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Land Back: Land restitution efforts across the country

Two Indigenous men stand in the shade of trees, speaking to a group of people.
David Young and Kenny Frost address the crowd gathered around two cottonwood trees west of Aggie Greens Disc Golf Course at a press conference held by the Hughes Land Back initiative in Fort Collins Sept. 18. At the press conference, organized after the dismantling of a sweat lodge constructed in the same place, Indigenous people shared history of the area and spoke on their wish to be able to access the land where Hughes Stadium formerly stood. (Serena Bettis | The Collegian)

With Native American Heritage Month here, talks about land restitution efforts have been renewed, including those in Fort Collins’ own backyard.

According to an article from the Haverford College Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, land restitution movements advocate to bring self-determination to Indigenous communities. 


The website also states the Land Back movement “does not ask current residents to vacate their homes but maintains that Indigenous governance is possible, sustainable and preferred for public lands.” 

In light of the recent events surrounding land back movements in Colorado, especially the fight to reclaim the site of Colorado State University’s Hughes Stadium for Indigenous communities, here are some recent and ongoing land return efforts across the United States. 

Wiyot Tribe

According to an article by Cultural Survival, the Eureka, California, City Council began a land restitution effort with the Wiyot Tribe, a tribe in the Humboldt Bay. After being massacred by nearby settlers in 1860, the Wiyot people were barred from their land. In 2004, the city council returned 40 acres of Tuluwat Island to the tribe. The city then went on to return over 200 more acres to the tribe in 2019.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, located in Massachusetts, has been involved in lengthy land back movements that began coming to fruition in the early 2000s, according to the tribe’s website. The Mashpee Wampanoag received federal recognition as an Indigenous tribe in 2007 and gained authorization to acquire land and reestablish its reservation. 

The Mashpee tribe, which filed a land claim in federal court in 1976, was granted approval for a Land in Trust application and began reacquiring tribal lands in 2015, according to the tribe’s website. 

The Native Land Conservancy is a Native-run land conservation group founded in 2012 in Mashpee, Massachusetts, guided by a team of almost entirely Wampanoag members, according to the group’s website. In 2015, the Native Land Conservancy received their first land donation, a 1.4-acre parcel of land in Centerville, Massachusetts, donated by resident Norman Hayes, according to an article published by Cape Cod. 

Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma

In 2019, the John Stewart United Methodist Church gave land back to the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma, according to the church’s website. The nearly two acres of land had been entrusted to the church by the Wyandotte Nation for 176 years before it was returned. 

According to the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, the U.S. government promised 148,000 acres of Kansas land to the Wyandotte tribe, but the land had been given away by the time the Wyandotte people arrived.

Ponca Tribe of Nebraska

Nebraska farmers Art and Helen Tanderup returned ancestral land on the Ponca Trail of Tears to the Ponca Tribe in 2018, according to an article by Civil Eats.


The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska was forced to leave by the U.S. government along the Trail of Tears in 1879, according to the tribe’s website, but the tribe was recognized federally in 1990.

Reach Piper Russell at or on Twitter @PiperRussell10

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About the Contributors
Piper Russell
Piper Russell, News Editor
Piper Russell is one of The Collegian’s news editors this year and is thrilled to be working in the role. She started as a news reporter her sophomore year, covering news happening around the Colorado State University campus and the Fort Collins community. She continued to cover CSU and Fort Collins news as well as the Associated Students of CSU during her junior year. Russell is now a senior double majoring in journalism and media communication and Spanish. Although she began college undeclared, she quickly discovered her passion for journalism through the classes she took at CSU and her work at The Collegian. She’s always loved all things involving reading and writing, so working at The Collegian ended up being the perfect fit. As news editor, Russell ensures The Collegian covers important CSU and Fort Collins news accurately, truthfully and thoroughly. The Collegian has already given her many opportunities to hone her writing and reporting skills. She is very grateful and excited to have a leadership position at The Collegian, which will allow her to continue to grow as a reporter and editor. As well as writing, Russell can be found skiing, hiking, rafting and doing pretty much anything else outdoors, as she’s from the mountains. She loves traveling and hopes to do more of it in the future. She will also read any book she can get her hands on.
Serena Bettis
Serena Bettis, Editor in Chief
Serena Bettis is your 2022-23 editor in chief and is in her final year studying journalism and political science. In her three years at The Collegian, Bettis has also been a news reporter, copy editor, news editor and content managing editor, and she occasionally takes photos, too. When Bettis was 5, her family moved from Iowa to a tiny town northwest of Fort Collins called Livermore, Colorado, before eventually moving to Fort Collins proper. When she was 8 years old, her dad enrolled at Colorado State University as a nontraditional student veteran, where he found his life's passion in photojournalism. Although Bettis' own passion for journalism did not stem directly from her dad, his time at CSU and with The Collegian gave her the motivation to bite down on her fear of talking to strangers and find The Collegian newsroom on the second day of classes in 2019. She's never looked back since. Considering that aforementioned fear, Bettis is constantly surprised to be where she is today. However, thanks to the supportive learning environment at The Collegian and inspiring peers, Bettis has not stopped chasing her teenage dream of being a professional journalist. Between working with her section editors, coordinating news stories between Rocky Mountain Student Media departments and coaching new reporters, Bettis gets to live that dream every day. When she's not in the newsroom or almost falling asleep in class, you can find Bettis working in the Durrell Marketplace and Café or outside gazing at the beauty that is our campus (and running inside when bees are nearby). This year, Bettis' goals for The Collegian include continuing its trajectory as a unique alt-weekly newspaper, documenting the institutional memory of the paper to benefit students in years to come and fostering a sense of community and growth both inside the newsroom and through The Collegian's published work. Bettis would like to encourage anyone with story ideas, suggestions, questions, concerns or comments to reach out to her at

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