Youth in Relation to Returned Land

How do Indigenous youth experience the return of land to the Ohlone community?

Land dispossession—the forced severing of an Indigenous group from their land, self-governance, and self-determination—is a structural root of inequality for Indigenous youth. Scholars have argued that justice for Indigenous people must address this land dispossession through land return, but such a policy response is atypical. In 2019, however, the mayor of Oakland returned several acres of Ohlone land to the Sogorea Te` Land Trust, creating a unique opportunity to study how land return may begin to redress deeply rooted inequalities. Using interviews, participatory visual methods, surveys, and focus groups, Tuck and colleagues will conduct a qualitative study to explore how Indigenous youth reconnect to the land, a process theorized to be an important step in improving youth lives. In addition to examining youths’ experiences and how they make meaning of land return, the study will explore how adults in the community perceive land return. As the “land back” movement grows, the team hopes the findings will inform other municipalities considering land return as a response to hundreds of years of dispossession. In addition to academic dissemination, the team plans to develop recommendations for community organizations, Indigenous communities, governments, and private landholders interested in the process of returning Indigenous land.

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