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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $46.50

320 pp.
156 mm x 234 mm


Publication date:
February 2012

Imprint: OUP UK

Discovering Indigenous Lands

The Doctrine of Discovery in the English Colonies

Robert J. Miller, Jacinta Ruru, Larissa Behrendt and Tracey Lindberg

This book presents new material and shines fresh light on the under-explored historical and legal evidence about the use of the doctrine of discovery in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.

North America, New Zealand, and Australia were colonised by England under an international legal principle that is known today as the doctrine of discovery. When Europeans set out to explore and exploit new lands in the fifteenth through to the twentieth centuries, they justified their sovereign and property claims over these territories and the Indigenous peoples with the discovery doctrine. This legal principle was justified by religious and ethnocentric ideas of European and Christian superiority over the other cultures, religions, and races of the world. The doctrine provided that newly-arrived Europeans automatically acquired property rights in the lands of Indigenous peoples and gained political and commercial rights over the inhabitants. The English colonial governments and colonists in North America, New Zealand, and Australia all utilised this doctrine, and still use it today to assert legal rights to Indigenous lands and to assert control over Indigenous peoples.

Written by Indigenous legal academics - an American Indian from the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, a New Zealand Maori (Ngati Rawkawa and Ngati Ranginui), an Aboriginal Australian (Eualayai/Gammilaroi), and a Cree (Neheyiwak) in the country now known as Canada - Discovering Indigenous Lands provides a unique insight into the insidious historical and contemporary application of the doctrine of discovery.

Readership : Students and scholars of indigenous and colonial history, scholars of the history of international law and self-determination, and practitioners and legal advisers in the field of indigenous rights.

1. Robert J Miller: The Doctrine of Discovery
2. Robert J Miller: The Legal Adoption of Discovery in the United States
3. Robert J Miller: The Doctrine of Discovery in United States History
4. Tracey Lindberg: The Doctrine of Discovery in Canada
5. Tracey Lindberg: Contemporary Canadian Resonance of an Imperial Doctrine
6. Larissa Behrendt: The Doctrine of Discovery in Australia
7. Larissa Behrendt: Asserting the Doctrine of Discovery in Australia
8. Jacinta Ruru: Asserting the Doctrine of Discovery in Aotearoa New Zealand: 1840-1960s
9. Jacinta Ruru: The Still Permeating Influence of the Doctrine of Discovery in Aotearoa/New Zealand: 1970s-2000s
10. Jacinta Ruru: Concluding Comparatively: Discovery in the English Colonies

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Robert Miller is Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. He serves as the chief justice for the Court of Appeals for the Grand Rone Community of Orego. He is an enrolled citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Jacinta Ruru is Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago, and is of Ngati Raukawa (Waikato), Ngati Rangi and Pakeha descent. Larissa Behrendt is Professor of Law and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning of the University of Technology, Sydney. She is an Eualeyai/Gamillaroi woman. Tracey Lindberg is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa and Associate Professor of Indigenous Studies at Athabasca University. She is a member of the Saskatchewan bar. She is a Cree citizen (Neheyiwak) whose family is from the Kelley Lake Cree Nation.

Making Sense - Margot Northey and Joan McKibbin
Tribal Constitutionalism - Dr. Kirsty Gover
Lords of the Land - Dr. Mark Hickford

Special Features

  • Provides a fresh and unique insight into the application and interpretation of the doctrine of discovery from an Indigenous legal perspective.
  • Comparative analysis enables a deeper and more contextual understanding of the use of the doctrine in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.
  • Co-authored by four leading Indigenous legal academics.
  • Written in an accessible way, suitable for not only an international legal audience but also for students and for Indigenous peoples themselves.