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JOPNA: Indigenous Peoples, Poverty, and Self-Determination in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States

Published December 2006 by Cornell, Stephen
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States share certain characteristics. All four are predominantly European-settler societies. All are English-speaking. Their legal and political systems, while different, share a primarily English heritage. They also share a particular pattern of relationships with indigenous peoples. In all four, European settlement dispossessed — often violently — indigenous peoples of their lands. But in all four, remnant indigenous peoples remain today on remnant lands, and in all four, those peoples are engaged to one degree or another in movements for indigenous self-determination. There is another commonality among these countries: In all four, central governments have tended to be more willing to address issues of indigenous poverty than issues of indigenous self-determination. But what if the two are connected? This paper argues that there is strong evidence from the United States that effective solutions to indigenous poverty depend on, among other things, indigenous self-determination. After making the case for comparative analysis among these four settings, it summarizes the U.S. evidence and considers its applicability to the situations of indigenous peoples in the other three countries. It also argues that while indigenous self-determination and self-governance are keys to positive economic change, self-determined indigenous governance in these countries is likely to be diverse, and that a single form of self-governance is unlikely to work across groups or across countries.
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