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Land back graffiti with anarchist symbology and an unrelated artist, 2020

Land Back, also referred to with hashtag #LandBack, is a decentralised campaign by Indigenous Australians, Indigenous peoples in Canada, Native Americans in the United States, other indigenous peoples, and allies alike, that seeks to reestablish Indigenous sovereignty, with political and economic control of their ancestral lands. [1] [2] [3] Activists have also used the Land Back framework in Mexico, [4] and scholars have applied it in New Zealand and Fiji. [5] Land Back is part of a broader Indigenous movement for decolonisation. [6] [1]


Land Back aims to reestablish Indigenous political authority over territories that Indigenous tribes claim by treaty. [7] Scholars from the Indigenous-run Yellowhead Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University describe it as a process of reclaiming Indigenous jurisdiction. [3] The NDN Collective describes it as synonymous with decolonisation and dismantling white supremacy. [1] Land Back advocates for Indigenous rights, preserves languages and traditions, and works toward food sovereignty, decent housing, and a clean environment. [3]


Land Back was introduced in 2018 by Arnell Tailfeathers, a member of the Blood Tribe, a nation within the Blackfoot Confederacy. It then quickly became a hashtag (#LandBack), and now appears in artwork, on clothes and in beadwork. These creations are often used to raise funds to support water protectors and land defenders who protest against oil pipelines in North America. [8]

In the United States, the Land Back campaign arose from the Black Hills land claim and protests at Mount Rushmore during Donald Trump's 2020 presidential campaign. [1]


The NDN Collective describes the Land Back campaign as a metanarrative that ties together many different Indigenous organizations similar to the Black Lives Matter campaign. [1] They say that the campaign enables decentralised Indigenous leadership and addresses structural racism faced by Indigenous people that is rooted in theft of their land. [1]

Land Back promotes a return to communal land ownership of traditional and unceded Indigenous lands and rejects colonial concepts of real estate and private land ownership. [7] Return of land is not only economic, but also implies the return of relationships and self-governance. [5]

Land Back does not mean that non-Indigenous people should be made to leave unceded Indigenous lands. [9] [7]


In some cases, land is directly returned to Indigenous people when private landowners, municipalities, or governments give the land back to Indigenous tribes. This may take the form of a simple transaction within the colonial real estate framework. [2]

Indigenous-led projects may also use community land trusts to reserve lands for their group. [9]


In 2020, electronic music group, A Tribe Called Red produced a song "Land Back" on their album The Halluci Nation, to support the Wet’suwet’en resistance camp and other Indigenous-led movements. [8] In July 2020, activists from NDN Collective held a protest on a highway leading to Mount Rushmore, where Donald Trump was to give a campaign speech. The site, known to the Sioux in English as "The Six Grandfathers," [10] is on sacred, unceded land, subject to the Black Hills land claim. These protestors drafted the "Land Back Manifesto", which seeks "the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples". [11] Also in 2020, Haudenosaunee people from the Six Nations of the Grand River blockaded 1492 Land Back Lane to shut down a housing development on their unceded territory.[ citation needed]

In 2021, Nicholas Galanin ( Tlingit/ Unangax) created a gigantic "Indian Land" sign – in letters reminiscent of southern California's Hollywood sign – at the entry for the Desert X festival. [12] On July 4, 2021, in Rapid City, South Dakota, a city very close to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, four people were arrested after climbing a structure downtown and hanging an upside-down US flag emblazoned with the words "Land Back". [13]


The Wiyot people have lived for thousands of years on Duluwat Island, in Humboldt Bay on California's northern coast. [2] In 2004 the Eureka City Council transferred land back to the Wiyot tribe, to add to land the Wiyot had purchased. [14] The council transferred another 60 acres (24 ha) in 2006. [15]

The Mashpee Wampanoag have lived in Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island for thousands of years. In 2007, about 300 acres (1.2 km2) of Massachusetts land was put into trust as a reservation for the tribe. Since then, a legal battle has left the tribe's status—and claim to the land—in limbo. [2]

In 2016 Dr. Mohan Singh Virick, a Punjabi Sikh doctor who served Indigenous people in Cape Breton for 50 years, donated 350 acres (140 ha) of land to Eskasoni First Nation. [16] He also donated a building in Sydney to help house Eskasoni's growing population. [17]

In October 2018, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia returned ancient burial site (the Great Marpole Midden) land back to the Musqueam people. The land is home to ancient remains of a Musqueam house site. [18] [19]

In 2019, the United Methodist Church gave 3 acres (1.2 ha) of historic land back to the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma. [2] The US government in 1819 had promised the tribe 148,000 acres (600 km2) of land in what is now Kansas City, Kansas. When 664 Wyandotte people arrived, the land had been given to someone else. [20]

In July 2020, the Esselen tribe purchased a 1,200-acre ranch (4.9 km2) near Big Sur, California, as part of a larger $4.5m deal. This acquisition, in traditional lands, will protect old-growth forest and wildlife, and the Little Sur River. [21]

Land on the Saanich Peninsula in British Columbia was returned to the Tsartlip First Nation in December 2020. [22]

Management of the 18,800-acre (76 km2) National Bison Range was transferred from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service back to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in 2021. [23]

In August 2022, the Red Cliff Chippewa in northern Wisconsin had 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) of land along the Lake Superior shoreline returned to them from the Bayfield County government. This came after the tribe signed a 2017 memorandum of understanding with the county, acknowledging the Red Cliff Chippewa's desire to see their reservation boundaries restored in full. [24]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Pieratos, Nikki A; Manning, Sarah S; Tilsen, Nick (2021). "Land Back: A meta narrative to help indigenous people show up as movement leaders". Leadership. 17 (1): 47–61. doi: 10.1177/1742715020976204. ISSN  1742-7150.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kaur, Harmeet. "Indigenous people across the US want their land back -- and the movement is gaining momentum". CNN. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "Opinion: 'Land Back' is more than a slogan for a resurgent Indigenous movement". Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  4. ^ Barnett, Tracy L. (May 12, 2022). "Wixarika Caravan to AMLO: We Want Our #LandBack". The Esperanza Project. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Land, land banks and land back: Accounting, social reproduction and Indigenous resurgence". EPA: Economy and Space. doi: 10.1177/0308518X211060842. hdl: 10092/103260.
  6. ^ "The "Landback" Movement Would Return Stolen Land to Indigenous Stewardship". In These Times. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  7. ^ a b c Toastie, B. (August 22, 2022). "Questions about the LandBack movement, answered". High Country News. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
  8. ^ a b Moscufo, Michela. "For These Indigenous Artists 'Land Back' Is Both A Political Message And A Fundraising Opportunity". Forbes. Retrieved May 12, 2023.
  9. ^ a b Yesno, Riley (2022). "Land Back". New Internationalist (540): 26–29.
  10. ^ "Native History: Construction of Mount Rushmore Begins". Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  11. ^ "Landback Manifesto". Landback. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  12. ^ "Vast 'Indian Land' sign draws visitors to Desert X art festival". France 24. March 12, 2021. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  13. ^ "4 arrested after hanging "LANDBACK" flag from Omaha Street grain elevator". Kota TV. 2021.
  14. ^ "North Coast Journal - July 1, 2004: COVER STORY - The Return of Indian Island - Restoring the center of the Wiyot world". Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  15. ^ McHugh, Paul (September 20, 2005). "THE NORTH COAST: A Kayak Adventure / GOING HOME AGAIN / On a sacred island in Humboldt Bay, descendants of the Wiyots -- an Indian tribe nearly wiped out by massacres in the 1800s -- forge a future from the remnants of that tragic past". SFGATE. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  16. ^ "Cape Breton doctor to be honoured". Cape Breton Post. SaltWire Network. October 2, 2017.
  17. ^ Ayers, Tom (May 2014). "Respected physician says First Nation needs the land 'more than I do'". Mi’kmaq-Maliseet Nations News. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  18. ^ "Vancouver returns city-owned land to Musqueam". CBC. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  19. ^ "Portion of c̓əsnaʔəm village and burial site returned to Musqueam". Musqueam Official Website. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  20. ^ "United Methodist Church gives historic mission site and land back to Wyandotte Nation". IndianCountry Today. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  21. ^ "Northern California Esselen tribe regains ancestral land after 250 years". The Guardian. July 28, 2020. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  22. ^ "sartlip First Nation territory doubles in size after traditional land returned by B.C. government". CBC. July 28, 2020. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  23. ^ "Montana's National Bison Range transferred to tribes". AP News. January 17, 2021. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  24. ^ Kunze, Jenna. "Chippewa Tribe Gets 1,500 Acres of Lake Superior Land Back in NW Wisconsin". Native News Online. Retrieved September 10, 2022.

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