Way Forward 1:
“Decolonization brings about the [rematriation] of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools...the increasing number of calls to ‘decolonize our schools,’ or use ‘decolonizing methods,’ or, ‘decolonize student thinking’, turns decolonization into a metaphor.”
Decolonization first and foremost means land back: the rematriation of land to its original caretakers. Decolonization is rooted in re-Indigenization. Decolonization must take place in conjunction with the transition away from the deadly systems of racial capitalism and patriarchy and toward a regenerative, place-based economy and way of relating to one another and the land.
When discussing issues of decolonization, the true meaning of the word often gets diluted, manipulated, or redefined to avoid the discomfort of its reality. It is often easier for non-Indigenous people to speak metaphorically, whereas true decolonization means the return of land and resources which non-Indigenous folks have benefited from, thus becoming a material loss. In addition, there is usually the support from non-Indigenous allies of decolonization with a qualification included, settler futurity. Settler futurity continues the settler colonial project which burdens Indigenous people with the task of considering the settlers place during and after decolonization despite Indigenous people enduring centuries of violence from settlers. Decolonization is the ACTION of removing colonialism from all aspects of knowledge gathering, and prioritizes LAND.
Want to learn more about Land Back?
Checkout Regan De Loggans‘s Land Back Zine
Contemporarily, the call for decolonization has taken many shapes, some more overtly militant than others. It can include the reclamation of Indigeneity through skill share of their precontact knowledge. But it is inherently tied to the LAND. Indigenous scholar and activist, Nick Estes notes “most people think that decolonization would mean getting kicked off the land, or that Indigenous people would do to them what they did to Indigenous people in the past.” Land back does not mean the colonial replication of exclusionary property ownership. Land back includes rematriation of land, the recognition of Indigenous peoples as land stewards and protectors of the Earth, and Indigenous self-governmence and sovereignty.
It is essential however, to also acknowledge that in decolonial rhetoric, we should not continue to perpetuate anti-Black sentiment and the erasure of Black communities' relationship to land and nature. Therefore, movements of decolonization must also repair or repay the harm, terror, and violence committed against Black people when they were stolen from their ancestral homes to be part of the settler colonial project. Land for Black people can provide autonomous self-determination that is rooted in healing and reconnection to Mother Earth.
Want to learn more about how decolonization is tied to abolition and racial justice?
Checkout this podcast by Nick Estes and Noname.
Decolonization cannot happen overnight, but movements to decolonize have been long underway. Decolonization must be the initial step, but along with decolonization we must shift to localized & regenerative economies, based in systems of care, systems that acknowledge reproductive and domestic labor, systems that are rooted in anti-racism, communal wellness, public health, and connection to the land. Decolonization will not look the same everywhere. However, the future we are calling for is based in community rather than individuality. Without decolonization, we will not have climate justice.
Organizations leading the way:
Indigenous Environmental Network (USA & Canada)An alliance of Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws.
The Ganienkeh Council Fire (USA & Canada)Ganienkeh is a branch of the original sovereign Kanien’kehà:ka Nation located within the sovereign traditional territory of the Kanien’kehà:kaa independent from those entities of North America referred to as the United States of America and Canada
Further Resources on Decolonization
Books, Articles, and Reports:
- Standing Rock Syllabus (Education Syllabus)
- A Red Deal by Nick Estes
- Fighting for Our Lives: #NoDAPL in Historical Context
- Indigenous Youth Are Building a Climate Justice Movement by Targeting Colonialism by Jaskiran Dhillon
- Revitalization and Indigenous Resistance to Globalization and Neoliberalism by James Fenelon and Thomas Hall
- Decolonization is Not a Metaphor by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang
- Mauna Kea: What it Is, Why it's Happening, and Why we Should All Be Paying Attention
Websites & Media:
Way Forward 2:
Land rematriation; Spatial Reparations for Black, Indigenous, and POC communities
Land is power. Although it provides one of the main wealth accumulation tools, land is essential in the fight for self-determination and liberation for Black and Indigenous communities globally. Conversations about the future of sacred land foster opportunities for reconciliation and reparations with Black, Indigenous, and other historically oppressed communities. For Indigenous peoples, land is not merely a resource with monetary value to be exploited purely for production and/or extraction – but rather as territories for their reproduction as peoples. Although it is necessary to recognize Indigenous land rights and decolonize, we must also recognize that Black people were stolen from their ancestral homes to build settler-colonial wealth and therefore are owed for their labor. Black liberation cannot coexist with the current system of capitalism. At the same time, to live self-determining lives, Black people must control their labor and have access to land to create systems that are affirming and allow them to thrive. Collaborative ownership of land creates a space that heals land-based and racial trauma, contributes to economic sovereignty, and builds movements of justice to reclaim and revitalize cultural practices. This is essential in the fight for Black and Indigenous liberation. Land rematriation and reparations are an essential part of a Just Transition.
Organizations leading the way:
A New Land Tenure System (USA)
The Schumacher Center for Economics has been working since its inception on creating non-profit community land trusts to manage natural resources. “A community land trust is a democratically governed, regionally based, open membership non-profit corporation.”
Land Trust Alliance (USA)Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across the United States.
Translocal Strategies for a Just Recovery: A Black-Led Session on Restoring Land, Labor, and Capital to Self-Determined Communities by Movement Generation
Books, Articles, and Reports:
- Another Future is Possible
- Commons and Enclosure in the Colonization of North America by Allan Greer
- Movement Generation: A Strategic Framework for a Just Transition
Websites & Media:
- Climate Justice Alliance’s Just Transition Framewor
- Reparations Map for Black-Indigenous Farmers
- The Commune: Community Control of the Black Community
Way Forward 3:
Recognizing and Strengthening Land Rights of Indigenous and rural communities
Way forward 3 focuses on securing land tenure for indigenous peoples, community forest management, agroecology, agroforestry, reforestation, and direct action for land sovereignty.
These initiatives happen in conjunction with one another and are the necessary steps toward land rematriation and decolonization. The theory of biocultural diversity posits that cultural diversity and ecological diversity are interconnected. The places on Earth with the greatest biodiversity, generally are also the places with the greatest caultural diversity as indigenous peoples have been conserving and propagating the land for generations. Indigenous communities have been recognized as keystone societies due to their nurturance of biodiverse ecosystems.
The Amazon Rainforest is one of Earth’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Checkout this article “The Amazon Rainforest Was Profoundly Changed by Ancient Humans: The region’s ecology is a product of 8,000 years of indigenous agriculture” to learn how the Amazon is increasingly being understood as a large and complex indigenous forest garden.
Scholars Maffi and Woodley note “research has shown that major ecosystems such as tropical forests, commonly thought of as the quintessential ‘pristine’ environments, actually bear the mark of vast anthropogenic alterations brought about by resident indigenous populations over long periods of time” (2012;15).
Biodiversity is dependent on indigenous survival, the safeguarding of traditional ecological knowledge and ultimately, land rematriation.
- Securing land tenure for indigenous peoples has been proven to lead to slowed forest loss and increased biodiversity. Studies have shown that “indigenous titled lands managed through community governance frameworks are often more effective in sustaining healthy and intact forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, and other ecosystems than conventional government-run protected areas” (Forest Peoples Programme, 2018). Due to the market economy, there are few supported programs that are well-funded that focus on community land tenure rights. In Peru, Native Communities in Ucayali have received support for titling native land. This is due to continuous organizing through “local, national and global advocacy over more than five years led by the regional Amazonian indigenous peoples’ organisation AIDESEP” (Friends of the Earth, 2018). In addition to land titling, community forest management, community mapping, community based monitoring, strengthening internal governance systems, and co-management are all pathways toward addressing forest loss and biodiversity protection when environmental policy is not succeeding and on the road to decolonization.
- Community Forest Management- Community forest management systems view the land as the commons. Communities with community forest management systems in place have been found to have higher levels of biodiversity than those managed by the government or through conservation programs through non-profits or corporations. A study comparing 33 CFM cases in Mexico, South America, Africa, and Asia found that there was a lower deforestation rate in these community managed areas than areas monitored by conservation groups or the government (Friends of the Earth, 2018). CFM is often used to reforest and regenerate land that has been previously overused, chemicalized, or destroyed by extractive industries.
- Agroecology, agroforestry & regenerative agriculture - Agro-ecological methods of farming such as agroforestry, forest garden systems, milpa systems, sacred forests, chakras, terraced farming, intercropping, polyculture, and other regenerative agriculture practices are essential for food sovereignty, land sovereignty, and for the safeguarding of traditional knowledge and agricultural practices for primarily indigenous, rural, peasant and Black, and POC communities. Agroecological farms and forest gardens are also far more resilient to climate disasters such as storms, drought, pests, and disease, have healthier, stronger, and more nutrient rich soil.
Potato Harvest in Pampacorral, Lares, Peru Photo credit: Génesis Abreu
- Direct Action for Land Sovereignty - Globally, communities have fought to protect their land from exploitation in the form of mining, drilling, logging, industrial agriculture, big dams, ecotourism and a variety of other land grabbing projects. The struggle for land sovereignty is ongoing. Groups have used tactics from civil disobedience, pursuing legal action, gaining international support to more violent tactics. It is important to keep in mind the extreme violence that extractivist projects have on local communities, from complete pollution of land & water bodies and therefore livelihoods, the mass displacement of communities, and the murders and sexual abuse of indigenous women coming from man camps.
Organizations leading the way:
an independent land monitoring initiative that promotes transparency and accountability in decisions over LSLAs in low- and middle-income countries by capturing and sharing data about these deals at global, regional, and national level.
La Via Campesina (Global)is an international movement which coordinates peasant organizations of small and middle-scale producers, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities from Asia, Africa, America, and Europe.
International Land Coalition (Global)is a global alliance of civil society and farmers' organizations, United Nation's agencies, NGOs and research institutes with a collective goal to realize land governance for and with people at the country level, responding to the needs and protecting the rights of those who live on and from the land.
AIDESEP (Peru)The Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle is the leading organization for the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and works to defend and protect the collective rights of the people. AIDESEP’s mission is to “Claim the territorial integrity of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. Establish and strengthen indigenous self-government based on the development of the country's multiculturalism. Establish, control and develop the development system of the indigenous economy.”
Global Forest Coalition (Global)GFC is an international coalition of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations defending social justice and the rights of forest peoples in forest policies.
Friends of the MST Brazil (Brazil)The Friends of the MST (FMST) is a network of individuals and organizations that support the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST) in the struggle for social and economic justice while securing respect for human rights.
GRUFIDES (Peru)Grufides fights for human, land, and water rights, specifically against gold mining projects in Peru.
Kawsak Sacha - The Living Forest (Ecuador)In Kawsak Sacha, Sarayaku puts forth a declaration for the international recognition of the Living Forest as a legally protected area in Ecuador.
Amazon Frontlines (Global)An international organization defending indigenous rights to land, life and cultural survival in the Amazon rainforest.
Amazon Watch (Global)A nonprofit organization founded to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin.
Friends of the Earth International (Global)FOEI is the world’s largest grassroots environmental network that campaigns on urgent environmental and social issues, challenging the current model of economic and corporate globalization, and promoting solutions to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.
Gaia Foundation (Global)A U.K. based organization that supports communities and movements in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe that works to revive bio-cultural diversity, to regenerate healthy ecosystems and to strengthen community self-governance for climate change resilience.
Terralingua (Global)An organization working to educate people on the significance of biocultural diversity and protect linguistic and cultural diversity.
More Organizations working on Food & Land Sovereignty
Further Resources on Recognizing and Strengthening Land Rights:
Books, Articles, and Reports:
- Co-Evolution and Bio-Social Construction: The Kichwa Agroforestry Systems (Chakras) in the Ecuadorian Amazonia.
- Temperate Agroforestry: How Forest Garden Systems Combined with People-Based Ethics Can Transform Culture
- Sacred forests of India: a strong tradition of community- based natural resource management.
- Ubuntu is Not Only about the Human! An Analysis of the Role of African Philosophy and Ethics in Environment Management
- Ubuntu, Ukama and the Healing of Nature, Self and Society.
- TANZANIA INDIGENOUS PEOPLES POLICY BRIEF
- Agroecology as an Alternative Vision to Conventional Development and Climate-smart Agriculture
- Climate Change, Food Security, and Agrobiodiversity: Toward a Just, Resilient, and Sustainable Food System
- Indigenous ExtrACTIVISM in Boreal Canada: Colonial Legacies, Contemporary Struggles and Sovereign Futures
- Understanding ExtrACTIVISM: Culture and Power in Natural Resource Disputes