The U.S. flag planted on a rock formation looking down a mountain cliff.
Image Source: Titus Wincentsen / Unsplash

Year In Review: Reckoning With America’s Violent History of Land Ownership

This piece is part of our 2021 Year in Review, a reflection on the issues and causes that mattered most this year – and the tangible ways you can support before year-end.

This year began with a homegrown violent attack on our nation’s Capitol. Just weeks later, the song “This Land is Your Land” blared from speakers on the same soil as if it could erase the misgivings from before. It felt like a clear lack of acknowledgment – not just for the shortcomings of our government, but how often it celebrates itself without acknowledging the sins buried in the soil. Our nation’s complicated legacy with land is broad and complex. Fears about land ownership even sparked horror movies. Whether it’s a question of legal ownership, sovereignty, preservation, or spirituality, there’s much to be reckoned with. And as we grapple with the environmental impact of colonization, I’m not sure we will have enough time here to make it right.

TAKE ACTION

As community members: Find a land trust or a co-op near you. Give them legal technical support, financial planning, technical support – whatever you can.

Support your neighbor on the street. Give a man a dollar and break down whatever assumptions you have about direct support.

Learn about the Native land you currently occupy.


Direct action is the answer for resistance and revival.

Andrew interviewed Noni, Executive Director of the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative in Oakland, California, about reclaiming land reclamation in a city suffering from incredible displacement. Noni outlines how resource hoarding and hostility towards legacy communities is an act of economic violence. Directly supporting people most impacted is the most straightforward way to address it.

Respect Hawaii’s sacred land.

Last year, Isiah shared his perspective on the threats to his state’s sacred lands. Since its publication, we’ve seen tourism and overpopulation continue to affect the islands as the pandemic rages on. The take actions offer ways not just to be mindful of traveling to Hawaii but treating any land you live on or visit with care.

Reverse racist land grabs.

Andrew outlines tactics that have been used to push people of color out of the land they legally own and how it contributes to the wealth gaps and segregated communities we know today. Since this piece was published, we’ve seen more to reclaim stolen land, but we’ve also seen new tactics used to disenfranchise marginalized people from land ownership.

Resist Line 3.

Earlier this year, we covered the Line 3 pipeline, which was completed a few days later. The organized resistance that demanded its removal – and insisted on environmental protections if completed –represents a broader, ongoing push to protect and reclaim Native land. Indigenous leaders have reshaped our collective notion of what it means to own proper and this work shouldn’t only be all on them. Use the action items in this piece to inform how you can support Native communities near you.

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