About this Dashboard
This data dashboard, developed by the Native Lands Advocacy Project, estimates 177 years of lost agriculture revenue from lands ceded from Native Americans from 1840 to 1897. The dashboard makes it possible to view the total lost agriculture revenue from one or more cessions (by clicking on cession polygon in map or by using filter). We have also combined some cessions into treaties/topic groups that can also be filtered.
About the Data
This dashboard utilizes boundary data originally mapped by Charles Royce as part of United States Serial Set Number 4015 Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1784-1894 and digitized by the United States Forest Service. The boundary data was filtered to include only session that occurred after 1840 and then used to query the Lost Agriculture Revenue Database (L.A.R.D.) developed by the Native Lands Advocacy Project to help quantify the impacts of land cessions and discriminatory agriculture policies of the United States Government. The name of the database is a double-entendre of the Lakota word Wasi’chu which translates as “takes the fat,” and was used by the Lakota and other tribes to refer to white settlers. The database utilizes a novel approach to disaggregate 178 years of county-level agriculture census data, making it possible to aggregate the data for geographies that overlap county boundaries, such as Reservations, treaty territories, land cessions, etc.
Why is this Data and Dashboard Important?
While Native Americans and Native American Tribes enjoy a degree of political sovereignty, their sovereignty is compromised by the fact that most tribal lands and resources are held in trust by the Federal Government. Because of this unique relationship, the US Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed and upheld the responsibility that the federal government has to protect the tribal lands and assets and ensure they are used for the benefit of Native peoples. This responsibility the federal government has to Native peoples and tribes is known as the Trust Doctrine.
But how do we know whether the federal government is really protecting tribal lands and assets to ensure they are used for the benefit of Native peoples? What metrics can we use to monitor and test this? Since the majority of Native lands are located within agricultural regions of the country, it only makes sense that agriculture revenue derived from Native lands would be an important way to measure the degree to which Native peoples are the primary beneficiaries of their lands and assets. But how do we measure this? Especially, when the federal government has largely failed to report agriculture data for Native lands for nearly 100 years.
To its credit, the federal government did conduct a limited census of Agriculture on a handful of Native American Reservations starting in 2007, and then again in 2012 and 2017 with even more Reservations. However, these census’ only report data for Native producers, even when the majority of agricultural income was being captured by non-natives. To make up for this blind-spot in the data, we performed our own calculation of the data and added a category for non-native producers (see our dashboard with the 2012 and 2017 data here). The results were startling and confirmed what was well known by most Native people; that non-native farmers and ranchers were collecting the vast majority of agriculture revenue on Native lands, in fact, between 2012 and 2017 they collected an average of 86% of the revenue.
But what does this amount to nationwide over time? We believe answering these questions are critical for not only understanding the multi-generational impacts of discriminatory and exclusionary policies, but it also can serve as a baseline to what will be required to make Native peoples and their communities whole again. Additionally, we hope database will enable us to finally attach a dollar value to the wealth that was generated through agriculture from lands unjustly taken from Native peoples and how this fueled the growth and expansion of the U.S. economy.
Since many of the cession boundaries overlap, total lost agriculture revenue should be calculated on a cession by cession basis, or special care should be taken when filtering to avoid overlap. Also, revenue was calculated for all areas from 1840 to 2017 regardless of when the cession occurred. However, in most cases, agriculture revenue was not calculated by the Federal Government prior to the cession date but there may be instances where they did.