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  • Political Authority, Recognition, and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:An Introduction
  • Breanna M. Forni (bio)

The following symposium brings together the works of three scholars concerning a topic we at The Good Society find important both theoretically and practically. The concepts of ownership, authority , and self-determination hold obvious significance and importance to indigenous peoples throughout the world; but how we choose to conceptualize these terms holds important real world implications in democratic societies for indigenous and non-indigenous citizens alike. Serious inquiry into the rights of indigenous peoples offers a valuable lens through which we can view and interrogate some classic questions in political theory. Moreover, at the beginning of a new century characterized by growing global political economic structures and institutions, new and changing sources of power and authority, and a host of other concerns that center around identity, recognition, and political control, a discussion of the direction indigenous rights and the rights of the state should be headed has the potential to open new ways to conceptualize and shape important relationships between individuals, groups, and the state.

The question of indigenous sovereignty and self-determination has been extensively studied and theorized throughout academic disciplines and interdisciplinary circles. Works by authors such as Vine Deloria Jr., Winona LaDuke, Ward Churchill, M. Annette Jaimes, Rudolph Rÿser, to name a few, have challenged the dominant narrative of the American founding and westward expansion and critically assessed centuries of US federal policy governing Indian Country. This area of political inquiry is both exciting and valuable in that indigenous rights scholarship—like other emancipatory projects—has had a distinctly political character to it, with many of its scholars also occupying the roles of representative, community leader, policy maker, political candidate, orator, and activist. The present symposium takes on a different tone, however, and offers new justifications for indigenous peoples' right to separation.

The impetus for this symposium is the recent publication of Burke A. Hendrix's book Ownership, Authority and Self-determination.1 In this book, Hendrix takes on the debate of whether or not indigenous peoples have the right to separate from the states presently ruling them. While this debate has traditionally centered around historical and legal questions concerning prior ownership, treaties, and court decisions, Hendrix's work serves here as a springboard for a different, broader discussion. It constructs a new and distinctly theoretical case for why indigenous peoples in stable democratic societies have a right to separation and it offers procedures for how such separations could effectively occur. This is important not because Hendrix is the first or only scholar to do this, nor because more historical-legal approaches are unimportant. What Hendrix's book offers is a new look into a question that warrants far more attention than it is presently receiving, at a time when critical, theoretical discussions of political authority, self-determination, and ownership and control are truly needed. Considering the classic questions of political theory concerning who should rule, the nature of power, the sources of authority, and the nature of justice, the scholarship presented in the following symposium can offer political theorists novel ways in which to discuss and think about cultural rights, diversity, and the powers of the state in the twenty-first Century.

Three scholars, each reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the topic, have contributed to this symposium: Burke A. Hendrix, Jorge Valadez, and Andrew Volmert. Hendrix and Volmert come from a political theory perspective while Valadez from philosophy. Explaining the Committee on the Political Economy of the Good Society's interest in the question of the relationship between indigenous rights and the concepts of state ownership and authority, I asked the authors to take Hendrix's work as a springboard for discussion and an opportunity to offer their arguments and perspectives concerning these concepts. Together the three pieces shed fresh light on a significant question. While all three authors reach the conclusion that indigenous peoples should have the right to pursue separation if they so choose, the grounds and justifications for this conclusion differ for each.

In the first piece, Hendrix offers an abridged version of the argument presented in his book. Hendrix sidesteps the traditional paths of justification for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-9731
Print ISSN
1089-0017
Pages
pp. 44-46
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-13
Open Access
No
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