In 2016, I joined water protectors on Standing Rock Lakota Sioux land to stop the “black snake” of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many memorable moments stand out to me during my time on that land, but as I try to share this recent project, one teenaged girl’s words stick in my head. She shared that in her language, there was no word for “perfect.” Upon hearing that I remember my whole body relaxing. The somatic resonance with her way of understanding the world, where we human creatures are exempt from or incapable of perfection, was profound.
In the spirit of our inevitable and relieving imperfection, I offer up a project that began in my head four or five years ago, and stayed there for fear of criticism, or not knowing the “perfect” way to go about it. Its working name is Land Back Land Forward and it’s a mapping-in-community project, inviting folks with access to land to take the opportunity to connect and give back to their Indigenous neighbors, whose ancestral homelands might then be accessible for Ceremony-including harvesting, ecological restoration/care & more, through mutual agreement. This project is a response to repeated concerns I’ve heard over the years by Indigenous women weavers and medicine makers about the lack of access they have to pesticide-free culturally specific plants and ecosystems.
I invite you to think about your relationship and access to land, who the original tenders of that land are and how those of us who are descendants of settlers or more recent immigrants, might shift from a “property” and “ownership” based land mentality towards one of stewardship, cooperation, and humility. Do you have acreage that you could share?
I welcome ways to make this project more accessible, more functional, or frankly better, so please feel free to reach out via email. If you have land, but have questions about this process I will do my best to answer those questions and work with you to figure out logistics. If you know of stories of land returns or land reacquisitions please send me links, there is a section on the website for inspiring stories.
BY SARAH FARAHAT