Date of Completion


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science (POLS)

First Advisor

Andrew Dilts


In 2007, the United Nations (UN) voted on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the working framework for the protection of indigenous peoples around the world. While not legally binding, the Declaration holds both moral and political force. New Zealand initially voted against UNDRIP but has since signed on to the Declaration. The Declaration includes the right of indigenous groups to ownership of traditionally-owned land; to preserve their culture through land or historical sites; and to collaborate with state governments to control, develop, and conserve their land. In this paper, I ask how the Declaration effects indigenous-government relationships, specifically, how it affects land ownership and the right to self-determination. Based on field work in New Zealand, analysis of federal laws and court decisions, and interviews with academics, legal scholars, and members of indigenous groups and NGOs, I explain what caused the reversal of New Zealand’s position. Further, I show the effect of this reversal on disputes between the state and the indigenous peoples. Through this case analysis, I examine New Zealand’s relationship with indigenous rights and offer critiques for the government’s current strategies.