Land Justice

How Agrarian Trust Relates to and Practices Land Return

Acknowledgements

  1. We acknowledge that land dispossession, which has been accompanied by resource extraction, ecocide, and genocide, has affected people of all races and ethnicities around the world. 

  2. We acknowledge the Indigenous people of what is now known as the United States of America — peoples whose ancestors lived on, stewarded, and storied these lands for tens of thousands of years. We acknowledge the genocide and land theft perpetrated against Indigenous people, predominantly by Europeans and European Americans. 

  3. We acknowledge the Black Americans of this country whose ancestors were captured and enslaved to form the basis of the world’s most powerful economy. We acknowledge the continued, post-slavery exploitation of Black people who were promised land but never received it, have been swindled out of it, and continue to this day to have land taken due to anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination by private, governmental, and other public entities. 

  4. We acknowledge myriad ways that the US government and other institutions have enacted and perpetuated racism and injustice in land access and ownership. Some examples include the Reservation Act and Dawes Act, and broken and unsigned treaties dispossessing Indigenous people of their land; the racist and fraudulent Homestead Act; redlining and racial covenants preventing Black and other people of color from accessing capital and owning homes well into the twentieth century; discriminatory lending practices by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and others still in the twenty-first century; racist policies and practices of the USDA; “Alien Land Laws” excluding Chinese and Japanese immigrants and even their American-born spouses and children from land ownership; forced Japanese internment dispossessing tens of thousands of families of their homes and farms; ongoing immigration barriers for tax-paying Latinx farmworkers; discrimination and hate against Muslim farmers; and more. 

  5. We acknowledge that the American conservation movement is framed in racist practice2, and that today’s nonprofit land trusts continue to bolster private accumulation of land wealth to white Americans, and exclusion of non-whites from access to land. 

  6. We acknowledge that as a group, white Americans have accumulated tremendous wealth (including 98 percent of all privately held US farmland) as a result of these various forms of exploitation of land, resources, and people. 

  7. We acknowledge that as a nonprofit land trust which was founded by and is currently led by white settlers, Agrarian Trust and its leaders benefit from the systems of oppression that have led to the current power structure and land ownership distribution in the United States. We commit to working against these systems of oppression with ongoing, intentional action toward justice — in relationship with, and with accountability to, BIPOC communities.
Harvesting native corn, anonymous Indigenous rematriation project.
Footnotes
2 Purdy, Jedediah, 2015. “Environmentalism’s Racist History,” The New Yorker, August 13; Fears, Darryl and Steven Mufson, 2020. “Liberal, progressive — and racist? The Sierra Club faces its white-supremacist history.” The Washington Post, July 20.