What is Rematriation?

Part of the 57 acres of “Owner Unknown” property in Grafton, MA that the tribe has been unable to gain stewardship of.

In what is now called New England, some centuries ago, European invaders disrupted our relationship with our homelands. They removed us from our lands, prevented access to crucial medicines, and eliminated and polluted our water sources. No longer living in relationship with the land, we lost its teachings. The invaders also reorganized our social systems into replicas of their patriarchal system. Our people lost knowledge, practices, and traditions during the past four hundred-plus years. We believe that by re-establishing our relationship to the land, the land and the people will heal. Our relationships with each other will also strengthen as we re-learn stories and practices we thought were lost to us.

Rematriation can be defined as a return to what was, be it traditions, values, or land. It is an Indigenous women-led process to restore sacred connections between our people and our kin, the land. All land is Indigenous and each place carries knowledge, wisdom and memories. Land is not only a source of sustenance and livelihood, is also the basis of our identity, culture, knowledge systems, and social organizations. Rematriation processes center women and two-spirit humans in our cultures to nourish and protect the values and principles of each individual Indigenous community.

For the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust in Oakland, CA, “rematriation is Indigenous women-led work to restore sacred relationships between Indigenous people and our ancestral land, honoring our matrilineal societies, and in opposition of patriarchal violence and dynamics.” In the Nipmuc homelands, we seek to rematriate lands to restore our relationship to the land – creating balance for our people and our more-than-human kin. Rematriation instills a respect for traditional knowledge and values in matrilineal cultures like Nipmuc.

Rematriation can occur on lands that are already within Indigenous control. On the Hassanamesit Reservation, Nipmuc women grow food distributed for free within (and outside of) our community, increasing our peoples’ physical well-being. We are re-learning and teaching plant medicines our community. Apothecaries in three locations within our homelands share plant medicines in various forms without cost. We honor our ancestors by repatriating them to the reservation for their final rest. We are increasing ceremony practiced on the land, nourishing our spiritual needs.

Returning to a life centered on matrilineal values of consensus of voice, accountability to community, and interdependence with our more-than-human kin is not easy. Community members will often not understand nor support a non-capitalist, non-patriarchal presence. With climate change upon us, we must regain that intimate knowledge of the land to adapt and survive the coming change. Our culture, our people will not face extinction but instead will rise above the chaos of the world and, in the end, have more stories to pass on to the next generations.

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