“Over the past few years, we’ve begun hearing the cry of a powerful slogan in Canada: Land Back. While the slogan is new, The demand is not. Native youth have elevated a truth that we’ve long understood: a just path forward is impossible without the return of stolen land,” said lawyer and professor Pam Palmater.
The centuries of mistreatment of Indigenous people at the hands of their colonizers is the backdrop to what is known as the Land Back movement. Land Back quickly became a hashtag on social media, clothes and artwork, and has become the most recent slogan for the advancement of Indigenous rights and land reclamation in Canada, the United States, and as far away as Chile.
“Land Back is people returning back and finding their place in those systems of life,” said Isaac Murdoch, a storyteller and knowledge holder from the Serpent River First Nation.
Aaron Tailfeathers, a member of the Blackfeet Confederacy of Canada, is credited with initiating the movement whose goal is to quite literally give back the land that once belonged to the Indigenous, before it had been colonized and stripped from them as far back as the 15th century.
In the United States, Land Back has been successful in various states, reclaiming millions of acres of land. Shutting down Mount Rushmore and restoring the surrounding land to the Indigenous nations of South Dakota is the next high profile initiative for the movement, taking Land Back into the heart of the United States.
Unlike various other popular movements involving race and religion, similar to the Civil Rights Movement and the continuing Black Lives Matter, there hasn’t been a whole lot of action revolving around Land Back as of now in Canada, as the movement itself had only begun to amass in popularity fairly recently.
However, Land Back has also had an influence on various protests, a major one being the standoff at 1492 Land Back lane, a barren field that was stolen from the Indigenous people of Canada. Haudenosaunee protesters, also known as land defenders, argued with settlers that the land they stood on once belonged to the Six Nations of the Grand River, before it was stripped from them without Indigenous surrender. The standoff stood strong until the Ontario Provincial Police arrived, arresting multiple protestors at the scene, including Indigenous people. This led to the people of the Six Nations establishing three road blockades, as well as setting fires.
Additionally, there have recently been successful negotiations between the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation and Saskatchewan, with millions of dollars and thousands of hectares of land proposed for hunting grounds, cultural lands, and more being a part of this deal.
The momentum is building for Indigenous rights and land reclamation.
“When you hear the words decolonization, white supremacy, patriarchy, or even racism, do you get a chill down your back, randomly start crossing your arms, or even just feel an urge to resist? Well, good!” said Kris Archie, Executive Director of the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples.
Image Credit: Steve Mongeau from APTN News