Beyond Rights
202 pages, 6 x 9
5 b&w photos
Release Date:15 Aug 2022
Release Date:15 Dec 2021
Release Date:15 Dec 2021
Release Date:15 Dec 2021

Beyond Rights

The Nisg̱a’a Final Agreement and the Challenges of Modern Treaty Relationships

UBC Press

In 2000, the Nisg̱a’a treaty marked the culmination of over one hundred years of Nisg̱a’a people protesting, petitioning, litigating, and negotiating for recognition of their rights and land title. Beyond Rights explores this groundbreaking 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 Nisg̱a’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 Nisg̱a’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.


  • 2023, Shortlisted - George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature
...Beyond Rights provides a compelling account for why, despite their flaws, the modern treaties are important to the future of reconcilitation in Canada and ought to have the attention of all Canadians. Joshua Nichols, McGill University, BC Studies
Beyond Rights rejects one-sided assessments of modern treaty agreements and provides a nuanced view of their generative potential as well as their inherent limits. It will undoubtedly become a major reference on this topic. Martin Papillon, professor of political science, Université de Montréal
Tracing the Nisg̱a’a’s journey to achieving a comprehensive modern treaty, Carole Blackburn reveals a contested landscape of treaty making and implementation in Canada, where government machineries remain profoundly unchanged by commitments to reconciliation. Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, principal investigator, Modern Treaties Implementation Research Project, and author of Finding Dahshaa
Carole Blackburn provides a sophisticated analysis of the Nisg̱a’a land claim and self-government agreement. This is an important and timely book. Paul Nadasdy, professor of anthropology and American Indian and Indigenous studies, Cornell University

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 Nisg̱a’a Final Agreement since 1999, conducting interviews and engaging in participant observation with treaty negotiators, politicians, bureaucrats, Nisg̱a’a citizens, government workers, and lawyers for the province, the federal government, and the Nisg̱a’a.


1 We Have Always Made Laws: Defending the Right to Self-Government

2 Aboriginal Title, Fee Simple, and Dead Capital: Property in Translation

3 Treaty Citizenship: Negotiating beyond Inclusion

4 The Treaty Relationship: Reconciliation and Its Discontents


Notes; References; Index

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