Processes of Native Nationhood: The Indigenous Politics of Self-Government

International Indigenous Policy Journal

Over the last three decades, Indigenous peoples in the CANZUS countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States) have been reclaiming self-government as an Indigenous right and practice. In the process, they have been asserting various forms of Indigenous nationhood. This article argues that this development involves a common set of activities on the part of Indigenous peoples: (1) identifying as a nation or a people (determining who the appropriate collective self is in self-determination and self-government); (2) organizing as a political body (not just as a corporate holder of assets); and (3) acting on behalf of Indigenous goals (asserting and exercising practical decision-making power and responsibility, even in cases where central governments deny recognition). The article compares these activities in the four countries and argues that, while contexts and circumstances differ, the Indigenous politics of self-government show striking commonalities across the four. Among those commonalities: it is a positional as opposed to a distributional politics; while not ignoring individual welfare, it measures success in terms of collective power; and it focuses less on what central governments are willing to do in the way of recognition and rights than on what Indigenous nations or communities can do for themselves.

Resource Type

Cornell, Stephen. "Processes of Native Nationhood: The Indigenous Politics of Self-Government." The International Indigenous Policy Journal. Volume 6, Issue 4. September 2015. Paper. (, accessed June 3, 2024)

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