Fragile Settlements compares the processes by which colonial authority was asserted over Indigenous people in south-west Australia and prairie Canada from the 1830s to the early twentieth century. At the start of this period, there was an explosion of settler migration across the British Empire. In a humanitarian response to the unprecedented demand for land, Britain’s Colonial Office moved to protect Indigenous peoples by making them subjects under British law. This book examines the tensions and contradictions that emerged as colonial actors and institutions – including government officials, police, courts, churches, and philanthropic organizations – interpreted and applied the principle of law in their interactions with Aboriginal peoples on the ground. As a comparative work, Fragile Settlements highlights important parallels and divergences in the histories of law and Indigenous-settler relations across the Anglo-colonial world. It questions the finality of settler colonization and contributes to ongoing debates around jurisdiction, sovereignty, and the prospect of genuine Indigenous-settler reconciliation in Canada and Australia.
This book will be of interest to scholars and students of trans-colonial history, Indigenous Studies, and the socio-legal history of the British Empire.
Fragile Settlements is a testament to the benefits of collaboration and an answer to the daunting logistics of comparing multiple historic sites ... [It] is a valuable contribution to the historiographies of Canada and Australia.
Fragile Settlements makes an important contribution to the growing field of transcolonial studies by bringing into conversation the legal histories of the dispossession of Indigenous peoples in south-west Australia and western Canada. The authors provide critical insight into the ways in which the various forms of legal colonial governance played out in two locales. This work is an important one for anyone considering how the legal histories of the past can better inform our understanding of clashes over sovereignty and jurisdiction in the present.
The authors of Fragile Settlements tackle what few legal scholars have attempted – regional comparisons – and they do it very well. They ambitiously and successfully set out to uncover how contemporary experiences of ‘imperfect sovereignty’ in both Australia and Canada can be traced to their parallel histories of Aboriginal subjugation through law and other forms of settler governance
Introduction: Settler Colonialism and Its Legacies
1 British Law and Colonial Legal Regimes
2 The Foundations of Colonial Policing
3 Policing Aboriginal People on the Settler Frontier
4 Co-optive Policing: Native Police, Trackers, and Scouts
5 Agents of Protection and Civilization
6 Aboriginal Peoples and Settlers in the Courts
7 Agents of the Church
8 Agency and Resistance: Aboriginal Responses to Colonial Authority
9 Colonizing and Decolonizing the Past
Conclusion: Spaces of Indigenous and Settler Law
Notes; Bibliography; Index of Statutes, Treaties, Charters, and Proclamations; Table of Reported Cases; Index
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