January 7, 2011
Teaching Property and Pre-Columbian Land Use
I’m getting ready to start teaching Johnson v. M’Intosh in Property on Monday. I like the choice by the Dukeminier book website to look at the Iroquois three-crop agrarian culture to challenge the hunter-gatherer generalization about Native American land use; but, I think the point about the variety of Native relationships to land could be strengthened by showing just how closely some indigenous land tenure systems resembled European feudalism.
My own law-school-days study of Aztec land ownership showed me a complex scheme of plot allotments to small family groups with other parcels set aside for the economic benefit of aristocratic, military and clerical castes. Iroquois and Huron farming economies also depended on allotment to female clan members. The historical record strongly controverts Locke’s defense of acquisition by discovery/conquest.
I would love to hear about anyone bringing Pre-Columbian land use patterns into their teaching or writing. I think it offers many possibilities for teaching on sustainability, female land tenure and the fundamental connection between how we get our food and how we relate to land.
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