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Traditional Tenure among the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en: Its Relationship to Common Property, and Resource Allocation

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Johnson, Leslie Main
Conference: Crossing Boundaries, the Seventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Conf. Date: June 10-14
Date: 1998
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1377
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Social Organization
Region: North America
Subject(s): IASC
land tenure and use
indigenous institutions
property rights
Native Americans
Abstract: "Where does House Territory, which might be described as 'traditional corporate property,' fit in common property models? Is traditional Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en tenure best seen as a form of common property, or some form of 'private' ownership? (I do not wish to deal with the question in terms prejudicial to aboriginal title; I am not speaking from a legal perspective here, but attempting to address the institutional forms of property which affect distribution of rights to resource use.) It is a system of regulating access to bounded resources among a group of defined users. It is small scale, local, and traditional. It cannot be transferred or turned into some other sort of property or rights, and it is highly embedded in the social system. "House Territories differ from territory or home range (territoriality in anthropological usage) in being discrete, bounded, parcels which are owned and passed down in lineages as the property of designated persons who represent and embody the group of people having a relationship to specific lands and waters (Cove 1982, Johnson in press). Territory is the term used for such properties in local English. The relationship to Territory is best seen as a responsibility and right, a type of reciprocal stewardship which cannot be abrogated or transferred except as mentioned above, in compensation for serious wrongdoing by a member of the House. Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en House ownership of land bears striking resemblance to the aboriginal Australian tenure system described by Rigsby (1998b). In Australia, too, real property has been vested in descent groups, and rights to property are obtained by membership in the relevant owning group. As such, they are not alienable or transferrable."

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