The Land Back movement refers both to the return of lands to Indigenous peoples, as well as the return of Tribal sovereignty, the honoring of colonial and historic treaties, and the return of land management and environmental stewardship practices to Native peoples.

Desert X Indian Land installation by ​​Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit and Unangax̂)

What Is the Land Back Movement? A Call for Native Sovereignty and Reclamation by Ruth Hopkins (Lakota/Dakota)
This 2021 article from Teen Vogue’s (De)Colonized series summarizes the history and importance of the Land Back Movement.

What is the Indigenous landback movement — and can it help the climate? by Claire Elise Thompson
Four Indigenous organizers are featured in this 2020 article, explaining the importance of lands to Indigenous communities and their stewardship.

LandBack is leading to real victories by Albert Bender
This 2022 article summarizes recent victories in the Land Back movement, including the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s purchase of their ancestral Pine Island in the region we know today as Maine and the reinstatement of the Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation in present-day Massachusetts.

LANDBACK – Building lasting Indigenous sovereignty.
Landback.org includes multimedia, programs, and the “landback manifesto.”

What Is Land Back? 
The David Suzuki Foundation explores the Land Back movement in present-day Canada. 

History of Land Acquisition and the Doctrine of Discovery

When European colonizers arrived in North America, they invoked the Doctrine of Discovery to justify seizing and colonizing unoccupied land (by which they meant land not occupied by Christians). They characterized their arrival as discovery and so positioned themselves as new land owners. This perspective has provided the framework for the federal management of lands ever since, transforming from a theological idea to a tenet of American federal law in the 19th century.

A project by the Indigenous Values Initiative and American Indian Law Alliance, this page provides comprehensive history resources about the Doctrine of Discovery and its impact.

1823: Supreme Court rules American Indians do not own land 
Native Voices provides summaries of the so-called Marshall Trilogy (three significant Supreme Court cases from the Marshall court), beginning with Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823), which ruled that Native nations could not hold title to land, based on the Doctrine of Discovery.

A short video summary of Johnson v. M’Intosh

Deconstructing the Doctrine of Discovery by David Wilkins and ​​Newcomb: The Doctrine of Discovery by Steven Newcomb
These 2018 articles from Indian Country Today provide background and perspectives from Indigenous legal experts on the Doctrine of Discovery and its effects. 

Upstander Project: Doctrine of Discovery
Part of a series of Learning Resources from the First Light Project, this page includes background context, primary documents, and discussion questions for students.

Early Encounters in Native New York
Did Native people really sell Manhattan? This online lesson from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian provides Native perspectives, images, documents, and other sources to help students and teachers understand how the 17th century fur trade brought together two cultures, one Native and the other Dutch, with different values and ideas about exchange.

Island of the Blue Dolphins – The Doctrine of Discovery 
This lesson plan from the National Park Service is intended to help high school students learn how the Doctrine of Discovery influenced and influences the ongoing process of colonization. 

How Expansive Is Oregon Trail History? podcast with Jonathan Van Ness and Professor Margaret Huettl (Ojibwe)
This podcast episode explores how Native knowledge systems established the Oregon Trail; how Native peoples experienced non-Native settlers moving West; and how Indigenous communities today are reckoning with this past to build a better future.

The Thorny History of Reparations in the United States by Erin Blakemore
This 2019 article includes a brief history on the 20th century Indian Claims Commission, a legal body intended to hear historic grievances and compensate Tribes for broken treaties and lost territories. Although $1.3 billion was allocated for reparations, some Tribes rejected cash settlements and are still asking for their lands to be returned.

Land Grab Universities

Part of the federal government’s land management history includes the 1862 Morrill Act. This statute allowed for the establishment of land-grant colleges and universities by generating proceeds from the sale of federally owned lands. The lands that were sold to fund land-grant universities were often obtained through treaty, cession, or seizure from Native nations.

Land-Grab Universities 
An investigation from High County News produced this interactive website, exploring the nearly 11 million acres of Indigenous land and approximately 250 tribal nations that were impacted by the creation of 52 land-grant universities in the United States.

Stop Land Grabs Story Map
Dive into the Stop Land Grabs Story Map from Uprooted & Rising to learn about how TIAA, through pension funds, and Higher Ed, through endowments, invest in the displacement of Black, Indigenous, and peasant communities across the globe. Check out the Stop Land Grabs Story Map to learn more about TIAA and Higher Ed’s complicity in land grabs and climate destruction and how you can get involved!

Land Grab Connecticut
This project from the University of Connecticut explains how UConn directly benefited from the sale of hundreds of thousands of acres of land and the money raised from it. This project aims to inform viewers about UConn’s participation in the construction of colonial systems of higher education. It invites them to interrogate their assumptions about these systems and their impact on Native communities.

UNH profited from Indigenous lands out west by Isabelle Curtis
This 2021 article from The New Hampshire explores the impact of the Morrill Act on the establishment of the University of New Hampshire. 

Additional Resources 

Decolonization is not a Metaphor by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang 
This 2012 academic journal article (open-source!) highlights the importance of repatriating Indigenous lands in the process of decolonization. 

Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change: Toward Right Relationship with America’s Native Peoples
This PDF provides a list of resources from the Quakers that accompany a participatory program that can be presented in faith communities, high schools, universities, and civic organizations, intended to move toward better relationships with Indigenous peoples.

LAND BACK! What do we mean?
This resource from 4Rs Youth Movement specifically provides information for non-Native allies. 

Land Back: Because Colonialism Does Not Spark Joy
We R Native provides a list of resources, media, and lessons.