University of Otago law academic Jacinta Ruru (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Maniapoto) has been awarded this year’s Fulbright-Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Senior Scholar Award, to undertake research into indigenous challenges to Western property law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe.
In her research, Jacinta aims to explore the potential for property law to be recalibrated to support indigenous claims to own and/or govern Crown or publicly-owned lands (such as within national parks) and natural resources like fresh water. Her work addresses the conflict between Western and indigenous worldviews and concepts of ownership, and how the “cultural monopoly” inherent in Western law has been challenged in recent decades by a resurgence of indigenous law in current or former British colonies including Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States of America.
This project bring together strands of Jacinta’s previous work on national parks, water, Māori freehold land and the foreshore and seabed issue, and comparative studies of New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Her Fulbright exchange will inform Jacinta’s knowledge of indigenous legal challenges to property in the USA, and she looks forward to learning from her Native American counterparts.
“Gaining this knowledge through spending time with Native American peoples and legal scholars will enable me to better understand the challenges and desires to bring about transformative change for our peoples,” Jacinta says. “I hope, by spending extended time in the USA, that I will have a better appreciation of the lived experiences of indigenous people in that country and the strong legal theoretical frameworks being developed there.”
This will be Jacinta’s second Fulbright exchange to the United States of America. In 2002 she received a short-term Fulbright New Zealand Travel Award to give presentations on Māori participation in the management of publicly-owned lands, at the University of Nevada and to local Native American and environmental groups.