Native American groups are now joining the call for reparations centuries after hundreds of tribes had land taken from them by ‘land-grab universities and colleges.’
An estimated 10.7 million acres of land was taken from 250 tribes following the signing of the Morrill Act by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.
This law converted tribal lands into initial sites for land-grant higher education institutions in many states.
Institutions such as the University of Minnesota, which received 94,440 acres of land, and Cornell University in New York that received more than 987,000 acres are being targeted. Cornell, in total, received land in 15 states – all at prices far below a fair market value.
Now, as several states and cities consider reparations for black Americans, the movement is serving as the impetus for Native American tribes who also believe they also deserve payment for the stolen land.
‘You have these schools that have tens of millions of dollars at their disposal, but they are not looking at any ways they can improve living situations for Indigenous peoples today,’ said An Garagiola, a descendant of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa to the Washington Post.
‘Their existence as institutions, as schools of learning, are only there today because of everything that was taken.’
In response to the demands for reparations from so call ‘land-grab universities,’ colleges and universities across the nation are now grappling with the need to make amends.
Cornell University, for example, has begun a research project to account for the land it acquired from Native communities.
In 2021, the University of Wisconsin at Madison displayed the flag of the Ho-Chunk Nation on campus to acknowledge the land taken from the tribe.
The University of California has promised to offer free tuition to select Native American students as part its movement to reclaim tribal lands.
A group of Native American activists and supporters previously marched in Long Beach to support efforts to protect Puvungna land at California State University Long Beach.
At the University of Minnesota, the tribes advocating for reparations include the Red Lake Nation and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, however no tribe has so far managed to come up with a specific dollar amount for which they seek restitution.
The challenge lies when it comes to quantifying the extent of the harm inflicted while still asserting that universities bears a responsibility to address the uncomfortable history.
‘We welcome the opportunity to examine the university’s history. It is important that we work in collaboration with the tribal nations to chart our course from here,’ Janie Mayeron, chair of the board of regents for the University of Minnesota stated at a board meeting in May.