Land Back

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Land back graffiti, with unrelated artist, 2020

Land Back (or #LandBack) is a campaign by Indigenous people in the United States and in Canada that seeks to re-establish Indigenous sovereignty - notably, the political and economic control of lands in what is now the United States and Canada to the peoples who have historically occupied them prior to colonization.[1][2]


Land Back is a movement that aims to re-establish Indigenous political authority over territories Indigenous tribes and activist groups assert belong to them by treaty rights.[3] Scholars from the Indigenous-run Yellowhead Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University describe Land Back as a process of "reclaiming Indigenous jurisdiction: breathing life into rights and responsibilities."[2]

In addition to the transfer of deeds, Land Back includes respecting Indigenous rights, preserving languages and traditions, and ensuring food sovereignty, housing, and clean air and water.[2]


In 2016, artist Jaque Fragua was in the news when he painted graffiti reading, "This Is Indian Land" on a large construction site wall in Los Angeles.[4] In 2021, Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax) created a gigantic "Indian Land" sign – in letters reminiscent of southern California's Hollywood sign – for entry the Desert X festival.[5]

Land Back was introduced in 2018 by Arnell Tailfeathers, a member of the Blood Tribe (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.[6]

In 2020, Native electronic music group, A Tribe Called Red produced a song "Land Back" on their album "The Halluci Nation", to support of the Wet’suwet’en resistance camp and other Indigenous-led movements.[6]

in July 2020, activists from NDN Collective held a protest at Mount Rushmore. Native activists assembled on a highway leading to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where then-president Donald J. Trump was to give a campaign speech. Mt Rushmore, known to the Sioux as "The Six Grandfathers,"[7] is on sacred, unceded land, long disputed in the Black Hills land claim. As part of the protest, the NDN Collective drafted the "Land Back Manifesto", which reads: "the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples"[8] and organized the current Land Back campaign, which was launched on Indigenous Peoples' Day in 2020.

Also in 2020, Haudenosaunee people from the Six Nations of the Grand River set up a blockade on 1492 Land Back Lane to shut down a housing development on their unceded territory.

On the Fourth of July 2021 in Rapid City, South Dakota, a city very close to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, four were arrested after climbing a structure downtown and hanging an upside-down American flag with the words "Land Back" across the flag.[9]

Transfer activity[edit]

The Wiyot people have lived for thousands of years on Duluwat Island, in Humboldt Bay on California's northern coast.[1] In 2004 the Eureka City Council transferred land back to the Wiyot tribe, to add to land the Wiyot had purchased.[10] The council transferred another 60 acres (24 ha) in 2006.[11]

The Mashpee Wampanoag have lived in Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island for thousands of years. In 2007, about 300 acres (120 ha) 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.[1]

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.[12][13]

In 2019, the United Methodist Church gave 3 acres (1.2 ha) of historic land back to the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma.[1] The US government in 1819 had promised the tribe 148,000 acres (60,000 ha) of land in what is now Kansas City, Kansas. When 664 Wyandotte people arrived, the land had been given to someone else.[14]

In July 2020, the Esselen tribe purchased a 1,200-acre ranch (490 ha) 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.[15]

Land on the Saanich Peninsula in British Columbia was returned to the Tsartlip First Nation in December 2020.[16]

Management of the 18,800-acre (7,600 ha) National Bison Range was transferred from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service back to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in 2021.[17]

In August 2022, the Red Cliff Chippewa in northern Wisconsin had 1,500 acres (610 ha) 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.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Harmeet Kaur. "Indigenous people across the US want their land back -- and the movement is gaining momentum". CNN. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Opinion: 'Land Back' is more than a slogan for a resurgent Indigenous movement". Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  3. ^ Toastie, B. (August 22, 2022). "Questions about the LandBack movement, answered". High Country News. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
  4. ^ "How a New Generation of Native American Street Artists Is Leaving Its Mark Across the United States". Artnet News. January 30, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  5. ^ "Vast 'Indian Land' sign draws visitors to Desert X art festival". France 24. March 12, 2021. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Moscufo, Michela. "For These Indigenous Artists 'Land Back' Is Both A Political Message And A Fundraising Opportunity". Forbes. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  7. ^ "Native History: Construction of Mount Rushmore Begins". Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  8. ^ "LANDBACK Manifesto". LANDBACK. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  9. ^ "4 arrested after hanging "LANDBACK" flag from Omaha Street grain elevator".
  10. ^ "North Coast Journal - July 1, 2004: COVER STORY - The Return of Indian Island - Restoring the center of the Wiyot world". Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "Vancouver returns city-owned land to Musqueam". CBC. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  13. ^ "Portion of c̓əsnaʔəm village and burial site returned to Musqueam". Musqueam Official Website. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  14. ^ "United Methodist Church gives historic mission site and land back to Wyandotte Nation". IndianCountry Today. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  15. ^ "Northern California Esselen tribe regains ancestral land after 250 years". The Guardian. July 28, 2020. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  16. ^ "sartlip First Nation territory doubles in size after traditional land returned by B.C. government". CBC. July 28, 2020. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  17. ^ "Montana's National Bison Range transferred to tribes". AP NEWS. January 17, 2021. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  18. ^ 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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