Washington International Law Journal


As the end of the United Nations General Assembly's International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004) approaches, indigenous peoples worldwide are proactively seeking an unprecedented reclamation of aboriginal rights lost since European colonization. One of the most all-encompassing rights that is asserted by indigenous peoples is the right of "indigenous title," a legal term of art that is both difficult to define and challenging to recognize. Notwithstanding domestic opposition from their respective provincial or national legislatures, both the Haida of Canada and the Maori of New Zealand are currently pursuing recognition of this indigenous right through their respective judiciaries. Recent case law in both Canada and New Zealand recognize the existence of indigenous title. Further, international law supports both the Haida and the Maori claims. However, manifest differences between the two nations as to what actions constitute extinguishment of indigenous title will probably result in the success of the Haida claim and the failure of the Maori claim. Canada's constitutionally-based narrow approach contrasts sharply with New Zealand's flexible statute-based methods of extinguishing indigenous title, which include mere legislative action.

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