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Dialogue About Land Justice: Papers from the National Native Title Conference


Lisa Strelein

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This paper, presented at the 2003 Native Title Conference in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia in Lhere Artepe Country, considers self-determination from an internal indigenous perspective. This perspective looks to Indigenous legal tradition to set forth an idea of self-determination that has its foundation in Indigenous notions of origin and existence. The paper explores autochthonic legal tradition, or Indigenous legal tradition, and situates the principle of self-determination within the Indigenous legal tradition. While self-determination for Indigenous Peoples is recognized by the United Nations and the United States, Indigenous Peoples origin stories, a part of their Indigenous legal tradition, provides the sacred texts for their human rights, including self-determination. The significance and interpretation of the Indigenous legal tradition continues in modern times. The chthontic legal tradition, often invisible to nation-states is the source of the principle of self-determination to Indigenous Peoples. In Australia, this legal tradition was linked to the recognition of land rights of Australian Aboriginal Peoples in the Mabo case. Difficulties can arise, however, without a proper understanding of the chthonic legal tradition. The paper concludes with a consideration of how this played out in the United States. In the United States, countervailing forces, particularly those set in motion through a national policy of assimilation affected the Indigenous legal tradition through constitutionalism and education, which promoted the values, approaches, and ideas of the common law legal tradition to the exclusion of the Indigneous legal tradition. An important aspect of self-determination involves being in control of one's own destiny, and this includes economic, socio-political, and cultural self-sufficiency. As Indigenous Peoples struggle for political and cultural survival, many obstacles remain. For Indigenous Peoples in the United States, existing within the larger nation-state presents unique challenges to the realization of self-determination. The paper ends with a discussion of how the many forms of racial, intolerance have played a historical role both collectively and individually, and continues to do so.' A compilation of selected lectures delivered at the Native Title Conference marking the 10th Anniversary of the Native Title Conference by the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Studies (AIATSIS).



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Acton, Australia


Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)



Self-Determination and Indigenous Nations in the United States: International Human Right, Federal Policy and Indigenous Nationhood

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