The Nisga'a Final Agreement and the Challenges of Modern Treaty Relationships
In 2000, the Nisga’a treaty marked the culmination of over one hundred years of Nisga’a people protesting, petitioning, litigating, and negotiating for recognition of their rights and land title Beyond Rights explores this ground-breaking achievement and its impact.
Treaty making has long been an important element in relationships between the Crown and Indigenous peoples in what is now Canada, but modern treaties are more complex and multifaceted. Embodying the force of law, they are social and political compacts intended to create lasting reciprocal relationships between treaty partners. The Nisga’a were trailblazers in gaining Supreme Court recognition of unextinguished Aboriginal title, and the treaty marked a turning point in the relationship between First Nations and provincial and federal governments. By embedding three key elements – self-government, title, and control of citizenship – the Nisga’a treaty tackled fundamental issues concerning state sovereignty, the underlying title of the Crown, and the distribution of rights.
Using this pivotal case study, Beyond Rights analyzes both the potential and the limits of treaty making as a way to address historical injustice and achieve contemporary legal recognition. It also assesses the possibilities for a distinct Indigenous citizenship in a settler state with a long history of exclusion and assimilation.
This informed and critical analysis is for scholars and students of Indigenous studies, anthropology, political science, law, and socio-legal studies, as well as for practitioners and Indigenous communities engaged in intergovernmental relations.
Carole Blackburn is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and the author of Harvest of Souls: Jesuit Missions and Colonialism in North America, 1632–1650. She has been researching the Nisga’a Final Agreement since 1999, conducting interviews and engaging in participant observation with treaty negotiators, politicians, bureaucrats, Nisga’a citizens, government workers, and lawyers for the province, the federal government, and the Nisga’a.
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