What does it mean to protect National Forests on stolen lands?
While our organization was originally founded by white Americans in the lineage of settler-colonial environmentalism, Bark now recognizes that the status quo approach to “conservation” work is embedded in the white supremacist legacy of colonization: land theft, cultural erasure, genocide, and the systemic use of law to suppress Native sovereignty over their homelands.
We now understand that Bark’s dedication to protecting the stolen lands referred to now as the “public lands of Mt. Hood National Forest” carries with it this paradox which continues to be ignored by most conservation groups and which continues to harm Indigenous people today. For example, in our advocacy and policy work, Bark’s interactions with federal agencies tend to recognize the “authority” of the U.S. federal government. This “authority” was constructed through the legalized displacement and genocide of Indigenous people and cultures, including through the legislative creation of “public lands”.
These crimes and injustices have not been reconciled or rectified. Today, all non-Native people have the privilege of primary access to these “public lands” as a direct result of this strategy of legalized supremacy.
Bark recognizes that conservation organizations like ours are often complicit in the ongoing displacement of Native people and culture by engaging in the paradox of protecting stolen land and enabling settlers and other non-Indigenous people to claim the benefits of access to this land without acknowledging this context. Such an acknowledgment is the necessary first step in this revolutionary, cultural work. We ask our community to practice humility, respect, and apology with us by personally dedicating your time, energy, action, and resources to support the people who rightfully belong to this land.
Our staff, board, and volunteers are expected to commit to accountable relationships between our organization and Indigenous communities.
Bark affirms that these are the rightful homelands of the Multnomah, Mollala, Kalapuya, Chinook, Wyam, Clackamas, Tenino, Wasco, Wishram, Tiah, Paiute, and the many other Native people who live here and who have always lived here, who have always belonged to and cared for this land and whose bold resistance to colonial oppression should guide us all.
As of 2022, Bark is in the process of revising our mission, vision and strategic goals to follow an environmental justice framework that centers the sovereignty of indigenous people and anti-racism in our approach to building the power of public influence.
For more information or to ask questions about our work to engage with environmental justice, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.