Land Repatriation (Jacquelyn Kim)

There are few examples of formal land return efforts beyond small communities or individuals donating lands to Indigenous groups, and many struggle to imagine what the world would look like if all land were actually repatriated to Indigenous communities — precisely because our current social order is built upon and inextricable from settler colonialism with its private property rights and exploitation of land and people. Tuck and Yang draw from other decolonial thinkers to argue that decolonization will necessitate a new world order. However, they emphasize that this new world order would not be one in which “Indigenous peoples or Black and brown peoples take positions of dominance over white settlers” (31). Rather, the new world order would be one that involves the complete dismantling of oppressives systems, including the imperial metropole — “for [d]ecolonization ‘here’ is intimately connected to anti-imperialism elsewhere” — modern slavery, and land occupation. Furthermore, not only does the term decolonization refer to a very specific process, it is also “incommensurable” and “not equivocal to other anti-colonial struggles” (31).

Decolonization involves addressing the root problem of colonialism and all the other systems of oppression it engenders, and thus activities aimed at dismantling those other systems are by extension also contributing to the fight for decolonization. However, in pursuing those activities, non-Indigenous participants should always include, if not center, Indigenous knowledge and voices, and seek to build relationships with Indigenous communities. Many fail to recognize that Indigenous communities and individuals do indeed still “exist,” speaking to the importance of emphasizing that colonization is an ongoing event that continues to actively engage in acts of violence against Indigenous people, including through the erasure of their history and traumas. Land repatriation is critical not only as reparations for the injustices and thefts that Indigenous peoples have suffered but also for the de-commodification of land that would force our communities to re-evaluate relationships with our environment under Indigenous guidance.

Land Reparations & Indigenous Solidarity Toolkit

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