How Agrarian Trust Relates to and Practices Land Return
Statement of Solidarity
- Agrarian Trust believes there is a fundamental need for widespread “land return” in the United States. We take inspiration from Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, Rightful Return, and others in defining land return as the transfer of land to Indigenous, Black, and other people of color, primarily by European-descended white people and institutions, toward healing and repair from historic and current violent theft of land and labor, settler colonialism, and white supremacy. Land return can also include transfer of rights to water, timber, mineral, and other natural resources, or other real property rights such as cultural conservation easements, cultural respect and access agreements, and use permits. We use the broad term of land return to encompass both the Land Back movement led by Indigenous people, and the land reparations movement led by Black people:3
- Land Back, or rematriation, works “to restore a people to their rightful place in sacred relationship with their ancestral land.”4 For Indigenous people in the United States, rematriation encompasses the return of ancestral lands as well as other acts that renew relationship to land, such as returning sacred seeds to Indigenous seed keepers on or near their ancestral lands.
- Reparations is the act of making amends. Land-based reparations are the act of giving or returning land to African Americans or members of other groups who have historically been dispossessed of their land and/or who have confronted barriers to land access in the form of systematic discrimination.
- Agrarian Trust supports secure and equitable land tenure for farmers of all races and ethnicities who cultivate regenerative relationships with the land and contribute to the well-being of their communities. Because community well-being is improved when oppressive systems are dismantled, we prioritize allocation of Agrarian Trust resources to projects that address the needs of those who have been most excluded from land, especially BIPOC communities and individuals.
- Agrarian Trust, like other nonprofit conservation and community land trusts, uses the colonialist construct of private property to innovatively hold land in 501(c)2 Agrarian Commons. It is Agrarian Trust’s intent that this model for local governance and commons-based stewardship honor (though it cannot replicate) pre-colonial systems of relationship, and encourage deeper connections with land.
- Agrarian Trust and the Agrarian Commons do not intend to replace or interfere with BIPOC-led models for just land access, ownership, and sovereignty, but rather to catalyze, uplift, and support them while growing the Agrarian Commons in solidarity.
Explore each chapter of the Land Return Practice Guide:
3 Definitions adapted from Faithlands Toolkit, by Agrarian Trust, gratitude to Çaca Yvaire.
4 Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Jennifer C. Franco, “A ‘Land Sovereignty’ Alternative? Towards A People’s Counter- Enclosure,” Third World Quarterly, no. 36, (April 2015).