The Mazama returns: the politics and possibilities of tribal land reacquisition

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After years of policies that undermined tribal sovereignty and land ownership, tribal access to traditional lands has expanded in the U.S., with growing opportunities for tribal land reacquisition. This is occurring within the context of changing rural land use, policies, and tenures, as timber and ranch land owners have divested ownership, resulting in greater land availability. This case study explores, through a political ecology lens, trends connecting rising tribal capacity and power with access to traditional lands, and the connections between politics, economics, race, power, and ecological change. This case provides lessons for indigenous land re-acquisition elsewhere, as indigenous groups globally gain access to political decision-making processes and seek to reacquire or rehabilitate their traditional homelands. We explore these trends through the case of the Klamath Tribes in south central Oregon, where the recent breakup of formerly industrial timberland has afforded the Tribes the opportunity to purchase the Mazama Tree Farm, a 36,000 ha part of the former Klamath Reservation. Though the Mazama has not (at the time of publication) been purchased by the Klamath Tribes, they have poised themselves to do so through a series of mechanisms that are driven by increasing tribal capacity, including the capacity to manage forests and to conduct successful negotiations over land and water use.

Keywords: Tribal capacity, forest restoration, American West, rural restructuring, industrial forest use

How to Cite: Kelly, E. C. , Bliss, J. C. & Gosnell, H. (2013) “The Mazama returns: the politics and possibilities of tribal land reacquisition”, Journal of Political Ecology. 20(1). doi: