The Land of Whose Father? the Politics of Indigenous Peoples' Claims

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How do the weak win political victories? The dissertation answers the question of how, why and when very weak groups are able to win concessions from the strong. Specifically, the research offers an understanding of how indigenous peoples have been able to gain recognition and extension of their land rights. Through comparative case study analysis, the first section explores why the governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States have begun to recognize and return rights to land for the same indigenous populations whose rights have been denied or ignored for centuries. The second section further tests the proposed explanations in relation to specific claims outcomes and land transfers in 17 American Indian land claims cases in the United States.

The research concludes normative changes following World War II led to new attention to the rights of minority groups. Indigenous peoples were redefined as deserving of limited rights and protections from the state. At the same time, the growth of cohesion among indigenous peoples on a national and international scale and the success of other minority groups encouraged them to bring their claims against the state. Economic, demographic, and political trends established that indigenous peoples were no longer a threat to the security of the dominance of the strong. This made it possible for elites to recalculate the costs and benefits of concessions to indigenous peoples, which were now seen as more affordable. Similar forces are at play in the outcomes of individual claims to for the return of land in the United States. The calculations of elites include the normative pressures to act (in this case, often legal pressure), the tangible and economic costs for transfers, whether or not the dominant population sees the recipient group as deserving, and whether or not the claim itself challenges the legitimacy or moral authority of the state.





Flaherty, Anne Frances Boxberger (2009). The Land of Whose Father? the Politics of Indigenous Peoples' Claims. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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