Native Claims: Indigenous Law against Empire, 1500-1920

Native Claims: Indigenous Law against Empire, 1500-1920

Native Claims: Indigenous Law against Empire, 1500-1920

Native Claims: Indigenous Law against Empire, 1500-1920

Synopsis

This groundbreaking collection of essays shows that, from the moment European expansion commenced through to the twentieth century, indigenous peoples from America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand drafted legal strategies to contest dispossession. The story of indigenous resistance to European colonization is well known. Butlegalresistance has been wrongly understood to be a relatively recent phenomenon. These essays demonstrate how indigenous peoples throughout the world opposed colonization not only with force, but also with ideas. They made claims to territory using legal arguments drawn from their own understanding of a law that applies between peoples - a kind of law of nations, comparable to that being developed by Europeans. The contributors to this volume argue that in the face of indigenous legal arguments, European justifications of colonization should be understood not as an original and originating legal discourse but, at least in part, as a form of counter-claim.

Native Claims: Indigenous Law against Empire, 1500-1920brings together the work of eminent social and legal historians, literary scholars, and philosophers, including Rolena Adorno, Lauren Benton, Duncan Ivison, and Kristin Mann. Their combined expertise makes this volume uniquely expansive in its coverage of a crucial issue in global and colonial history. The various essays treat sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Latin America, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century North America (including the British colonies and French Canada), and nineteenth-century Australasia and Africa. There is no other book that examines the issue of European dispossession of native peoples in such a way.

Excerpt

Saliha Belmessous

Since the 1990s, the relationship between law and colonization has generated an enormous and dynamic scholarly literature that has appealed to readers in political and legal circles even beyond academe. Accounts of indigenous rights have been dominated by two perspectives. On the one hand, we have histories of European legal arguments regarding colonized lands. We are led to believe that because these literate arguments are presented from a European perspective, they are in their very nature not amenable to indigenous cultures. On the other hand, anthropologists have, for several generations, provided accounts of indigenous claims to land based on customary law. These accounts tell us the role the claims performed within indigenous cultures. Additionally, there is a deep engagement in the present between indigenous and colonial cultures on the level of legal argument. But this, it is assumed, is something new. History and anthropology tell us little about indigenous peoples engaging in legal argument with colonizing powers prior to the World War II period and would, on the whole, lead us to believe that such engagement did not occur.

The aim of this book is to bring indigenous claims to the heart of the debate over colonial property by showing that indigenous peoples extensively employed legal arguments to oppose dispossession by European colonizers from the moment colonization was launched. The story of indigenous resistance to European colonization is, of course, well known. But legal resistance has been wrongly understood to be a relatively recent phenomenon. Whether in North or South America, Africa or Australasia, indigenous peoples made claims to territory and forced Europeans to make rival claims, from the moment European expansion commenced in the fifteenth century through to the final great expansion of the nineteenth century.

There have been valuable attempts by colonial historians to go behind the European history of dispossession and consider the history of native peoples’ legal resistance to the appropriation of their lands immediately following colonization. These studies, important though they are, were written as individual colonial experiences, and they . . .

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