"The Chameleon Indigenous Sovereignty": The Colonial Prismatic View of its Different Shades in Ghana, Canada and the United States

Title: "The Chameleon Indigenous Sovereignty": The Colonial Prismatic View of its Different Shades in Ghana, Canada and the United States
Authors: Baffoe, Kwesi
Date: 2010
Abstract: This thesis is the study of the Indigenous peoples of Ghana, Canada and the United States. What links these three groups together is the colonial moment. These peoples are linked together because they have all been affected by the process and legacy of colonization. The "colonial moment" presents an opportunity to analyze the ways in which the Indigenous peoples of these three geopolitical units have experienced the colonization process and its impact as well as to analyze its implications for post-colonial sovereignty. If one goes back to the early days of colonization, Europeans were only a minuscule minority in the territories that would one day become Ghana, Canada and the United States. The evolution from that point forward is totally different. The scene at Ghana's independence celebration eloquently expresses this contrast: At the Black Star Square, as the midnight bell tolled, on March 6, 1957, the Union Jack slipped beneath the floodlights. Rising in its place was the tri-colour flag of red, gold and green, with a black star at its centre, the standard of the new, independent nation of Ghana. On the platform, President Kwarne Nkrumah, his faced streaked with tears, electrified the crowd when he declared: "At long last, the battle has ended. Your beloved country is free forever." What American or Canadian Indigenous leader can boast of his or her country being free on Independence Day? Free from whom and what? That argument begs the question -- why? Why did Ghana, which is much closer and more accessible to Europe, not become the target for mass migration? If the Indigenous peoples of Ghana, who were considered too primitive to engage in treaty as exemplified by the Berlin Conference of 1884, could achieve a form of sovereignty approximately equivalent to that of the other nations of the world, then why should the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, whose international treaty powers were affirmed by the Royal Proclamation of 1763, not employ Ghana's sovereignty as a yardstick? This thesis uses the "Ghanaian lens" to examine the above questions and many more, and anchors them in the evolving nature of sovereignty in the colonial and post-colonial context. The aim is to link the analysis of the "shifting" European definition of statehood with the unconscious forces that shaped the colonial prismatic view of Indigenous sovereignty. What might be useful and unique about the thesis is its invitation to uncouple the train of thought from North America and examine the colonial moment and its implications for American and Canadian jurisprudence from an African perspective. It is hoped that this will provide a useful basis for helping to correct some of the injustices perpetrated against the Indigenous peoples of North America. The "Ghanaian lens" is then directed at the contact period to reveal that, despite the introduction of European goods and the concomitant fruits of so-called "civilization," the Indigenous peoples of the world generally suffered throughout this period and did not benefit from the presence of the Europeans who exploited their friendliness. The struggle for independence is the next phenomenon viewed through the "Ghanaian lens." Part VI then illustrates the manner in which the importation of American jurisprudence into the Canadian context has distorted the traditional British legal notion of Indigenous sovereignty to the detriment of the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Part VIIA explains why the Western world and the "settled" nations should refrain from perpetuating doctrines of international law that define sovereignty as the exclusive preserve of Europe, which subordinated and excluded "uncivilized" indigenes, resulting in the current neo-colonial state of the Indigenous peoples of North America. Finally, Part VIIB develops a set of doctrines that could coherently account for Indigenous personality, in order to more adequately formulate the potential of the concept of sovereignty to remedy the enduring inequities and imbalances resulting from the colonial confrontation. The thesis then takes the reader on the solution path. On September 13, 2007, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Indigenous peoples of the world share much in common: faith in divine providence, hope in an eternal universe and the aspiration to be free and happy. Indigenous peoples in settled countries are many distinct natives in many countries, but with common concerns and a common voice. One of their prime concerns is to be heard. Indigenous peoples in settled countries cannot effectively express themselves politically. They are politically mute. To claim that they are represented at the United Nations by the countries in which they reside is, therefore, an insult. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/30041
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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