Could Land Back Transform North American Agriculture?

The effects can be felt throughout the country

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What would Indigenous-led agriculture look like in the U.S.?
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The Land Back movement has gained ground in recent years, with the goal of — as the name suggests — getting land that should be under the control of Indigenous groups back to the groups in question. Among the recent examples of this is a park in Minnesota being returned to the Upper Sioux Community. The question of who controls the land is one part of a larger conversation — but there’s also another issue at play here. Specifically, what effects will this movement have on agriculture across the continent?

Writing at Eater, Kate Nelson explored the effects of the Land Back movement on the region’s foodways. As Nelson’s article demonstrates, several areas that have returned to tribal control — including Chippewa National Forest and almost 20,000 acres in Montana — also have implications when it comes to agriculture, whether it be growing rice or farming bison.

In an interview with & the West, Andrea Carter of the nonprofit group Native Seeds/SEARCH addressed the ways in which modern agriculture has lined up with traditional Indigenous practices. “These are not new ideas of living sustainably or in harmony or farming ecologically,” Carter said. “This is a return or continuation of what Native people have always been doing.”

This isn’t the only way in which Indigenous groups have revitalized agriculture. In 2022, the New York Times chronicled the extensive seed bank being assembled by the Onondaga Nation. Angela Ferguson of the Onondaga Food Farm told the Times, “It is the epitome of food sovereignty.”

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The Sierra Club has written glowing reports of the Land Back movement’s efforts and their environmental effects. And it’s not hard to see the appeal: if something can benefit the environment and resolve a historic injustice, it’s so much the better.


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