Reparations Daily (ish) Vol. 44

Close Mt. Rushmore: Returning Land Back to Indigenous Peoples

Happy Monday and Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! This newsletter has primarily been concerned with reparations for Black Americans because that is where my expertise and attention lives primarily.

If you’ve been following since the start of the newsletter, you will have noticed that I started to include international reparations-related news, including what’s going on in Haiti or Australia.

I saw a tweet from a professor I deeply admire, Dr. Gregg Carr (below), which read, “On this and every #IndigenousPeoplesDay, let us remember that the “original sin” of every “nation” in “The Americas” is not enslavement. It is the war of Settler Colonialism against the First Nations of the hemisphere. All “social justice” struggles must start with that.

I was introduced to Dr. Carr through a colleague of mine who went to Howard for law school who told me that I had to tune in to his Youtube series with Karen Hunter called ‘In Class with Carr,’ which they dub “the largest Africana studies class in the world.” Hunter, a journalist, publisher, and talk show host, sits down with Carr every Saturday at 12:00 pm ET to discuss a range of topics aimed to help Black people across the Diaspora know different parts of our history. Their latest episode covers Fannie Lou Hamer. I highly recommend checking it out.

Carr’s tweet has made me realize that while the original purpose of this newsletter, which is to center news about reparations for Black Americans, is an important one, I can and should also be uplifting news about Indigenous communities. From now on, I will start to do that.

Today’s Hot Takes section briefly examines the NDN Collective’s Land Back campaign.

Here are some articles you might find interesting.

  • This Nonprofit Quarterly piece by Nikki Pietros and Krystal Two Bulls on how restoring justice must include “the land theft, genocide, and enslavement committed in the spirit of capitalism because the generational privilege is still real and the harm to our communities and peoples persists.”

  • This New York Times piece curates six lesson plans about Native Americans' actions to push the U.S. to redress past wrongs.

  • This Hollywood Reporter piece by Alicia Bell (featured in volume 22 of the newsletter) is on media reparations.

Reparations Daily (ish)
Reparations Daily (ish) Vol. 22
Happy Wednesday! Today’s newsletter features a conversation with Alicia Bell, Director of Media 2070. Media 2070 is a growing consortium of media-makers and activists who are collectively dreaming up reparative policies, interventions, and futures. I strongly urge everyone to read the…
Read more
  • This Refinery 29 piece covers the recent lawsuit filed by the family of Henrietta Lacks. Her cells were gathered by doctors without her knowledge or permission and have become the foundation for some of the most important modern scientific breakthroughs.

  • The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on an effort being led by the Virginia Policy Law Center that would use state funding for a pilot program that would provide downpayment assistance for those looking to buy property who can “demonstrate that they, or their relatives, suffered financial consequences as a result of past practices that disproportionately impacted Black households.” The Director of Housing Advocacy for the Law Center has called this effort reparations.

  • Two weeks ago, Canada celebrated its first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, commemorating the victims and survivors of Indigenous residential schools. As reported by the Associated Press, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently apologized for going on vacation that day.

With radical love,

National News

Nonprofit Quarterly: Land Back: A Necessary Act of Reparations


Living on Earth: “Land Back” for Indigenous Peoples

Hyper Allergic: Indigenous Artists Voice Support for Land Restitution in New Billboard Campaign

New York Times: Teaching About the Native American Fight for Representation, Repatriation and Recognition

Hollywood Reporter: The Case for Media Ownership Reparations

Christian Today: Church should pay reparations for role in slave trade, say theologians

NPR: A Black family got their beach back — and inspired others to fight against land theft

Politico: California students will have to take ethnic studies to get a diploma

Refinery 29: Years After Her Death, The Science Community Is Still Treating Henrietta Lacks’ Cells Like “Chattel

MSNBC: Investors of color increasingly turning to cryptocurrency. Could it close America's racial wealth gap?

Yahoo! Money: Democrats’ tax plan makes ‘baby steps’ toward racial wealth equity

Regional News

Chicago Tribune: Application period open for Evanston’s local reparations program housing fund

Axios: How Ohio's 'land-grab' university was created

Mlive: Community engagement a major force behind U-M reparations project for Black and Native communities

Evanston Roundtable: Reparations committee provides an update on funding, applicants

Courier-Journal: We need to uplift West End neighborhoods. Reparations can help

People’s World: On anniversary of Elaine race massacre, Arkansas community says reparations are due

Richmond Times-Dispatch: 'Reparations in the housing space': new program envisioned for Richmond region households hurt by past housing policy

Clarion-Ledger: Critical race theory a 'threat'? What new Mississippi report says and why you should care.

International News

NPR: This New Canadian Holiday Reflects On The Legacy Of Indigenous Residential Schools

Hot Takes

Nonprofit Quarterly: Land Back: A Necessary Act of Reparations

On September 10, 2019, the 400th anniversary of when the first enslaved Black person stepped foot on what is now considered the United States of America, Senator Mitch McConnell released a statement, in which he said, “In many ways, slavery is the United States of America’s ‘original sin.’ This systematic racist exploitation wove its way into the colonies’ economies and societies. Almost two centuries later, the disgusting practice was a stumbling block in our founding debates, ultimately allowed to continue for the sake of union. Some of our founders participated personally even as they argued the philosophical case for equality under God and law.”

Suppose we use Dr. Carr’s tweet as a frame, that Settler Colonialism against the First Nations should be our starting part in any fight for social justice. In that case, we must acknowledge the link between the Black struggle and the Indigenous struggle. While the United States was not formally founded until 1776, Dr. Carr would presumably disagree that the original sin was slavery and was the capturing of land from the Indigenous community that had been here for centuries.

In a conversation I had with an expert on this topic, they emphasized that while reparations are due to both communities, they are seemingly calling for different things. According to this person, Indigenous people are calling for sovereignty, while Black Americans are asking to be fully recognized as American citizens.

This notion aligns with the opinion piece in Nonprofit Quarterly by Pieratos and Two Bulls. The two start the article by acknowledging the millions of people who mobilized last year to “demand change to the policing system that continues to brutalize and murder Black people with little to no consequence.”

They then name that at the root of the fight for racial justice is “the demand to undo the systemic oppression Black people face, demand reparations to Black people for the harms caused by slavery and ongoing and current racist policies and practices,” and then make the link that to undo systemic oppression must also mean to “demand reparations to Indigenous peoples for the genocide and other ongoing current racist policies and practices perpetrated by white settlers,” and introduce us to the topic of land reparations and the ‘Land Back’ movement.

According to the authors, ‘Land Back’ is the “intersectional movement for racial justice by Indigenous peoples, with the end goal of having our lands returned to Indigenous stewardship. Land Back address the root of colonization — the theft of Indigenous lands (including the destruction through resource extraction), the violence committed against Indigenous peoples to build capitalism across the country, and the effects that our communities still experience today.”

The movement is a decades-old one (this story map is very useful research that walks you through the origins of the movement and where it is today), that “aims to unite many other narratives and provides an understanding of myriad issues,” and is about reclaiming Indigenous spheres of influence and sovereignty, extending their values within ecological, political, and economic systems, and harmonizing with the political discourse on reparations and land-centered issues for Black people, according to the authors.

The movement has four straightforward demands:

  1. Return all public lands back to Indigenous hands.

  2. Dismantle the structures that forcibly removed us from our lands and continue to keep our peoples oppressed.

  3. Defund white supremacy and the mechanisms and systems that enforce it, and that disconnect us from stewardship of the land, including the police, the military, border patrol, and ICE.

  4. Move from an era of consultation into a new era of policy around free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), as specified in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The NDN Collective, where the Two Bulls and Pieratos work, have stated that they are aiming their Land Back campaign to target the closure of Mount Rushmore and the “return of that land and all public lands in Black Hills, South Dakota. “Not only does Mount Rushmore sit in the heart of the sacred Black Hills, but it is an international symbol of white supremacy and colonization. To truly dismantle white supremacy and systems of oppression, we have to go back to the roots. Which, for us, is putting Indigenous Lands back in Indigenous hands.”

The National Memorial and massive sculpture depict George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The monument is not only situated on stolen Lakota land but is also arguably the largest memorial to heteropatriarchy and white supremacy in the world.

When George Washington died, 317 people were enslaved on Mt. Vernon, and over the course of his lifetime, 577 people were enslaved on the plantation. According to the Washington Post, he also constantly sought to expand the land he owned and spent a lifetime claiming or buying large tracts of Native American land and then fighting long battles to prove the deeds he held were legitimate.

Thomas Jefferson, famous for writing that all men are created equally, called slavery a “moral depravity,” but he enslaved over 600 people throughout his life and raped Sally Hemmings, who had six children by him. He was also one of the first to develop broad policies that called for the removal of Indigenous people from their homelands.

Even Abraham Lincoln, who many of us were taught “freed the slaves” (they in fact freed themselves), did not believe in full equality for Black people. In an 1858 debate, Lincoln stated, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and Black races,” he went on to say that he opposed Black people having the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold office and to intermarry with whites. 

Theodore Roosevelt regarded Indigenous people as “savages” and expected them to be exterminated from America either through battle or “inability to adjust to modern life,” according to WBUR. He referred to white Americans as the “forward race,” who had the responsibility to train the “backward races in industrial efficiency, political capacity, and domestic morality.”

So, I support the Indigenous Land Back movement, and specifically the closure of Mt. Rushmore. I support reparations for Indigenous communities, in whatever way form they say it should look like. And I recognize that while different and distinct, the Indigenous struggle for reparations and the Black struggle for reparations are linked.

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