Reclaiming the Commons: Black, White, and Indigenous Peoples Reconstructing Community

Spring 2023
Freshman - Senior
Class Size: 50
16 Credits per quarter
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This program examines the Commons (land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community) to gain insights into relationships among human beings and with the natural world.

thHistorically, most of the land between villages was common space for gathering, hunting, and fishing, based on a cooperative and “organic” view of nature as living. Starting in the 16 century, European gentry elites began to enclose and privatize the Commons for profit, and repress peasant rebels and women healers, to impose a “mechanical” view of nature as a capitalist commodity. They later exported the “enclosure of the Commons” to the Americas, to serve settler colonialism, plantation labor exploitation, and natural resource extraction.

The legacies of these dispossessions continue today, as do Native and Black resistance to them. Native nations have used their tribal sovereignty and treaty rights to defend and restore the natural gifts in their ancestral territories, and Indigenous movements seek territorial powers and “land back” to revitalize local economies and food traditions. Black movements seek to defend and create public space, reallocate funds away from policing and toward reparations, and encourage a more cooperative local economy based on solidarity.

Settler and recent immigrant communities likewise have joined a myriad of movements to reclaim public space from corporate capitalist structures, build resilient economies, and redefine land, water, energy, and food as the Commons. These include initiatives for community rights, the rights of nature, community gardening and food forests, land trusts, watershed restoration, mutual aid projects of gifting and bartering, houseless communities, community-based learning, decentralized renewable energies, community art projects, park and refuge development, protest encampments, workers’ cooperatives, digital commons, liberated zones of self-governance, and “reclaiming the streets.”

These and other steps to envision “a world beyond market and state” will be the subject of student case study research projects, faculty lectures, guest speakers, workshops, films, book and article seminars, and field trips to community gardens and Native nations in our Salish Sea region. Students will present their research findings in a community forum, and celebrate their own learning community as a living example of reclaiming education as the Commons.


Spring 2023 Registration

Academic details

Preparatory For

Careers in: cooperative development, planning, social work, policy, community development, community organizing, nonprofit management. Graduate studies in: public policy, history, sociology, geography, food studies, cooperative management, Native studies, Black studies.

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

$240 fee for costs associated with overnight and local field trips and project supplies.

Research Opportunities

Students will self-design a research project on a topic related to our program studies. They will showcase their learning at the end of the quarter in a community forum, which students will help organize.


In Person or Remote
In Person
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

LONGHOUSE 1007A - Workshop