to Amber Starks, Kianna Pete, and Hawlii Pichette for sharing these ideas.

To join our community of changemakers bringing social justice education to kids everywhere, sign up for the LJL newsletter here.

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