The Impact of Indigenous Groups on New Zealand and American Constitutionalism and Law

Embedded within the New Zealand and the American legal systems are a series of rules concerning the peoples who inhabited the area prior to colonisation. These rules involve the establishment of European sovereignty, the ongoing status and use of indigenous lands, indigenous political institutions, the interpretation of treaties, and fiduciary obligations. The development of these rules, however, did not occur in a vacuum, but evolved as part of, and influenced, the general constitutional development of the each state. This paper discusses how the indigenous presence impacted the constitutional development of New Zealand and the United States. It argues that in the United States the status of the Native Americans and their relationship to the Federal and state governments under the 1789 Constitution allowed for a more pluralist constitutional development, while in New Zealand the political and military threat from Maori resulted in a more unitary constitutional system.