International Nation Building

"When I think about nation building, to me it probably encompasses a range of different things, but mostly it’s about empowering and organizing our people in a way that allows us to define our own destinies, to be in positions of decision-making and to set up our own government structures that support our own cultural foundations as a nation or as a community or tribal group but also how we actually put ourselves in a position to invest in our futures" - Michelle Deshong (Kuku Yalanji and Butchulla Nations)

Self-determination, the exercise of sovereignty, and the interactions between Native nation look different across Indian Country. While there may be many differences, there is still opportunities for lessons learned and Indigenous driven policy development. These opportunities grow even furthers as we seek out examples of self-determination and sovereign actions outside of the United States. There remains much that we can learn from other Indigenous communities from outside of the US. Below we provide you with a few resources of what Native nation builds, sovereignty, and self-determination look like from New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.

Nation Building in Australia:

Report: Self-Determination: Background Concepts Scoping paper 1 prepared for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services Scoping paper 1 prepared for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services

A number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations, including the Gunditjmara People and Ngarrindjeri Nation, have begun to establish decision-making processes, mechanisms and structures that suit the values and norms of their community. Some started by exercising responsibility for matters such as language, citizenship, cultural heritage or caring for Country and are building from there to exercise authority over other matters.

Nation Building in New Zealand:

Interview: Robert Joseph: History of Maori Governance and Self-Determination

In this interview, Māori barrister and Senior Lecturer at The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, Dr. Robert A. Joseph offers his expert analysis of governance and law through the historical perspective of Māori self-governance. Dr. Joseph gives a summary of the complexities of colonization over Māori lands under New Zealand governments and in particular a thorough examination of the Treaty of Waitangi that lays the foundations for the governance relationships of the Māori people with New Zealand governmental relations and society. Included with his historical accounts are the ways that law and jurisdiction intersects with Māori economy that brings together a current context to the way colonization impacts the modern practices of Māori self-determination.

    Nation Building in Canada:

    Interview: Sophie Pierre: Governance the Ktunaxa Nation Way

    Sophie Pierre is a respected native leader that has been at the forefront of building key components and infrastructure for modern self-governance in the Ktunaxa Nation. Her tenure as Chief Commission for the BC Treaty Commission appointed by governments of Canada and British Columbia and the First Nations Summit positioned her as a leading advocate and trusted representative for Ktunaxa people asserting sovereignty. Her experiences reveal a broad and thorough effort within the Ktunaxa Nation to create a solid foundation that protects their indigenous rights and supports the well being of Ktunaxa people.

      Interview: Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell: Stories and Reflections on Indigenous Governance

        Former Grand Chief Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne recently stepped down from his role as Grand Chief after decades of building a strong independent jurisdiction. Chief Mitchell offers some of his stories and reflections in indigenous governance that pertains to situations that occur when asserting Native rights along a territory that straddles the provinces of Canada and the international border.

        Presentations & Podcasts:

        Dr Miriam Jorgensen: "First Nations governance" presentation at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government's 2019 Reimagining Public Administration conference

        Lead Contact:


        Research Director
        Native Nations Institute

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