Settling Indigenous place: reconciling legal fictions in governing Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand's national parks.




Ruru, Jacinta Arianna

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New directions contained in section 2(2) of the Canada National Parks Act 2000 and section 4 of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Conservation Act 1987 pose a strong challenge to the 21st century concept of the national park. Section 2(2) states: “For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to abrogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982”. Section 35 reads: “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.” In Aotearoa New Zealand, section 4 of the Conservation Act 1987 (the umbrella statute to the National Parks Act 1980) states: “This Act shall so be interpreted and administered as to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”. These sections demand respect for Indigenous peoples and their relationships with land encased in national parks. This challenge frames the primary questions explored in this study. They are: if there is a new commitment to recognising Indigenous peoples in law, what ought this to mean in the context of owning and managing national parks? Or, to situate the question more theoretically, and examine it through the lens of law and geography: if law made colonial space permissible, what are the implications if contemporary law recalibrates its orientation to space and belatedly recognises Indigenous place? Interwoven into exploring these core questions are themes of national identity, peoples’ connections to land, the resilience of Indigenous laws, and the power of state law to re-imagine its foundations. Legislation, case law, and national park policy plans constitute the mainstay of the primary sources for this study. This thesis concludes by observing that while significant legislative and policy movement has occurred in recognising the special relationship Indigenous peoples have with lands within national parks, the process of reimagining healthier relationships has only just begun. Law needs to shift significantly more towards recognising Indigenous place and, in turn, Indigenous knowledge systems to achieve full and final reconciliation.



Law, Indigenous Peoples