Land back

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Land back is an Indigenous movement that strives to build decision-making power and autonomy, including access to their territories and resources in a more equitable way; not just about the physical returning of the land, but the confronting of colonialism at its root. - Jessie Wente & 4Rs Youth Movement. 

It is also a set of ideas and movements developed by Indigenous peoples in an urge to reconnect and regain control over with their land in a meaningful way. Land Back is about "self-determination for our Peoples here that should include some access to the territories and resources in a more equitable fashion, and for us to have control over how that actually looks." -Jessie Wente [1]

What is land?

What is referred to as the “land” in “Land Back” goes beyond Western legal interpretations, notably including the spiritual damages caused by the removal of Indigenous communities from their traditional land and water. -Yellowhead Institute Red paper [2]

“The vision of Indigenous people, or at least the Anishinaabe people, has always been looking at the land as a basket or a bowl. We all live in that bowl, we share the spoon, we pass it to one another, and we eat from it together. And so there's nothing in an Anishinaabe perspective about living on the land without other people.” -Hayden King [3]  

Does land back means displacement of settlers?

In some cases, Land Back literally means giving the land back: "It varies from place to place, circumstance to circumstance, but I think it has these three underlying features, which are: Indigenous authority… over their own territory; the restitution of actual lands, resources and wealth; and the revitalization of Indigenous culture.”- Secwépemc leader Arthur Manuel & Toronto Star [4]

In other cases, it has other meanings. For Janice Makokis from Saddle Lake Cree Nation (Treaty 6 Territory), Land Back means: “Being able to be in my home territory, in my treaty territory, being able to fulfill and live my life as a Cree person, living the Cree laws that were given to us by the Creator—without any interference from either federal or provincial governments.”- Janice Makokis [5]

Exploring Land back

In many territories, treaties were signed between Indigenous Nations and Europeans to share the lands and waters. However, so-called Canada has, in almost all cases, failed to honour them. Some territories were never ceded on treaties; settler governments stole these lands and resources without consent. This dispossession continues today.

Learn more about the past, present and future of land governance in so-called Canada.

A special thanks to Marie-Camille Théorêt for their tremendous support compiling content for this page.

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