Private Property Vs Native Territory

My friend and I were discussing the difference between privately owned land and native territory. He said, “it confuses me when Native American tribes talk about our culture “occupying” their tribal lands, because they also talk about the lack of property and land ownership espoused by their tribes. I get that their culture is inherently better for the land etc than ours is, and that there are many senses in which we very much are occupying the land we inhabit. I’m just confused about how the distinctions in terms of holding land, personal property, societal goods, etc work. Does that make sense?”

To which I said that it is important to note that native tribes have been forced to adopt the language and laws of civilization in effort to protect what little they’ve been left with. Also, I said, it clears things up in my eye if I actually view the land as being literally our mother. We all have mothers that we call “ours”, but that doesn’t mean they’re ours to own and exploit. Civilization is inherently colonial, thus it operates on a frame of mind that views natural life as something to dominate and capitalize on, not something to enter into a relationship with.

I was wondering if anyone had any other thoughts or ideas about tribal territory vs. private land, and/or civilized vs. noncivilized relationships to our land-base in general?

I think you’ve got it about right. The native tribes view the land as a family member, so their attitude is less “Give that back! I had it first!” and more “Let my people go”. Of course, civilized people believe that the whole “earth is our mother” thing is a bunch of new age mumbo jumbo, so they only hear “Give that back! we want to build a casino on it!”

I love this. What a way to see not only land but all “possessions.” If we are to live in a harmonious way with nature (which seems the best way to survive longterm in the wild), we truly have to enter into a relationship with every “thing,” in that we must know how to find it, build it or otherwise obtain it, how to maintain it, how to reuse it if it breaks or wears out or how to compost it. How different that is from our disposable society in which we buy some piece of crap from the big box and then throw it out after one use!

And it seems to be territorial with something that you have a relationship with would seem to be different than something you “possess.” Relationships are fluid and you could conceive of bartering, sharing, or gifting under certain circumstances. Whereas possession seems concrete, it’s MINE, I’ve branded my name on it, part of my value as an individual is my possession of certain things.

Also, if I have a relationship to Mother Earth, and someone else comes along, well, they might have a relationship as well, and so I would take that into account. Whereas if it’s MY piece of land, then there’s no room for anyone else, and another person would just be an intruder/invader.

All humans have a territorial imperative – this imperative is one of the things rewilding ourselves can help us recover consciously. The key difference between territory and property is fluidity. Territory is fluid, and has fuzzy boundaries. And as we move, it moves with us. Private property on the other hand is static and boundaried by sharp lines of distinction from the surrounding land. We can leave our private property, but it won’t come with us.