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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Inalienable Properties

The Political Economy of Indigenous Land Reform

As many indigenous communities return to self-governance and self-determination, they are reevaluating their own approaches to property rights and community development. Why did the Nisga’a Nation introduce property rights that can be traded in the market? And how have communities such as the Membertou First Nation sustained control over their lands in the face of economic pressures for commodity rights? Inalienable Properties explores the contrasting approaches to land rights illustrated by four indigenous communities in Canada: the Westbank, Membertou, Nisga’a, and James Bay Cree Nations.

Jamie Baxter traces how local leaders set the course of land rights and development in their communities during formative periods of legal and economic upheaval. Drawing on new research about institutional change in organizational settings such as business firms and labor unions, Baxter uses game theory to explore how community leaders have sustained inalienable land rights without turning to either persuasion or coercive force, the two levers of power normally associated with political leadership. Inalienable Properties challenges the view that liberalized land markets are the inevitable result of legal and economic change. It shows how inalienability can result from intentional choices and is linked to structures of decision-making that have long-lasting consequences for communities.

200 pages | 3 halftones | 6 x 9

Law and Society


Inalienable Properties pushes the field of Indigenous studies in a new direction. It applies the innovative lens of game theory to explore critical issues such as Indigenous membership and citizenship reforms, business development and investment decisions, and the adoption of political term limits and checks on power. The rest of the field will need to catch up.

Randall Akee, University of California, Los Angeles

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