Indigenous Peoples as Subjects of International Law: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Indigenous Peoples as Subjects of International Law

1st Edition

Edited by Irene Watson


226 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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For more than 500 years, Indigenous laws have been disregarded. Many appeals for their recognition under international law have been made, but have thus far failed – mainly because international law was itself shaped by colonialism. How, this volume asks, might international law be reconstructed, so that it is liberated from its colonial origins?

With contributions from critical legal theory, international law, politics, philosophy and Indigenous history, this volume pursues a cross-disciplinary analysis of the international legal exclusion of Indigenous Peoples, and of its relationship to global injustice. Beyond the issue of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, however, this analysis is set within the broader context of sustainability; arguing that Indigenous laws, philosophy and knowledge are not only legally valid, but offer an essential approach to questions of ecological justice and the co-existence of all life on earth.


"This book brings together an impressive array of newer and established scholars and thinkers in a thought-provoking, insightful and challenging volume." - Aziz Choudry

Table of Contents





Irene Watson

1 Aboriginal nations, the Australian nation-state and Indigenous international legal traditions

Ambellin Kwaymullina

2 Domination in relation to Indigenous (‘dominated’) Peoples in international law

Steven Newcomb

3 The ‘natural’ Law of nations: society and the exclusion of First Nations as subjects of international law

Marcelle Burns

4 Long before Munich: the American template for Hitlerian diplomacy

Ward Churchill

5 First Nations, Indigenous Peoples: our laws have always been here

Irene Watson

5 Law and politics of Indigenous self-determination: the meaning of the right to prior consultation

Roger Merino

7 How governments manufacture consent and use it against Indigenous Peoples

Sharon Venne

8 ‘Kill the Indian in the child’: genocide in international law

Tamara Starblanket



About the Editor

Irene Watson belongs to the Tanganekald, Meintangk and Boandik First Nations Peoples. She is a Professor of Law at the University of South Australia.

About the Series

Indigenous Peoples and the Law

The colonial modalities which resulted in the pillaging of the ‘New World’ involved wholesale dispossession, genocidal violence and exploitation of their original inhabitants. It was not, however, until the latter part of the twentieth century that Indigenous peoples attained some degree of legal recognition. This book series focuses upon the manner in which Indigenous peoples’ experiences of law have been transformed from an oppressive system of denying rights to a site of contestation and the articulation of various forms of self-governance. Encouraging a range of theoretical, political and ethical perspectives on Indigenous peoples and the law, this book series aims to provide a comprehensive survey of the experience of Indigenous peoples and their changing relationship with national and international juridical frameworks.  

The series will include both monographs and edited collections pursuing variety a of perspectives – including, but not limited to, a concern with:

  • Law as a mechanism of power/knowledge: that is, the discursive and biopolitical strategies of Conquest, Settlement, and Empire – with a  particular interest in how the juridical was deployed to validate land appropriation in the ‘New World’ and European colonies. This might include consideration of the influence of the writings of Vattel, Blackstone, Sepulveda, Vittoria, las Casas and others in framing Indigenous populations and their lands as supposedly amenable to colonization.
  • The role of law in authorising oppression, dispossession and genocide in the colonial period, and how such juridical moments continue to shape relations between Indigenous peoples and the State. This might include consideration of: specific governmental policies and legislation that allowed for forced removal of Indigenous children; appropriation of Indigenous lands; the imposition of regimes of control through government reserves and missions; and/or the role of treaties in providing legal justification for the dispossession of Indigenous peoples.
  • Contemporary issues that confront Indigenous peoples in their dealings with law in the global present. This might include consideration of: disputes relating to resource extraction; access to justice and over-representation in the criminal justice system; cultural heritage and intellectual property claims; the recognition of Indigenous laws; land rights; the belated recognition of Indigenous rights in both ‘new’ constitutions and in international law; and/or sovereignty.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal for the series, please contact:

Mark Harris

The University of British Columbia


Colin Perrin


2 Park Square

Milton Park



OX14 4RN

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Environmental
LAW / International
LAW / Indigenous Peoples