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Liberating Wealth as a Prayer for the Earth: Part 3

In 2021, NCG issued a call to the sector to confront existential challenges - convergent and increasing large-scale climate disasters, gaping racialized economic inequities, and drastically inadequate infrastructure and housing - by responding with coordinated, long-term, bold approaches. NCG suggested five overarching shifts that would address root causes and generate security, healing, and new possibilities for those living on the margins. These included: involving those most impacted by harm in decision making; collaborating to implement multiple strategies and multi-layered approaches that address deep roots of inequities; employing trust-based practices; and leveraging grant capital by aligning more assets in service of deep and lasting change.

There can be no conversation about long-term change to address root causes of inequities without surfacing our national history of land ownership. Wealth held in land is among the most valuable assets in today’s economy. Land ownership has concentrated in the hands of overwhelmingly white individuals and institutions across time. Astonishingly, white people own 98% of private land in the U.S.

As grantmakers, we have yet to fully reckon with how intertwined philanthropic wealth is with land theft, genocide, accumulation, and extraction that harmed and harms Indigenous, Black, and other people of the Global Majority. Land justice – the practice of centering ecological and racial healing in decisions about how land is used, loved, and governed – is a central principle of wealth liberation in practice. By supporting land return, not only can wealth holders support the material conditions that ensure that Black, Indigenous, and other people of the Global Majority can build resilience and exercise sovereignty in the face of climate change, we can also begin to heal a harmful cultural narrative about how we relate to land. We can continue to shift from treating land as an object to be owned to tending land as a network of sacred relationships to be stewarded. Through supporting land return - liberating it from historical patterns of ownership - we can begin to walk a long-term, multigenerational path to restoring ecological balance and right relationship among humans, more-than-human creatures, and the Earth.

Session Objectives:

In this conversation-towards-action, we will explore:

  • The connection between foundations’ wealth and the historical context of land theft, colonization, enslavement, structural racism, extraction, and climate change
  • Critical elements of land justice and ethical land rematriation (i.e., returning land in ways that prioritize matrilineal patterns of stewardship, ways of being, and decision-making 2 practices) through case studies of just land transitions and their evolving pathways to healing the Earth, Black and Indigenous communities, and white landowners
  • Approaches and mindsets that support those connected to wealth, including foundation staff and principals, to constructively engage in movements for Land Back, reparations, and rematriation as invitations toward solidarity, collective healing, and freedom
  • How restoring an enriched understanding of place can foster a paradigm that arcs toward healing a world devastated by climate change 


Peter Forbes


Brittany Koteles


Woman Stands Shining Pat McCabe

Activist, Ceremonial Leader, International Speaker

Neil Thapar

Director of Land & Financial Redistribution
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