On Native Ground

Clockwise: a person stands in front of a lake, a view of snow mountains, a backyard reflected on glass, a woman stands in a forest.

Native communities everywhere have always led the charge to reclaim ancestral lands taken through settlement, treaties and outright theft. Sometimes called the “Landback” movement, these efforts have seen recent major gains in mainstream momentum: Under that term and the accompanying hashtag, activists have fought all across the world for the return of sacred spaces to their original stewards and for the reclamation of cultural practices that come with them. (NDN Collective’s demonstrations at the base of Mount Rushmore demanding the return of both that land and the surrounding Black Hills is one high-profile example.) 

This year’s confirmation of Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) as Secretary of the Interior anoints her as the first Indigenous person to serve in the U.S. cabinet. She has pledged to make protecting public lands and restoring Indigenous sovereignty top priorities, setting the stage for the Landback movement to shape America’s future.

In Washington, these efforts are thriving, from Indigenous farming projects within cities to fundraisers meant to buy back ancestral homelands. We spoke to Indigenous leaders throughout the state, examining the history of Native reclamation in Washington and how recent efforts to regain sovereignty will make space for generations of Indigenous people to come.