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Your Call

How land-grant universities are profiting off Indigenous land

Eliseu Cavalcante / Grist

On this edition of Your Call, we discuss Misplaced Trust, an 18-month long Grist investigation that reveals how stolen Indigenous land given to universities is often used for fossil fuel production or mining. Some universities are making billions off of these practices.

In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, allowing the federal government to take land from Indigenous peoples and give it to states for the creation of public colleges known as land-grant universities.

Nearly a quarter of university trust lands are designated for either fossil fuel production or the mining of minerals, such as coal and iron-rich taconite. 

According to Grist, in 2022 alone, the trust lands generated approximately $2.2 billion in revenue for their schools — and between 2018 and 2022, more than $6.7 billion. Indigenous nations were paid approximately $4.3 million in 2023 dollars for these lands. In many cases, however, nothing was paid at all.

Guests:

Tristan Ahtone, member of the Kiowa Tribe, award-winning journalist and editor-at-large at Grist

Maria Parazo Rose, reporter and spatial data analyst at Grist

Resources:

Grist: Misplaced Trust: Stolen Indigenous land is the foundation of the land-grant university system. Climate change is its legacy.

Grist: Campus divestment activists eye fossil fuel profits on stolen land

Cross Cut: Washington State University earns $15M a year on stolen land

Malihe Razazan is the senior producer of KALW's daily call-in program, Your Call.
Rose Aguilar has been the host of Your Call since 2006. She became a regular media roundtable guest in 2001. In 2019, the San Francisco Press Club named Your Call the best public affairs program. In 2017, The Nation named it the most valuable local radio show.