Autonomy in Nicaragua and Nunavut:
A Comparative Study in Self-Determination

Rodolfo  Pino-Robles

Master's Thesis, Native Studies, University of Saskatchewan


 Aboriginal issues have risen to prominence both nationally and internationally, particularly since 1992, the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus' arrival on the Caribbean shores marking the beginning of the colonization of an entire "new world".    Aboriginal people are struggling against the resulting centuries-long  exclusion from participation in the economic, political and cultural life and institutions of a dominant society.

Presently, political issues such as defining self-determination and achieving Aboriginal self-government, as a component of self-determination, are at the top of the Indigenous  agenda, particularly in the Western Hemisphere.  The Inuit in Canada and the Miskitu  in Nicaragua are the two Aboriginal nations  focused on in this study.  These peoples are the subjects of agreements which are expected to provide some insights into the question of self-determination and self-government.  The agreements in question are the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and Nunavut Law, and the Estatuto de la Autonomía de las Regiones de la Costa Atlántica de Nicaragua (Autonomy Statute for the Regions of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua), which includes the RAAS (Autonomous Region of the South Atlantic) in the south and the RAAN (Autonomous Region of the North Atlantic) in the north.  Of these two, the RAAN is the subject of this study.

Chapter One of this thesis searches for an accepted understanding of the definition of the concept of self-determination within international fora which might therefore be recognized by nation-states.  Chapter Two selects the approach of internal colonialism as the theoretical framework.  Internal colonialism is the condition in which the Inuit and the Miskitos have found themselves up to the moment of the signing of the agreement or the application of autonomy. Chapters Three and Four focus on the history of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and the Eastern Arctic of Canada respectively and situate the unfolding of internal colonialism and class relations and the Inuit's and Miskitos' struggles.  These chapters also briefly look at the developing of the idea of regional autonomy for the Miskitos and of a province-like territory, or Nunavut for the Inuit.   Chapter Five analyzes the Nunavut Agreement and the Law of Autonomy in a comparative perspective.  The sixth Chapter draws a conclusion to the question of whether self-determination is offered by either piece of legislation, and attempts to project some of the potential effects, opening the field for further exploration of different and more promising possibilities of Aboriginal-controlled public forms of government for other Native peoples of the Americas.

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