You Are On Stolen Land
Yes You, Right Now, Profiting Off Genocide
Something that gets missed a lot in the conversation about Indigenous peoples around the world and the land that was taken from them is that even the most well meaning people are still on stolen land. Australia, Canada, The USA, the Congo, even most of Mexico was all stolen. Now to a lot of people this doesn't matter, but to some people it does or at least it should.
Around the world indigenous people had their land stolen in much the same way. First forced to work the land and then later exploited and killed, land and culture were removed in a systematic manner. Families were forced to sign documents they couldn't even understand before their members were dragged away and they were evicted from the only homes that they knew. In countries like Australia and parts of Africa indigenous people were driven like livestock off of cliffs to their death.
The common element in every land theft throughout history has been trauma. Studies now show that generational trauma is possible, meaning that parents and grandparents pass on the same issues and traumas that they have had enacted upon themselves. This shared and inherited trauma actively hampers growth within indigenous communities around the world and has caused more pain and sadness than any other issues currently in our communities.
Every day people argue about how they are great allies to indigenous people, how they are happy to acknowledge the genocide that happened, but they never admit that the land they live on and that their dream homes sits on was stolen from someone else. It's too personal, too intense for many to even consider. It hits too close to home, and it requires too much thought and personal change to confront.
This matters because as a community social justice groups are big on owning the ways that you profit from genocide and other similar issues. Tribes throughout the world have responded to land acknowledgements happily and many are pushing for nothing else from their governments. The fact that it is so important to so many groups should speak for itself.
Acknowledgement is important because as a society it's impossible to move forward with an elephant in a room. The idea of evicting all non-indigenous people and taking back countries isn't even on people's radar, but allowing indigenous people to have a say in how the lands of their ancestors is run would be an amazing step towards reconciliation.
Acknowledgement also shows that allies are aware that they aren't actually exempted from the ravages of colonialism and that no matter how hard it is to face it, a deeply divided country will never heal.
Expecting indigenous people to pretend that their land wasn't stolen and that it's not painful to see people claiming to be the rightful owners every day isn't realistic and won't work long term. Just like countries are unable to cover up atrocities and genocides, the gradual genocide of indigenous people is visible around the world and it's getting harder and harder to hide the roots of the current problem.
So while you are on stolen land, no-one expect you to get off, it would be nice if you could acknowledge that the land is stolen. No-one is saying you stole it, but just like being handed off stolen goods, being in possession does reflect upon yourself and without any acknowledgement of the previous theft you are helping perpetuate the idea that indigenous land was just there to take and that any kind of colonial ownership is legal and ethical. It costs you nothing to acknowledge reality, but it can help heal generational wounds you didn't even know exist.