Ownership and Indigenous Territories in New France (1603-1760)
Jose Vicente Serrao, Barabara Direito, Eugenia Rodriguez and Susana Munch Miranda (eds), Property Rights, Land and Territory in the European Overseas Empires, Lisbon, CEHC-IUL (online), 2014, p. 21-29
9 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2015
Date Written: July 31, 2014
In North-Eastern America, the pre-Columbian origin of Indigenous familial territories has remained controversial among Anthropologists, like the possibility that Algonquian peoples devised wildlife conservation measures by themselves. During the 17th century, however, in accordance with concepts found in the literature on natural law and the law of nations, the French recognized that Indigenous Nations had national territories and controlled access to areas over which they exercised a form of collective ownership; the use of lands was regulated by chiefs. With time, the King’s representatives convinced their allies to call themselves “brothers” and to grant to each other a mutual right of hunting over their lands. Nonetheless, they were cognizant of well-defined hunting “districts” exploited under the direction of the chief of a familial band. Members from another band or strangers had to obtain the permission to hunt there, though occasional incursions were accepted. Starting in 1660, conservation measures were observed in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain area, but in the 18th century, they seemed unknown on the North Coast of the Saint Lawrence River. It seems unlikely, however, that Indigenous persons did not have enough information to devise such measures by themselves. Overall, national territorial limits and well-defined hunting districts seem to have had an Indigenous rather than a French origin.
Keywords: Indigenous territories; New France; Hunters and gatherers; Origins of ownership; Legal History
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