Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Indigeneity's Challenges to the White Settler-State: Creating a Thirdspace for Dynamic Citizenship

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Indigeneity's Challenges to the White Settler-State: Creating a Thirdspace for Dynamic Citizenship

Article excerpt

  Newcomer governments claim to be forging historic new relationships
  with indigenous nations, relationships based on mutual respect,
  sharing, sovereignty, and our inherent rights. Economic development,
  modern treaties, self-government, compacts, revenue-sharing, and
  co-management have become the watchwords of the "post-colonial" age.
  But beyond the words, is the promise holding?
  --Taiaiake Alfred

The struggle for indigenous self-determination within the context of settler-states continues to strain the liberal democratic ideals and supremacy of European cultural values upon which states such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States were founded and to which other states within Latin America have more recently aspired. (1) Multiculturalism has developed to offer the status of ethnic minority to all nonmajority cultural groups within these states, constrained by the limits of an individual-rights rhetoric. The quest by indigenous peoples to find workable alternatives to ethnic minority status within their own homelands has led some to seek group rights within their own settler-states. (2) However, many liberals consider the collective rights proposed by indigenous-rights activists as antithetical to the supremacy of individual rights within liberal democracy. (3) This search for an avenue through which indigenous rights might be expressed must push us beyond multiculturalism toward other options.

The first aim of this article is to briefly investigate multiculturalism with specific regard to contemporary criticisms of its effectiveness in relation to indigenous peoples' rights. While multiculturalism's efforts to recognize the rights of minorities within polyethnic states offers the appearance of supporting the group rights sought by indigenous activists, its inevitable failure in the face of liberal-democratic opposition to addressing the needs of national minorities has become apparent. With the failure of multiculturalism to provide a foundation for indigenous rights, some, particularly in New Zealand, have described a biculturalism that would recognize the unique relationship between indigenous nations and various settler groups.

The second aim of this article is to explore biculturalism in Aotearoa/New Zealand as an (albeit incomplete) alternative to the failures of multiculturalism in addressing the sovereignty claims of indigenous peoples as national minorities. Whereas liberal multiculturalism restricts minority rights to the protection of cultural differences, biculturalism (and its stauncher successor binationalism) recognizes indigenous peoples as partners with colonizers in the exercise of sovereignty within settler-states and thus recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples to the exercise of self-determination in the areas of cultural preservation, resource management, and the protection of land. It is primarily this final aspect of biculturalism that is having an observable effect on the landscape of New Zealand and that offers the greatest opportunity to enhance the struggles of other indigenous peoples around the world.

As Augie Fleras and Paul Spoonley observe in Recalling Aotearoa, "Only the exercise of tino rangatiratanga [indigenous self-determination] provides tangible evidence of its existence." (4) This exercise of indigenous self-determination does not occur in metaphoric "sites of resistance" but in, as Donald Moore states, "a politics of place 'on the ground.'" (5) By reading the landscape for evidence of the exercise of indigenous self-determination, it is possible to glimpse places outside of the hegemonic control of the settler-state. These landscapes lie somewhere between the settler and colonized, creating thirdspaces, holes in the fabric of the state that sit outside of this binary relationship.

The third aim of this article will be to discuss how the exercise of indigenous self-determination, observed in specific places, is beginning to transform New Zealand society into the long-promised bicultural and binational partnership, altering the meaning of citizenship for both Maori and Pakeha (white New Zealanders). …

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