Reading Log & Summary : “Land” from Native studies keywords

Native studies keywords

Author/Editors: Teves, S. N., Smith, A., & Raheja, M.
Year: 2015
Publish: University of Arizona Press


Chapter: Land

Page: 59-70

Land has both material and metaphorical power. Natives treats it not as a space on which human activity takes place, but a significant source of power. Indigenous cosmologies are inextricably linked to their land bases. Native lands are targeted for resource extraction and continue to be subject to colonial expropriation.  


Land and Colonial Dispossession

The act of violence over land was endemic to U.S. expansion. The acts of conquest varied in degrees, but those enabled the rapid accumulation of resources and territories that made settlement possible, restructuring social, racial, and political orders. Many lands to be unknowingly has transferred to non-Indians via treaties based on Western law. U.S. policies in support of white settlement, the court being in league with the nation-state, and legacies of colonialism have deprived the land and Native identity. For Europeans, only a way to possess the land is discovery. And for Europeans indigenous tribes is reflected as a mere existence who was just domestic and dependent nations, and who had no sovereign as independent states. As the United States continued to expand territorially, Native peoples’ right to occupancy also steadily eroded. The support of laws like the Dawes Allotment Acts and the Indian Reorganization Act enabled U.S. to expropriate and consolidate the native land. Majority of the exploitation in Native lands was practiced for energy resources. The reservations for Indians are just the places “reserved” under federal law and are depending on the government for usage. At the same time, this space functions for observation and discipline the Native.


Indigenous Relationships to Land

The important thing that can differentiate with other groups like racial minority in the United States is indigenous peoples have a right towards its ancestral land. And this is legally admitted.

For indigenous people, the relationship with land is important. Land gives them all the living things to survive. And the relationship with the environment is the essential aspect of social organization and intellectual development. There’re diverse analyses about the relationship between indigenous peoples and the land.

One says that indigenous people is often faced to the impact caused by resource extraction and is devastated by environmentally destructive policies. The other say that natives are extremely diverse, and some destroyed the natural environment, and warn the stereotypes as if Native peoples are conservationists and worshippers of Mother Earth. Shepard Krech cites the pair; the “Ecological Indian” living in harmony with the land, and the “Non-ecological White Man” who destroys the environment. He pointed out such kind of images was created because of the campaign “Keep America Beautiful” in which Italian Iron Eyes Cody played a role of Indian. This kind of image that Natives are close to nature is supported by both Indians and non-Indians. The author says the image also evoked the existence of “noble savage” who represents a “before the fall” man. Kim TallBear contested to Krech that he ignores the sovereignty of natives and their properly care. Moreover she argues that his idea could justify the dispossession of Native lands, and denies that Native peoples might have any distinct relationship with land.

Natives people’s association with the natural environment is supported by themselves. The unique culture natives have is respecting the spiritual values and their relationship with land or territories that they occupy.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 25 recognizes this spiritual relationship, and highlights the spiritual relationship rather than the material one. On the other hand, this relationship does not assume the ownership of those lands.

Corporations who has respects on Native’s cultural rights won’t seek to extract resources from the lands. Because those places are religious and sacred sites, and have not to be disrupted.


Which Lands Are Native Lands?

There’re Natives who live away from its land because of the termination and relocation polices from their reservations. “Native Hub” can help such natives to develop intertribal networks. They can create and maintain a connection with tribal nations that are affiliated with particular lands and reservations in this space. This leads Natives to reinvigorate and sustain their culture and identity there. But it’s not the same as the one created in traditionally rooted land but created through modern Native experiences in urban life. Mishuana Goeman contestes the assumption that Native lands are limited to reservation lands. According to her theory, land is never static, nor are Natives’ relationships to it or on it. Because the land can be spiritual but also a place created by native’s story.


Rethinking Land

Cristina Bacchilega says land needs to be understood as an indigenous stories place or space that draws on cultural memory and activates history in the present moment and location. Harvey and Thompson propose thinking about indigeneity as “belonging to a place” rather than “belonging in a place”. This is because diaspora is a reality and modern Natives live far away from their ancestral homelands.

We can see the differences how Natives and non-natives capture the land. While continental thinking, with the concept of colonialism, captures itself as centers of worldliness and separates land from the rest of the creation as a marker of territorial expansion, native people perceive the land based on the cultural values of interdependence.


Land as Commodity

Patricia Monture-Angus claims that Indigenous nationhood has to be claimed not based on control of territory or land but is based on the relationship with and responsibility for land. She claimed it is the human race that is dependent on the earth and not vice versa. Moreover, the purpose to request Aboriginal sovereignty is the responsibility to the land.

This idea is very important, because once the relationship between indigenous peoples and land is reshaped based on its ownership, the land becomes a commodity that can be owned and controlled by one group of people. This enables the state to have an excuse for exploitation of land based on the guilty of the land encroachment. 


The most important distinguishing feature of indigenous peoples is their shared respect for the land—Mother Earth.” 

Julian Burger 


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