First Nations and the Treaty of Westphalia

At the end of thirty years of religious war, in 1648, the first nation states were created in Europe, a system of secular sovereign states with recognized borders that today make up the membership of the United Nations.

However, in the age of globalization and the voluntary surrender of partial sovereignty of European nations to the EU, goodbye to 1648 and all that.

Seen in that light, our [Canadian] First Nations have opened the door to a post-Westphalian definition of nationhood.

That is the opinion of Doug Saunders who wrote in The Globe and Mail on Saturday, January 12, that our aboriginal people may attain autonomy through structures parallel to the provinces and Ottawa, run by indigenous peoples on land they legally own and control. After four centuries of ambiguity, this would allow these nations-within-nations to decide what they are.

That is certainly an infinitely more attractive prospect than the one proposed by Lewis Atiyyatullah, who claimed to represent the terrorist network Al Qaeda, and who declared that “the international system built up by the West since the Treaty of Westphalia will collapse, and a new international system will rise under the leadership of a mighty Islamic state.”

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One response to “First Nations and the Treaty of Westphalia

  1. One might argue that the parties to the Treaty of Westphalia weren’t really nation states. In 1648, the king of France had only loose control of his far-flung possessions and many of his subjects didn’t speak French; the Holy Roman Emperor presided over a polyglot collection of more or less independent princes whose territories would only much later become Germany, Austria, Czechia, Hungary, and Belgium; the king of Sweden retained control of Pomerania, etc., etc. However, Westphalia was certainly a step along the way to full-fledged nationalism. The interesting thing about Canada is that it has never been a national state in the 19th or 20th century European sense. The arrangements of 1760 and 1867 provided for the religious, linguistic and cultural survival of the French-speakers of the St. Lawrence Valley and the result is that every one now recognizes that Canada is composed of “deux nations”. If Canada’s autochthonous peoples ever attain some sort of autonomy, it will be because Canada, unlike most of the European states, was never a unilingual, monocultural entity in the first place.