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Land Back: Indigenous Landscapes of Resurgence and Freedom

Zoom Webinar
April 29  –  June 10, 2021
In this symposium, speakers highlight the many ways Indigenous peoples understand and practice land relations for political resurgence and freedom across the Americas.


Symposiarchs: Michelle Daigle and Heather Dorries, faculty in the Department of Geography & Planning and Centre for Indigenous Studies, University of Toronto

Please note, this symposium will be held virtually every two weeks on Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. ET: April 29, May 13, May 27, and June 10, 2021. The pre-recorded papers will be posted on the Dumbarton Oaks Vimeo site, as they become available.  Due to limited capacities of some closed captioning services, the transcription of indigenous language and vocabulary on some recorded papers is not consistent. We apologize for any confusion.

Program Abstracts and Speaker Bios

Relations to land are a fundamental component of Indigenous worldviews, politics, and identity. The violent disruption of land relations is a defining feature of colonialism and imperialism; colonial governments have territorialized Indigenous lands and bodies and undermined Indigenous political authority through gendered and racialized hierarchies of difference. Consequently, Indigenous resistance and visions for justice and liberation are bound up with land and land-body relationships that challenge colonial power. “Land back” has become a slogan for Indigenous land protectors. Relations to land are foundational to political transformations envisioned and mobilized through Indigenous resurgence praxes. As Leanne Betasamosake Simpson explains, land relations provide a “place-based ethical framework” that enables “process-centered modes of living that generate profoundly different conceptualizations of nationhood and governmentality—ones that aren’t based on enclosure, authoritarian power, and hierarchy” (L. Simpson 2017, 22). In this context, the term land does much heavy lifting. Mishuana Goeman observes that in Indigenous studies “[land] is often conflated to mean landscape, territory, home, or all or some of these simultaneously. . . . Unpacking and thinking about land means to understand the physical and metaphysical in relation to the concepts of place, territory, and home” (Goeman 2015, 72).

In this symposium, we aim to highlight the many ways Indigenous peoples understand and practice land relations for political resurgence and freedom across the Americas, by refusing colonial territorializations of Indigenous land and life-making practices (A. Simpson 2014a). Our intention is to place Indigenous practices of freedom within the particularities of Indigenous place-based laws, cosmologies, and diplomacies, while also taking a hemispheric approach to understanding how Indigeneity is shaped across colonial borders.

Works Cited

Goeman, Mishuana
2015. “Land as Life: Unsettling the Logics of Containment.” In Native Studies Keywords, edited by Stephanie Nohelani Teves, Andrea Smith, and Michelle H. Raheja, 71–89. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Simpson, Audra
2014a. Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life across the Borders of Settler States. Durham: Duke University Press.

Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake
2017. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Garden River Bridge, Ketegaunseebee, Ontario, Canada. Image courtesy Stan Williams Photography,