Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Native Lands - Reservations, Home Lands, and Republics (Part 2)

Part 2 of 2. Part 1 looked at nominal independence and autonomous republics

Sovereign Nation on Reserved Land

American Indian Reservations: The first British colonists in the New World made peace treaties with local Indians. The treaties gave colonists land while the Indians usually received trade goods in return. Two key themes in these treaties were 1) the Indian tribes were sovereign and treated like an independent power and 2) the land was recognized as their’s.

In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom created the Indian Reserve from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River. While this made the land British it was reserved for Indian tribes as long as they stayed loyal. Settlement by American and already-established French colonists was forbidden in the giant reservation though not truly enforced.

The first treaty between an Indian tribe and the United States of America involved the Delaware Indians. The plan was for the Delaware to support American in its war for independence and the Delaware would be given their own land for the establishment of a future member state in the Union. The treaty lasted less than two years. The primary effort after the American Revolution was to westernize the Indians. Successes like those of the Six Civilized Nations and the Potawatomi were overlooked and the process of moving Indians further west became the norm. When Americans firmly settled on both coasts and began the process of moving toward the central region, the brutal Indian Wars began. The United States fought and forced tribes to move onto reservations out of the path of industrial/agricultural settlers.

Today, there are over three hundred Indian reservations in the United States. The land is held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs but managed by individual tribal nations. The reservations are outside state law though federal authorities to operate on reservations. Primary law enforcement and governance is done by the tribal government which combines American democracy with local tribal customs. There are radical activist and former terrorist groups which oppose Indian reservation governments, these are out of the mainstream and have limited following.

Rights to Land

Australia’s Land Councils and Native Title: The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 established Aborigine councils to govern swaths of land in Australia’s Northern Territory which the Aborigines could claim traditional ownership of. This was the first case of Australia allowing separate, native governance.

In 1993 the Native Title Act was passed. Native Title can be a hard concept for many Australians and non-Australians to comprehend. Native Title was established in 1993 to give Australian Aborigines rights to formerly controlled lands. Unlike other cases where an ethnic-government is granted lands, native title can range from sole ownership of land to merely the right to access the land. Therefore property owned by others could be claimed via Native Title and rights to the land would be shared between owner and claimer. These overlap and the vagueness of traditional claim has led much of Australia to be claimed via Native Title (4MB PDF map of claims). Judgment of Native Title claims is handled by the Federal Court of Australia though a National Native Title Tribunal exists to handle negotiations outside of court.

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