Land return for tribal restitution

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Expert Opinion

Strategies with this rating are recommended by credible, impartial experts but have limited research documenting effects; further research, often with stronger designs, is needed to confirm effects.

Disparity Rating  
Disparity rating: Potential to decrease disparities

Strategies with this rating have the potential to decrease or eliminate disparities between subgroups. Rating is suggested by evidence, expert opinion or strategy design.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Land return, also called land reparations or land restitution, includes efforts to support Native communities and apologize for centuries of history filled with land theft, the murder of millions, and the destruction of Indigenous communities. For land reparations efforts, land can refer broadly to any property or resources being returned to Native people; it can include buildings, physical infrastructure, or culturally significant locations, as well as the legal rights to land with water, minerals, plants, fishing, hunting, wildlife habitats, or other natural resources1. For some tribes, land return efforts may focus on larger tracts of land while for other tribes it may be smaller scale returns of specific, culturally significant sites2. Land return efforts can be part of multi-component policies that promote tribal sovereignty, support decolonization, identify the root causes of injustice, encourage sustainable resource use1, preserve cultural sites, develop community assets, and improve economic outcomes for Indigenous people3, 4. Land reparations efforts vary based on unique tribal history, specific tribal needs, and different local opportunities for land return1. Land reparations can also include efforts to reform the laws and bureaucracy that prevent Indigenous peoples from achieving economic and political independence5. In the U.S., Land Back is a social movement that calls for the return of the nation’s land, especially federal public lands, to Native ownership and shares many characteristics with broader examples of land reparations6. In the absence of an official federal plan for land reparations, examples from many settings and contexts can inform reparations efforts in the U.S.

Each sovereign tribe is unique and has its own history, language, culture, and customs. In our effort to understand, engage with, and present information from the available literature we refer to Native people, Indigenous people, Native Americans, and tribal communities as placeholders for the many distinct tribes, whether they are federally recognized or not. When possible, we refer to each tribe by its name.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased self-determination

  • Increased tribal sovereignty

  • Improved economic conditions

  • Increased community wealth

  • Improved well-being

  • Increased food security

  • Increased food sovereignty

  • Increased cultural preservation

  • Improved ecosystem restoration

What does the research say about effectiveness?

Land return for tribal restitution is a suggested strategy to increase tribal sovereignty and self-determination3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9. Land return has been associated with improved economic conditions, improved social services, and improved community infrastructure when tribal communities have ownership and the ability to invest in their community4, 8, 9. Available evidence suggests land return that secures tribal sovereignty may improve earnings, employment opportunities, and economic development for Native people4. Experts suggest U.S. public lands may provide opportunities for future land return that could be less costly than federal aid to promote economic growth on existing reservations2. Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects4.

Food sovereignty is the right of Native people to create food and agriculture systems that produce culturally relevant and healthy foods using sustainable and regenerative methods on their land to nourish their community. Food sovereignty includes having decision-making authority over food system values and practices in addition to having food security or access to sufficient supplies of healthy food10, 11. Producing traditional foods requires access to and use of land for farming, ranching, agricultural production, hunting, fishing, and management of water and environmental resources12, 13. The U.S. government has separated tribal nations from their lands and denied tribal food sovereignty repeatedly, which has increased food insecurity and poverty for tribal nations11, 12. Experts suggest that restoring land to tribal nations may support traditional food systems, food sovereignty, healthy and culturally relevant diets, and food security4, 14. Land return efforts may also increase habitat and ecosystem restoration4, 14, 15.

Apologies and recognition of historical wrongs are considered a critical component of any reparations program, though they are not sufficient by themselves16. For apologies to be meaningful they must fully acknowledge past and current wrongs, credibly commit to policy change and a new relationship between tribes and the government, and the apology itself cannot be the end goal, rather it should be an intentional piece of a comprehensive reconciliation process17. To achieve justice, reparations as tribal restitution must be established through open communication and negotiation on both sides, include land return, and provide public acknowledgment of the specific circumstances and local context involved in centuries of atrocities. An apology may be perceived as empty symbolism if it is offered without land return or reparations that materially support the well-being and sovereignty of Native peoples5, 18. Some experts suggest that sincere apology can support the healing process, increase positive thoughts, and may lead to forgiveness18. Apologies are delicate and difficult to convey appropriately in cross-cultural communication. Experts suggest that apologies may be more successful if they are culturally informed and follow the process of healing grievances used by tribal nations, rather than a Western model19.

Several examples of land return to tribal nations in the U.S. have been associated with increased tribal sovereignty, improved economic conditions, and community benefits for tribal nations. In New Mexico, the Zuni tribe received land reparations that included 25,000 acres of land, $25 million in monetary compensation for lost land, and another $25 million for damages to the reservation’s land caused by governmental acts of omission that led to erosion and the loss of minerals, timber, and water. This settlement improved economic conditions for the Zuni tribe, created a permanent trust to support a sustainable resource development plan, and a permanent easement to secure Zuni religious freedom and provide access to the traditional route for their sacred pilgrimages20. Under the Indian Claims Commission, land was restored to increase sovereignty for several tribes. For example, 48,000 acres in Blue Lake, New Mexico were returned to the Taos Pueblo6, 9. In Arizona, 185,000 acres of land around Grand Canyon National Park was returned to the Havasupai Reservation9. The Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act of 2018 placed 17,800 acres of federal land in trust for the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe and 14,700 acres for the Confederated tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians6, 21. In 2020, Congress placed nearly 12,000 acres of land in trust to improve economic and community conditions for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Congress also placed the National Bison Range in trust for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and, as of 2022, the tribes have full management of the land6.

The Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 is an example of land reparations where the federal government provided $81.5 million in restitution to the Passamaquoddies and Penobscots, and the opportunity to purchase up to 300,000 acres of land. This land settlement is associated with improvements in living conditions, housing stability, economic security, investment and business opportunities, cultural and language preservation programs, and higher education opportunities for these tribes8, 9. Federal funds helped the Passamaquoddies and Penobscots improve infrastructure, resource police and fire departments, and establish health clinics on their land, although the improvements are associated with some challenges to traditional Passamaquoddy and Penobscot practices and culture9. The claims process and settlement was long and difficult, and it sparked controversy and backlash from Maine’s state leaders, private property owners, and Euro-American “rights” organizations9. In some circumstances, as seen in Maine, settlement language can be vague and complicated, giving state governments the opportunity to challenge and limit tribal sovereignty. The continuing challenges to the Maine settlement suggest both that this settlement language should be clarified and that protections to preserve self-determination and tribal sovereignty need to be included in other land return efforts8, 22.

U.S. presidents and Congress have officially recognized the illegality of the U.S. role in overthrowing and colonizing the Hawaiian Kingdom and the unjust enrichment that followed. However, Native Hawaiians have not been formally recognized nor extended the land rights and sovereignty honored for some Native American tribes. A land reparations settlement could turn land currently controlled by the Hawaiian State Department over to Native Hawaiians to increase self-determination, and to support well-being, health, and the cultural, social, and economic welfare of Native Hawaiians7, 8.

There are several international examples of land reparations settlements that suggest positive outcomes resulting from government efforts to return land and make restitution for historic injustices. For example, in South Africa, case studies suggest that substantive reparations including land return can support improved outcomes for employment, income, economic security, infrastructure, food security, and quality of life. However, symbolic reparations efforts are not associated with improved outcomes23. Land reparations and restitution settlements in Canada and New Zealand are associated with improved self-determination and increased economic prosperity, despite legal and political efforts to undermine settlement agreements24. The Canadian example also suggests that land reparations efforts may establish secure land rights for Native people, and that secure land rights support self-determination and improved economic outcomes25. In British Columbia in 2007, government-to-government negotiations established the Haida Gwaii Strategic Land Use Agreement, which includes an ecosystem-based management operating area and zoning to protect wildlife habitat and land of cultural importance for Haida Nation. This agreement affirms Haida Nation sovereignty and may support future land rights agreements and reconciliation efforts26. An Australian-based example highlights the need to protect land returns from future dispossession and protect tribal sovereignty, especially as Native lands become appealing for large renewable energy projects. Tribal sovereignty needs to be maintained in any negotiations process, in agreements and benefit-sharing plans, and regardless of new potential land uses27.

In general, reparations are complicated on theoretical, political, and practical levels, as well as by the passage of time. The imbalance of power between dispossessed Native people and the non-Native majority, currently in possession of the land and in a position to write government policies and legal rules, makes land reparations more difficult to implement5. The courts and the law have been used to oppress Native people throughout American history and continue to support their oppression in the modern era. Experts suggest that this creates a need for reparations, land return, and apology from the legal community as well as broader society18. The Supreme Court’s decision in McGuirt v. Oklahoma acknowledged tribal sovereignty in a criminal jurisdiction case. Several experts suggest the decision supports arguments for increased Native land rights, environmental jurisdiction, and land reparations efforts both on a case-by-case basis and for incorporating the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) into U.S. law28. The United Nations adopted UNDRIP in 2007 with the U.S., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand all voting against the declaration; these countries all have very similar colonial settler histories and share a reluctance to undermine their own state land rights by affirming land rights for Native people. UNDRIP does not mandate land return, but it does prohibit forcible removal from land without just compensation or the option of land return. Although the U.S., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have changed their official positions to support UNDRIP (in 2010 President Obama endorsed UNDRIP with qualifications), as of 2022, the U.S. Congress has not yet adopted UNDRIP as law7, 29. An Australia-based analysis suggests there are many challenges Native people face when seeking restitution either through a legal or legislative process. The challenges are partially due to settler colonialists and a Western judicial and legal system setting the rules and requirements for bringing land claims30.

Experts suggest that U.S. state governments should apologize and engage in sincere dialogue with recognized and unrecognized tribal nations in their area to apologize for the injustices of the past, take action to end policies based on false ideologies of racial superiority, and reduce obstacles to the federal recognition process. State governments can support efforts to build strong tribal court systems, complete inventories of available land parcels that could be returned, identify underdeveloped land that is sacred to Indigenous people, engage with private landowners that border existing reservations, and work collaboratively to return land to local tribes18. Some experts suggest to achieve reconciliation, a complete land reparations process would start with acknowledgement and an effort to gather oral histories, share testimony, and correct historical records; include formal apologies; engage in a peacemaking process; commemorate the past for future generations; compensate and restore land to Native people to the fullest extent possible without inflicting new injustices; and reform the law and amend the Constitution to support tribal sovereignty and preserve a positive future legal and political relationship between tribes and the U.S. government5. Non-Native individuals that want to be allies for tribal restitution efforts should be aware of the history of the land they live on, know their family history, and commit to learning together, asking permission, building relationships, and working for land return and restoration31.

Some experts suggest that monetary reparations are less complicated than efforts to restore land to Native people, and that reparations should focus on the present to improve the current and future circumstances of Native people, rather than attempt land restoration. These experts contend that the passage of time complicates claims for redistributive justice, diminishes the legal and moral obligations for returning unjustly appropriated property, and that the identity of the current owners may now be tied to their ownership of the land32. Other experts disagree and contend that despite the complexities of land reparations and the existence of distributive justice issues in society, land reparations are worth pursuing. Land reparations also should not be bound exclusively by U.S. property law precedent and understanding of ownership, since property law has been a tool for building systematic inequality and racial wealth disparities. Experts suggest that financial compensation is inadequate as a repair since a person or group’s identity can be tied to land that was taken from them. This is the case for the Sioux who have not accepted financial compensation for the loss of the Black Hills in South Dakota33. For most Native Americans, returning ancestral and culturally significant land and property is essential to support self-determination and justice, and monetary compensation alone is inadequate5.

How could this strategy advance health equity? This strategy is rated potential to decrease disparities: suggested by expert opinion.

Experts suggest land return for tribal restitution has the potential to decrease disparities in economic outcomes, community development, and food security between Native communities, especially on reservations, and non-Native communities4, 5, 7, 8, 9. Overall, Native people experience significantly higher rates of poverty and unemployment than the rest of the U.S.; although conditions vary between reservations and economic conditions have improved for Native Americans since 19904. The health, well-being, and culture of tribal nations are tied to the land and land return efforts may improve and preserve these outcomes for Native people5. Land return and increased self-determination may reduce disparities in access to social services and improve benefits for Native people. Throughout U.S. history, Native people have faced bureaucratic roadblocks and endless loops when trying to access government benefits. Mainstream government agencies have frequently directed any requests from Native people to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), while the BIA often sent eligible applicants back to the original agencies with no benefits provided62. Land return efforts and increased self-determination may enable tribal governments to take over the direct provision of many government services, improving access and benefits and reducing poverty among Native people4.

Land return that supports increased tribal sovereignty and self-determination has the potential to improve access to housing and reduce disparities in housing outcomes. Available evidence suggests about 56% of Native American families own their homes, compared to about 71% of white families, as of 20064. Data suggests Native people and other people of color continue to be targeted for subprime loans and are denied mortgage opportunities at higher rates than white people with similar income levels62. In the past, disparities in housing opportunities were exacerbated among Native veterans (who historically have higher rates of military service than other racial or ethnic groups) since the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) refused to grant Native Americans veteran status and sent any Native veterans to the BIA. The GI Bill provided federally guaranteed loans, low interest rates, and required small down payments to support homeownership opportunities in the suburbs for white veterans but denied similar benefits to Native veterans. The GI Bill’s home loan benefit was also not available on reservation land since that land was held in trust by the federal government and trust land cannot be used as loan collateral. In 1947 a resolution was introduced in the House to lift this restriction and provide access to the GI Bill’s home loan benefit for Native veterans of WWII, but it did not pass. The trust status of reservation land continues to limit home loans for Native people living on reservations62.

What is the relevant historical background?

U.S. history is rooted in the destruction, genocide, and forced relocation of Native communities as European settlers arrived. After the Civil War, the U.S. Army actively pursued Native American genocide by systematically massacring tribes and destroying buffalo herds5. Tribal nations were forced to sign treaties and relinquish millions of acres of tribal land in exchange for reservations. These treaties were full of mistranslations and manipulations of Native American terms for relationship with the land. Even such treaties were rarely honored by the U.S. government. Reservations and land resources continued to be stolen from Native people as the government opened Native land up to homesteading and land was further parceled out under the General Allotment Act of 1887, which enabled the U.S. government to incorporate more reservation land into a system of private ownership and control. The Allotment Act included policy for forced relocation, forced assimilation, and termination of tribal status1, 5, 45.

Government policy in the twentieth century towards Native Americans vacillated between discriminatory policies, tribal termination efforts, support for tribal self-determination, and anti-Native American backlash18. From the 1930s through the 1950s, the federal government used Federal Housing Authority policies, redlining, and support for racially restrictive covenants to prevent Native people, as well as Black people and other people of color, from moving into white neighborhoods and to limit homeownership opportunities. In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was passed as an attempt to increase sovereignty and put tribal affairs under control of tribal governments9. The Indian Claims Commission (ICC) was created by Congress in 1946 to hear and resolve Native American land claims. However, neither the IRA nor the ICC achieved their goals9, 63. Federal support then shifted to policies aimed at relocation and termination of tribal status. Termination policy was portrayed as “freeing” Native people from the federal government’s supervision, but in practice it had devastating effects. It dissolved the relationship between sovereign tribal nations and the federal government, ceased the protection of reservation land which allowed those lands to be taken and sold to non-Native people, and ended all treaty-negotiated federal responsibilities to provide services, such as health care and education, federal aid, and protections of tribal sovereignty. Between 1953 and 1964, 109 tribes had their status terminated9.

The Indian Relocation Act of 1956 encouraged Native people to leave reservations and move to urban areas, with promises of training, job placement, and homeownership. When Native people moved to the city, housing was temporary, in very poor condition, and in distressed neighborhoods. Jobs were low paying and scarce. In the present day, relocation policy has increased the difficulty for tribes petitioning the Office of Federal Acknowledgement for recognition; tribes are more likely to be granted recognition if a land base is part of the petition, and petitions from Native people that have moved away from their ancestral land base or dispersed are not considered18.

During the civil rights era, national policy shifted to support tribal sovereignty. In the 1970s and 1980s, many legal efforts to regain land and settlements for Native Americans began. Lawsuits were filed, for example, by the Oneidas, Cayugas, and St. Regis Mohawks in New York; the Wampanoags in Mashpee, Massachusetts; the Narragansetts in Rhode Island; the Western Pequots in Connecticut; the Passamaquoddies and Penobscots in Maine; and the Catawbas in South Carolina. However, not all of these lawsuits were successful9. The federal tribal recognition process was established in 1978 to reverse some of the damage done by termination policies18.

Anti-Native American backlash followed many of the efforts to support tribal sovereignty. Several government leaders and politicians attempted to limit or end land reparations. For example, the Ancient Indian Land Settlement Claims Act in New York State was passed in response to the Cayugas’ claim to 64,000 acres. The Act made cash the only available compensation for claims cases, to remove the potential for future land returns9. In 1985, legislation was proposed to restore 1.3 million acres of federal land to the Sioux Nation, and this claim remains unresolved because non-Native politicians in South Dakota oppose any land return from the Black Hills, while the Sioux refuse to accept cash compensation alone without any land9.

Equity Considerations
  • What local, Indigenous-led efforts are underway in your community? How can you support local land return efforts? What is the political climate in your area? Are all tribal nations recognized? How can you support recognized and unrecognized Indigenous people in their efforts to exercise sovereignty?
  • What does your community need to know about land transfer opportunities and how to support collective ownership and control? Could your community establish or support Native land trusts that could receive land donations?
  • What is the history of the land occupied in your community? What is your personal or organizational history? If you or your organization own property or land, how has that resulted in accumulated wealth? How does accumulated wealth and distribution of resources relate to health?
Implementation Examples

The Land Back movement has existed in various forms throughout U.S. history but has consistently held the goal of getting land ownership and stewardship returned to tribal nations. The Land Back movement has had more mainstream social media attention in the U.S. particularly since the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock34, 35, 36. Awareness of Land Back has been growing among non-Native groups and many view steps toward co-management of public lands by tribes and the U.S. government as a sign of incremental progress in recognizing the need for land return35. Another Land Back achievement for the Native community living in Portland, Oregon is that Neerchokiko, a 10 acre location historically for tribal trade and community building, is now owned by the Native American Youth and Family Center34. In August 2023, a partnership with the state Wildlife Conservation Board and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy helped acquire 1,240 acres of ancestral land bordering the Sequoia National Forest for the Tübatulabal Tribe37. In Minnesota, Upper Sioux Agency State Park ownership has been transferred to the Upper Sioux Community as part of land back and reparations efforts for the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and the largest mass hanging in U.S. history38.

The Native Land Conservancy (NLC) in Massachusetts was the first Native-led land conservation group established east of the Mississippi, in 2012. The NLC works to preserve sacred spaces, habitat, and ecosystems as well as the history of the land and Native culture39. The NLC has benefitted from multiple land donations from local individuals, including Craig Simpson39 and Norman Hayes40. The Indian Land Tenure Foundation is a national, Native-led community organization working to reform legal and administrative systems to facilitate the return of ownership and control of reservation lands to tribal nations41. Makoce Ikikcupi (Land Recovery) is a Native-led project working toward the recovery of Oceti Sakowin (Seven Campfires) homelands42.

Many tribal-led efforts aim to re-acquire land and establish their own permanent tribal territories, though these are not specifically land reparations efforts, since tribes are purchasing the lands and they have not been given an apology for historical injustices. For example, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota created the Rosebud Tribal Land Enterprise that manages over 600,000 acres and has a long-term land buying and preservation program43. Some of these efforts began as a way to re-establish reservation lands that a treaty promised but did not provide. For example, the Muckleshoot Tribe in Seattle, Washington purchased privately-owned properties within their tribal land boundaries. The Indian Land Working Group includes a Stewarding Native Lands program that offers financial and technical support to increase Native community control of and access to tribal lands and resources44, 45.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust is an urban, Indigenous, women-led land trust that works to facilitate the return of land to Native community stewardship46. In 2018, the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust partnered with the non-profit Planting Justice to return ownership of one quarter acre lot in Oakland, California to the Ohlone people. Members of the Native community have reflected that having stewardship of the land provides the Ohlone community with a place to focus on spiritual wellness, to develop and share cultural pride, and to heal from intergenerational trauma46, 47. The work of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust is also supported by the Shuumi Land Tax. (Shuumi means gift in Chochenyo, the Ohlone language.) The Shuumi Land Tax is a voluntary annual contribution that non-Indigenous people who live in the original territory of the Ohlone people, most of the East Bay, can make to support the work of returning land and developing urban gardens, community centers, and ceremonial spaces for Native communities. For residents on traditional Ohlone land, paying the Shuumi Land Tax acknowledges the history of theft from and genocide of the Ohlone people and supports healing and the future of the Ohlone community48. In the Seattle area, Real Rent Duwamish is a grassroots movement that encourages residents to pay a voluntary monthly amount to the Duwamish Tribe to support social, health, educational, and cultural services, as well as Duwamish cultural heritage preservation. As of 2022, over 21,300 residents pay real rent and the movement has started a petition to the federal government to officially recognize the Duwamish Tribe49. Reciprocity Trusts is working to establish a similar reconciliation project that asks British Columbia residents to pay a voluntary rent to First Nation communities in their area50, 51.

In Maine, First Light is an organization working to increase Wabanaki land stewardship through the land conservation movement. First Light functions as a bridge between land conservation groups and Native communities, increasing awareness of Native heritage, access to conservation lands for cultural uses, and understanding of shared goals between conservation and Native community advocates52. Nibezun, a non-profit in Passadumkeag, Maine, stewards an 85-acre property that a small group of tribal members and allies purchased in 2016; this sacred land was a traditional meeting place and harvesting area for the Wabanaki people53, 54.

Individuals can support land return and tribal restitution. For example, in 2018, Art Tanderup, a farmer in Neligh, Nebraska, returned a 1.6-acre parcel of ancestral tribal land to the Ponca Tribe that the U.S. government had forced the Ponca Tribe to leave 137 years ago. The land is being used to grow and restore the Ponca Tribe’s sacred corn55. In 2017, a professor, Christine Sleeter, gave $250,000 to the Ute Indian Tribe in east-central Utah. She inherited the money because of investments her great-grandparents made with the profits from selling a 160-acre plot of farmland that they were given in 1882 through the Homestead Act, after the government forcibly removed the Ute Indian Tribe from that land in 1881. Tribal leaders plan to use the money to build a new facility for the Uintah River High School56. In 1906, a private landowner donated a five-acre plot believed to be the location of the Great Swamp Massacre to the Rhode Island Historical Society and in 2021, the Historical Society worked with the Narragansett Tribe and Rhode Island Attorney General to provide the tribe with access to the site18.

Some companies have incorporated efforts to support Native communities and restitution into their business models. For example, Fedco Seeds is a cooperative seed company that acknowledges the role of Native breeders and past Seed Keepers in developing enduring seed varieties. Fedco sells and pays royalties to the Nibezun Project in Maine to support Indigenous people. Fedco also pays royalties to support the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust57.

Although not land reparations specifically, at the federal level, a movement to support reparations and the return of culturally significant museum collections was established in 1990 with the Native American Graves and Protections Act (NAGPRA). Congress has attempted to facilitate the dignified return of human remains and the repatriation of culturally significant items that were removed from Native American lands and ultimately taken to museums58. During the Obama administration, several settlements awarded compensation to tribal nations for the mismanagement of land and resources held in trust by the federal government59. Native people are also serving for the first time in federal offices as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna60, and as Director of the National Park Service, Charles “Chuck” Sams is Cayuse and Walla Walla and is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation61.

One proposal for a federal land reparations project suggests creating a “Buffalo Commons” (BC) from land that was never lawfully ceded to the U.S. and at present is largely designated as surplus federal land, land held in public trust, national forest, military bases, or existing tribal reservations from Texas and New Mexico north to the Canadian border. The BC territory would be created for multiple Indigenous nations and would be open to tribes with ancestral land claims in the territory as well as to tribes with ancestral land claims elsewhere who wish to negotiate to be a part of the BC. The BC would be established with tribal sovereignty over the land and over negotiations between tribes for the joint use of the land and its resources. BC proponents suggest that this territory could be established without forcing any of the approximately 400,000 non-Native homeowners off the land, although any homeowners who do not accept tribal sovereignty over the land and do not wish to remain would be compensated for their property5.

Implementation Resources

Resources with a focus on equity.

RG-Land reparations - Resource Generation (RG). Land reparations & Indigenous solidarity toolkit.

SELC-Land return - Jung Y. Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC). Lessons learned from “How to rematriate the land” webinar. November 18, 2021.

Gonzalez-Land back 2021 - Gonzalez L. Land back: An examination of the Land Back movement, the shaping of U.S. land ownership, and the criticality of land return. May 2, 2021.

NLD-Native land map - Native Land Digital (NLD). Native Land is an app to help map Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages.

IEN-Principles - Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). Indigenous principles of just transition.

USDA-Tribal food sovereignty - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Climate Hubs, Southwest Climate Hub. Tribal food sovereignty and climate change preparedness of tribal agriculture.

UW CFS-Peot 2022 - Peot E. Tribal food sovereignty resources. University of Wisconsin-Extension, Community Food Systems (UW CFS). 2022.

NCAI-Policy - National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Policy issues and policy portfolios.

ESCP-Speaker Gyasi Ross 2015 - The Evergreen State College Productions (ESCP). A Coming Together Speaker Series with Gyasi Ross. January 11, 2015.

APM-Nesterak 2019 - Nesterak M. Uprooted: The 1950s plan to erase Indian Country. American Public Media (APM) Reports. November 1, 2019.

LandBack - LandBack. It is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original peoples: Land, language, ceremony, food, education, housing, healthcare, governance, medicines, kinship.


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

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21 BLM-WOTFA - Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Oregon & Washington. Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act (WOTFA): Fact sheet.

22 Ganter 2004 - Ganter G. Chapter 2: Sovereign municipalities? Twenty years after the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. In: Johansen BE, ed. Enduring Legacies: Native American Treaties and Contemporary Controversies. Westport, CT: Praeger; 2004:25-43.

23 Chitonge 2022 - Chitonge H. Resettled but not redressed: Land restitution and post-settlement dynamics in South Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change. 2022;22(4):722-739.

24 Tait 2018 - Tait MJ, Ladner KL. Economic development through treaty reparations in New Zealand and Canada. Canadian Journal of Law and Society. 2018;33(1):61-83.

25 OECD 2020 - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Chapter 3: The importance of land for Indigenous economic development. In: Linking Indigenous Communities with Regional Development in Canada. Paris: OECD Publishing; 2020.

26 BCGN-Haida Nation - New agreement lays foundation for reconciliation of Haida Nation title and rights. British Columbia Government News (BCGN). August 13, 2021.

27 Chandrashekeran 2021 - Chandrashekeran S. Rent and reparation: How the law shapes Indigenous opportunities from large renewable energy projects. Local Environment. 2021;26(3):379-396.

28 Peden 2021 - Peden K. Dissenting into the future: The Supreme Court’s dissent in McGirt, UNDRIP, and the future of Indigenous land rights. Ecology Law Quarterly. 2021;48(2):729-740.

29 UNDRIP - United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP): The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007.

30 Timperley 2020 - Timperley C. Justice in indigenous land claims: A typology of problems. Politics, Groups, and Identities. 2020;8(1):1-23.

31 WN-Carnine 2016 - Carnine B, Bloom LM. How to support Standing Rock and confront what it means to live on stolen land. Waging Nonviolence (WN). 2016.

32 Alexander 2014 - Alexander GS. The complexities of land reparations. Law and Social Inquiry. 2014;39(4):874-901.

33 Rosser 2015 - Rosser E. The political possibilities of reparations. Law and Social Inquiry Forum. 2015;1:20-24.

34 ICT-Johnson 2023 - Johnson C. A ‘Land Back’ achievement: Land that was for centuries an Indigenous village is now a permanent home for the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland, Oregon. Indian Country Today (ICT): Underscore News. September 5, 2023.

35 HCN-Oaster 2022 - Oaster B. Questions about the LandBack movement, answered: Number one: Why are Indians spray-painting my Starbucks? High Country News (HCN). August 22, 2022.

36 Gonzalez-Land back 2021 - Gonzalez L. Land back: An examination of the Land Back movement, the shaping of U.S. land ownership, and the criticality of land return. May 2, 2021.

37 ICT-Walker 2023 - Walker RA. Tübatulabal Tribe acquires 1,240 acres of ancestral land: Chairman says site will be ‘the nucleus of everything we do from now on’. Indian Country Today (ICT). October 2, 2023.

38 ICT-Ahmed 2023 - Ahmed T. Tribe getting piece of Minnesota back: A memorial honors the 38 Dakota men killed in Mankato, 110 miles from the Upper Sioux Agency State Park. Indian Country Today (ICT): The Associated Press. September 5, 2023.

39 NLC - Native Land Conservancy (NLC).

40 CC-Land gift - (CC). Native Land Conservancy receives first gift of land. 2015.

41 ILTF - Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF). Indian lands in Indian hands: Serving American Indian nations and people in the recovery and control of their rightful homelands.

42 Makoce Ikikcupi - Makoce Ikikcupi. Makoce Ikikcupi (Land Recovery): A project of reparative justice.

43 RST-TLE - Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Tribal Land Enterprise (RST-TLE). Tribal Land Enterprise: Serving the Oyate since 1943.

44 FNDI-Native lands - First Nations Development Institute (FNDI). Our programs: Stewarding Native lands.

45 TC-Carmody 1996 - Carmody T. Tribes building permanent homelands. Tribal College (TC): Journal of American Indian Higher Education. Winter 1996;7(3).

46 STLT - Sogorea Te’ Land Trust (STLT). Purpose and vision.

47 CE-Wilson 2018 - Wilson E. Returning stolen land to Native Tribes, one lot at a time. Civil Eats (CE). 2018.

48 STLT-Shuumi - Sogorea Te’ Land Trust (STLT). Shuumi land tax.

49 RRD - Real Rent Duwamish (RRD). Pay rent and sign the petition for federal recognition.

50 VIN-Weston 2021 - Weston S. Reconciliation project asks B.C. residents to pay 'rent' to live on traditional First Nations lands. Vancouver Island News (VIN). October 5, 2021.

51 Reciprocity - Reciprocity. Reciprocity is recognizing Indigenous land rights, a way to say thank you, knowing where you live, and changing the culture of home.

52 FL-Land stewardship - First Light. First Light is a bridge between conservation organizations and Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq Communities who seek to expand Wabanaki stewardship of land.

53 Nibezun - Nibezun. Our vision, our mission, and the seeds we planted.

54 Nibezun-Sacred lands - Nibezun. Nibezun reclaims sacred lands.

55 BN-Hefflinger 2018 - Hefflinger M. In historic first, Nebraska farmer returns land to Ponca Tribe along “Trail of Tears”. BOLD Nebraska (BN). 2018.

56 SLT-Tanner 2017 - Tanner C. Professor gives $250K to Ute Indian Tribe to compensate for great-grandparents profiting off tribal land sales: Tribe says money will go to replacing old high school. The Salt Lake Tribune (SLT). 2017.

57 Fedco-Royalties - Fedco Seeds. Catalog codes: Indigenous royalties and Black benefit sharing.

58 NAGPRA - National Park Service. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA): Facilitating respectful return.

59 NPR-Hersher 2016 - Hersher R. U.S. government to pay $492 million to 17 American Indian tribes. National Public Radio (NPR). September 27, 2016.

60 US DOI-Haaland - U.S. Department of the Interior (U.S. DOI). U.S. Secretary of the Interior: Secretary Deb Haaland.

61 US NPS-Sams - U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service (U.S. NPS). About us: National Park Service Director: Charles F. Sams III.

62 Keeler 2016 - Keeler K. Putting people where they belong: American Indian housing policy in the mid-twentieth century. Native American and Indigenous Studies. 2016;3(2):70-104.

63 Sutton 2000 - Sutton I. The continuing saga of Indian land claims: Not all aboriginal territory is truly irredeemable. American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 2000;24(1):129-162.