we are the land
mixed media collage with acrylic painting and screenprinting

‘Land Back’ is a demand for the rights of American land to be restored back to its original caretakers, the people who are Indigenous to this land. It’s not as simple as the title assumes, as in many cases it's not fully possible due to complicated historical development, but restoring Indigenous autonomy and power over their ancestral land is the goal. 

Private property, a pillar of settler-colonialism, is directly opposed to the prosperity of our land and our people. Homlessness, excessive development, and neo-feudalism, all ills of modern day housing across the nation, are rooted in private property. The Land Back movement is strongly opposed to this, as many Indigenous civilizations only recognized private property in the form of houses and personal belongings, while land itself remained communal. The movement is less about a mass real estate transaction than it is about sovereignty, recognition of treaties, and, ultimately, the abolition of the United States’ conception of private property  altogether. From many traditional Indigenous points of view, land ownership is an illusion, no more possible than ownership of a rainbow. Land “ownership” is simply a legal concept — one that keeps wealth and power in white families.

As the Red Nation demands in their Red Deal: 

“We demand Native Nations assume their rightful place as independent Nations guaranteeing the fundamental right to self- determination for their people, communities, land bases, and political and economic systems.”

This movement goes hand-in-hand with reparations, climate justice, and self-determination for all oppressed peoples, which is central to the idea that the people are the land and the land are the people. 

•  We are the Land: the Tree  •
Under our current systems of living, we are disconnected and alienated from the very land we sit upon. And that’s for various reasons, whether that be the continued domination of housing by the ruling class, the never-ending suburbanisation and car-centricism of cities and rural areas, or even just the basic disconnect between our work and our world and nature. With the ever-present and looming climate crisis, or the continued growth of white supremacy and settler-colonial values, it seems as though there is no end in sight. What is one to do with all these weight, and hopelessness? How can one grow and prosper throughout all this harm?

Within this piece, I employ collage and painting techniques to create an image that tackles harm & regrowth under the idea that we are the land. Regressive and destructive acts like war, genocide, unlimited growth, unequal development, pollution, etc., are all immense and never-ending topics that have harmed both us and our earth, and yet there is still hope in regrowth and healing. No matter the harm that capitalism, settler-colonialism, and white supremacy continues to inflict, we have ways to prosper, grow, learn, and change. This is represented by the tree in the forefront of the image, which has withstood the myriad of harm inflicted upon it. Yet, the tree still finds a way to grow and prosper, with shadows of its lineage and past, and a spark of hope for its future.

The LandBack movement is one of many that are finding ways to create change, and I found it within myself to inspire, or even enrage, the viewer to those movements. We are the land.

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Excerpt sources, and sources for further thought and research
Questions about the LandBack movement, answered

The Red Deal, Part 1
Indigenous Knowledge, the Struggle for Land, and Indigenizing the Green New Deal