Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights, 2nd Edn

Article excerpt

Tom Flanagan, Christopher Alcantara and André Le Dressay, Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights, 2nd edn (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2011), 248 pp. Cased. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-3686-9. Paper. $24.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-3921-1.

Property rights provide opportunities within capitalist economies for the generation of wealth and well-being. Such rights are represented by the authors of this book as a means of improving the economic and social conditions of Canada's Aboriginal peoples who live on reserves. The book's introduction asserts that despite the extent of poverty and poor housing on reserves, Aboriginal people 'are potentially wealthy landlords' (p. 3) and that First Nations' reserves provide potential riches through development of their 'arable land [...] commercial timber and valuable deposits of oil, natural gas and minerals' (p. 3). The first three chapters, written by Tom Flanagan, provide a brief introduction to property rights, outline personal and collective property rights of the Aboriginal peoples of America, and provide a critical analysis of legislation which sought to develop private land ownership for Aboriginal people in the United States (the Dawes Act). In justification of his argument, Flanagan refers to aspects of evolutionary biology, contemporary economics and historical studies of property ownership by Aboriginal farmers, fishers and hunters. His analysis of the failings of the Dawes Act leads him to conclude that 'reform must proceed incrementally and voluntarily if it is to achieve its objectives' (p. 54). Chris Alcantara, in the four chapters constituting part two of the book, examines property rights under the Indian Act. He draws upon a range of case studies, concluding that these rights 'severely impede [. …