The US government should cede the majority of federal lands to Native Americans.
That’s the argument in a new editorial co-authored by a local lawyer. The article says it would serve both as reparations for indigenous peoples and to improve land management in much of the country.
“It’s a pretty substantial well that we can tap into to right historic wrongs (and) make things better in the future,” said co-author Todd Henderson, University of Chicago law professor. “The federal government owns about 28% of all land in the United States. That’s 2.3 billion acres of land. For those of us east of the Mississippi, it’s not a big chunk. West of the Mississippi, most of the land is owned by the federal government.
Les Begay of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Coalition of Illinois says that depending on how it’s done, he supports the idea as a way to start mending a long-standing relationship.
“The national parks alone cover 85 million acres, and all of them have been taken from native lands either by force or by breaking a treaty. The natives have always wanted to reclaim the land, ”said Begay. “I think this is a good start to honor the natives.
In addition to land, the editorial also raises the idea of abolishing the Bureau of Indian Affairs and says the tribes would be “freed” from treaties with the federal government – an idea some Native Americans oppose. It also highlights different visions of land and land ownership.
“The natives see the land as life. Non-natives see it as power and money. There is a big difference there, ”said Begay. “(The natives) are the stewards of the land and they only borrow it for their next generations. It is not something that they have, it is something that they pass on.
The idea also poses a myriad of logistical questions, but Henderson says there are other examples of government finding a way to divide assets despite a complicated set of questions.
“After September 11, a compensation fund was set up and thousands and thousands of people were injured in one way or another… and an administrative process was put in place to balance those interests. and allocate assets to those who ‘had been injured,’ said Henderson. “It wouldn’t be easy, but a lot of things worth doing are not easy.”