The word and topic of "land" repeatedly appears in How the Word Is Passed. This section focuses on the theme of land, particularly as it relates to shared struggles and solidarity between Black and Indigenous peoples.
Historically, Indigenous and Black folks have been turned against each other by colonizers and enslavers. Now, communities are learning from one another and finding solidarity in efforts to reclaim stolen lands.
Land rematriation is the return of Indigenous land to Indigenous people. The term, more commonly known as “land back,” acknowledges how colonization contributed to the theft and plunder of Indigenous land and communities—and has grown into an effort to help reclaim stolen lands.
Present political climate and an increase in visibility and voice for Indigenous people are being leveraged to attract attention to dire social, environmental, and political issues. However, we need a more unified, organized, and coordinated policy platform, strategy, and public response. NDN Collective, an all Indigenous-led and staffed organization devoted to building Indigenous self-determination and power across Turtle Island, provides cohesion through a strong meta narrative of its Land Back campaign and an ecosystem of resources for Native Nations and peoples built around its three pillars: Defend, Develop, and Decolonize. This article shares a brief history of colonization and the lasting impacts of the American Indian Movement of the 1960s and what is needed from Indigenous leadership today. In recognizing that the collective liberation of Indigenous people is bound together with those of other Black and brown relatives, this article also explores our shared history with Black Americans and the success of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Land Back, Black Lives Matter, Indigenous sovereignty, reparations—these words should continue to shape our collective pursuit for freedom, but what does freedom look like for African Americans and Indigenous peoples? In the 2015 documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?, an interviewer asked singer-songwriter and musician Nina Simone, “What is freedom?” Pausing to think about all the oppression she had dealt with as a Black woman, Simone responded, “Freedom is no fear.” I remember being struck by that statement. Imagine being a Black woman and living without fear. Envision what it would be like for Black and Indigenous peoples to live in a world that was free of violence and injustice.
As cities and states across the country consider various forms of reparations, California has led the way in returning land to the descendants of the dispossessed. This includes African Americans and Native Americans. But as Stephanie Sy reports, the wealth, the community and the opportunities lost are not easily recovered.
Akerman writes, "How does the southern silence become so heavy and so menacing so suddenly? How do the trees and the whole natural environment evoke so intensely death, blood, and the weight of history? How does the present call up the past? And how hoes this past, with a mere gesture or a simple regard, haunt and torment you as you wander along an empty cotton field, or a dusty country road?"
Across North America, Indigenous acts of resistance have in recent years opposed the removal of federal protections for forests and waterways in Indigenous lands, halted the expansion of tar sands extraction and the pipeline construction at Standing Rock, and demanded justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women. In As We Have Always Done, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson locates Indigenous political resurgence as a practice rooted in uniquely Indigenous theorizing, writing, organizing, and thinking. Indigenous resistance is a radical rejection of contemporary colonialism focused around the refusal of the dispossession of both Indigenous bodies and land. Simpson makes clear that its goal can no longer be cultural resurgence as a mechanism for inclusion in a multicultural mosaic. Instead, she calls for unapologetic, place-based Indigenous alternatives to the destructive logics of the settler colonial state, including heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalist exploitation.
A revolutionary collaboration about the world we're living in now, between two of our most important contemporary thinkers, writers and activists. When much of the world entered pandemic lockdown in spring 2020, Robyn Maynard, influential author of Policing Black Lives, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, award-winning author of several books, including the recent novel Noopiming, began writing each other letters -- a gesture sparked by friendship and solidarity, and by a desire for kinship and connection in a world shattering under the intersecting crises of pandemic, police killings, and climate catastrophe. Their letters soon grew into a powerful exchange on the subject of where we go from here. Rehearsals is a captivating book, part debate, part dialogue, part lively and detailed familial correspondence between two razor-sharp writers convening on what it means to get free as the world spins into some new orbit. In a genre-defying exchange, the authors collectively envision the possibilities for more liberatory futures during a historic year of Indigenous land defense, prison strikes, and global-Black-led rebellions against policing. By articulating to each other Black and Indigenous perspectives on our unprecedented here and now, and the long-disavowed histories of slavery and colonization that have brought us to this moment in the first place, Maynard and Simpson create something new: a vital demand for a different way forward, and a poetic call to dream up new ways of ordering earthly life.
A powerful movement is happening in farming today--farmers are reconnecting with their roots to fight climate change. For one woman, that's meant learning her tribe's history to help bring back the buffalo. For another, it's meant preserving forest purchased by her great-great-uncle, among the first wave of African Americans to buy land. Others are rejecting monoculture to grow corn, beans, and squash the way farmers in Mexico have done for centuries. Still others are rotating crops for the native cuisines of those who fled the "American wars" in Southeast Asia. In Healing Grounds, Liz Carlisle tells the stories of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and Asian American farmers who are reviving their ancestors' methods of growing food--techniques long suppressed by the industrial food system. These farmers are restoring native prairies, nurturing beneficial fungi, and enriching soil health. While feeding their communities and revitalizing cultural ties to land, they are steadily stitching ecosystems back together and repairing the natural carbon cycle. This, Carlisle shows, is the true regenerative agriculture - not merely a set of technical tricks for storing CO2 in the ground, but a holistic approach that values diversity in both plants and people. Cultivating this kind of regenerative farming will require reckoning with our nation's agricultural history--a history marked by discrimination and displacement. And it will ultimately require dismantling power structures that have blocked many farmers of color from owning land or building wealth. The task is great, but so is its promise. By coming together to restore these farmlands, we can not only heal our planet, we can heal our communities and ourselves.
The Color of the Land brings the histories of Creek Indians, African Americans, and whites in Oklahoma together into one story that explores the way races and nations were made and remade in conflicts over who would own land, who would farm it, and who would rule it. This story disrupts expected narratives of the American past, revealing how identities--race, nation, and class--took new forms in struggles over the creation of different systems of property. Conflicts were unleashed by a series of sweeping changes: the forced "removal" of the Creeks from their homeland to Oklahoma in the 1830s, the transformation of the Creeks' enslaved black population into landed black Creek citizens after the Civil War, the imposition of statehood and private landownership at the turn of the twentieth century, and the entrenchment of a sharecropping economy and white supremacy in the following decades. In struggles over land, wealth, and power, Oklahomans actively defined and redefined what it meant to be Native American, African American, or white. By telling this story, David Chang contributes to the history of racial construction and nationalism as well as to southern, western, and Native American history.
Throughout American history, people of combined African and Native American descent have often struggled for acceptance, not only from dominant cultures but also from their own communities. In this collection of twenty-seven groundbreaking essays, authors from across the Americas explore the complex personal histories and contemporary lives of people wth a dual heritage that has rarely received attention as part of the multicultural landscape. Illustrated with seventy-five paintings, photographs, and drawings, the book brings to light an epic but little-known part of American history that speaks to present-day struggles for racial identity and understanding.
The first intersectional history of the Black and Native American struggle for freedom in our country that also reframes our understanding of who was Indigenous in early America Beginning with pre-Revolutionary America and moving into the movement for Black lives and contemporary Indigenous activism, Afro-Indigenous historian Kyle T. Mays argues that the foundations of the US are rooted in antiblackness and settler colonialism, and that these parallel oppressions continue into the present. He explores how Black and Indigenous peoples have always resisted and struggled for freedom, sometimes together, and sometimes apart. Whether to end African enslavement and Indigenous removal or eradicate capitalism and colonialism, Mays show how the fervor of Black and Indigenous peoples calls for justice have consistently sought to uproot white supremacy. Mays uses a wide-array of historical activists and pop culture icons, 'sacred' texts, and foundational texts like the Declaration of Independence and Democracy in America. He covers the civil rights movement and freedom struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, and explores current debates around the use of Native American imagery and the cultural appropriation of Black culture. Mays compels us to rethink both our history as well as contemporary debates and to imagine the powerful possibilities of Afro-Indigenous solidarity.
Expressive culture has always been an important part of the social, political, and economic lives of Indigenous people. More recently, Indigenous people have blended expressive cultures with hip hop culture, creating new sounds, aesthetics, movements, and ways of being Indigenous. Kyle Mays argues that Indigenous people use hip hop culture to assert their sovereignty and challenge settler colonialism. From rapping about land and water rights from Flint to Standing Rock, to remixing "traditional" beading with hip hop aesthetics, Indigenous people are using hip hop to challenge their ongoing dispossession, disrupt racist stereotypes and images of Indigenous people, contest white supremacy and heteropatriarchy, and reconstruct ideas of a progressive masculinity. In addition, Mays carefully traces the idea of authenticity; that is, the common notion that, by engaging in a Black culture, Indigenous people are losing their "traditions." Indigenous hip hop artists navigate the muddy waters of the "politics of authenticity" by creating art that is not bound by narrow conceptions of what it means to be Indigenous; instead, they flip the notion of tradition and create alternative visions of what being Indigenous means today, and what that might look like going forward.