A neutral framework for modelling and analysing Aboriginal land tenure systems

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Land tenure and land administration are culture- laden areas, as can be seen in Canada, where Aboriginal land tenure and land administration systems are challenging the conventional theory of property rights and western models of land administration. There is a need to better understand land tenure if land administration, which is concerned with implementing land tenure policies, is to be re-designed and improved upon. This thesis is concerned with developing a framework to guide the analysis, modelling, design and implementation of land tenure reforms for Aboriginal communities. A problem highlighted by the cross-cultural land tenure literature is the inherently biased emphasis of current land administrations towards eurocentric concepts of land and land tenure. The primary objective of this research is to help alleviate this inequitable eurocentric bias by developing an ethnocentrically equitable or neutral analytical framework for analysing and designing proposed reforms of Aboriginal land tenure and land administration systems. The major conclusion of this research is that the research objective can be achieved by developing a neutral framework that incorporates the cultural worldviews, concepts, values and aspirations of the community, and rigorously analyses, models and compares the land tenure systems of the Aboriginal group. The neutral framework is developed by integrating concepts and approaches from anthropology, geomatics engineering and soft systems engineering. The neutral framework entails first using the comparative design criteria of worldviews, values, concepts, goals and institutions of members of a community. This allows the Aboriginal land tenure systems to be described and analysed from the cultural perspective of the subject Aboriginal group. Conceptual logical models are then developed from the issues identified in the initial cultural analysis, to enable comparisons to be made between each developed conceptual model and its relevant existing land tenure system or subsystem. The comparisons are then evaluated to identify reforms to be made to the existing land tenure systems that are systemically desirable and culturally feasible for the subject community. The neutral framework is tested by applying it to the Mi’kmaq of mainland Nova Scotia, an Aboriginal community in eastern Canada. Comparisons are also made with the Nisga’a and the Lheidli T’enneh communities in western Canada.