Land Reparations for Indigenous Communities in North America (Jacquelyn Kim)

With rapidly accelerating climate change and increasing concerns about its irreversible effects, the urgent pursuit of solutions has amplified long-standing discourse about the relationships between Indigenous peoples and their original lands and subsequently also the concept of land reparations. Central to the concept of land reparations in North America specifically is a critical understanding of both European settler colonialism and American colonialism and imperialism. As settlers on North American land, we must first recognize that the land we occupy was violently stolen from Indigenous peoples and also that colonization is a contemporary, ongoing process.

Although the phrase “settler privilege” is often wielded within colonialism discourse, Dr. Beenash Jafri suggests that we reframe our understanding of an individual’s relationship to the land one occupies through the lens of complicity instead, for “thinking in terms of complicity suggests a reformulation of strategies/tactics, rather than the moral reformation of an individual with privilege.” Through this framework, one comes to understand that, while all non-Indigenous people are “settlers” in the sense of the word referring to one who resides upon stolen land, non-Indigenous individuals and communities—particularly Black descendants of enslaved laborers—are complicit in settler colonialism to greatly varying degrees. Yet, despite those varying degrees of complicity, all non-Indigenous people have a responsibility to center the voices and experiences of Indigenous communities in decolonization efforts.

One of the core tenets of decolonization is the necessity of land reparations and the restoration of land rights to Indigenous peoples. Through these blog posts, I aim to unpack what exactly decolonization means, explore solidarity efforts between Indigenous and marginalized communities in the United States and Canada, and also examine case studies to learn more about how land reparations might be implemented and what Native sovereignty and self-determination actually entails.

Jafri, Beenash. “Privilege vs. Complicity: People of Colour and Settler Colonialism.” Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, 21 Mar. 2012, www.ideas-idees.ca/blog/privilege-vs-complicity-people-colour-and-settler-colonialism.

“Land Reparations & Indigenous Solidarity Toolkit.” Resource Generation, resourcegeneration.org/land-reparations-indigenous-solidarity-action-guide/.

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