Vancouver Sun – Recognizing land as a legal person could help solve native land claims.

By David Boyd.

Could extraordinary developments occurring in New Zealand offer a way to break the impasse over treaty negotiations in Canada? Over the past decade, negotiations between the indigenous Maori and the New Zealand government over unresolved land ownership disputes have produced previously unimaginable outcomes — new laws recognizing that nature has legal rights. The Maori possess a distinctive worldview in which people are deeply intertwined with nature, rather than separate from it.

According to Maori cosmology, humans are not only related to their ancestors, but also the animals, plants, mountains, rivers, and forests where they live. Many Aboriginal people in Canada share a similar outlook, concisely summarized in the phrase “all my relations,” which goes beyond aunts and cousins to include ravens, killer whales, water, rocks, and more.This radical understanding of our place in the cosmos is reflected in two recent New Zealand laws.

Te Urewera National Park was created in the 1950s on land that had been illegally taken from the Maori over the course of the previous century. The Maori had consistently pressed for recognition of their relationship to this region, expressed as rangatiratanga (authority), whanaungatanga (kinship), and kaitiakitanga (stewardship).

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