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 creates people, and, as ancestral herbalist Ayo Ngozi says, “Land is a true source of power.” This understanding of land as living spiritual power itself is a shared experience across Indigenous nations. There is an emotional and mental power that comes with knowing there is a home to return to. In contemporary capitalist societies, the economic power of owning land is critical, allowing the building of equity to access resources to fund education, businesses, more land ownership, and more self-determination for one’s descendants.

Today, Black and Indigenous communities are navigating these relationships to land while mapping and acting to build community economics that are decoupled from exploitative systems of production and trade.

The Indigenous-Led Land Back Movement

Achieving justice includes restoring power through the reclamation of land and through reparations. For Indigenous people, the Land Back movement embodies the push toward justice and healing. The movement works to reclaim more territories once occupied by their ancestors, to extend Indigenous care and governance to homelands that cannot be reclaimed, to push toward the dismantling of exploitative economic systems and policies that limit Indigenous peoples’ power, and to build economies and systems that are expressive of Indigenous values.

Black-Led Movements to Reclaim Stolen Land

Black folks across the country are also continually working to gain access to land, albeit using different approaches to Indigenous communities. Their efforts include attaining farmland, fighting redlining and racist financing systems to achieve land and homeownership, and building political movements to push for the restoration of lands taken from Black families through historical violence and eminent domain. In September 2021, in response to a powerful organizing effort led by the Bruce family and Kavon Ward, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill restoring beachfront land in Southern California, known as Bruce’s Beach, to a Black family driven out by white supremacist violence from their lands almost a century ago.

Building Power Through Solidarity

Soul Fire Farm, a Black-owned farm in upstate New York, is an impactful story-creating, community-building advocacy and training center, creating a space of land connection and training for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in culture-based agroecology. The farm is committed to both Black land reconnection and Indigenous homeland governance, doing the work of learning and growing toward liberated futures together. Hundreds of BIPOC farmers have been educated in Soul Fire Farm’s farming and construction immersion schools, benefiting from its community-supported agriculture food shares and culture-building initiatives. A newer initiative, called the Braiding Seeds Fellowship, provides funding and mentorship to continue the Black–Indigenous agrarian tradition.

Leah Penniman, co-executive director at Soul Fire Farm, recognizes that Land Back is “squarely an Indigenous movement,” while also honoring that Black folks have rights to secure land tenure as well, and to create a place to build connection and hold ceremony for the sources of life and ancestors. The lack of stable family land in Black communities is illustrated by the fact that Soul Fire Farm has received many requests from Black families to spread the ashes of their ancestors on the land, a place they know they will be able to return to honor their ancestors.

Read the full article about land rights by PennElys Droz at YES! Magazine.