Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights

Living Edition
| Editors: Michael Kocsis

Disputed Territory in the Pacific Northwest: Indigenous, American, and British Claims

Living reference work entry


European and American assertions of territorial sovereignty over the Pacific Northwest date mainly from the latter half of the eighteenth century. Conflicts between Britain and the United States over the location of the boundary between their respective territorial claims in the region were eventually settled by the 1846 Washington Treaty, which drew the international boundary along the 49th parallel from the Rocky Mountains to the coast. However, examination of applicable nineteenth-century international law reveals the weakness of American and British (now Canadian) claims to de jure sovereignty over the region. Moreover, although the United States and Great Britain thought they could rely on the doctrines of terra nullius and discovery to negate Indigenous sovereignty and law and claim territorial title for themselves, those discredited doctrines are not acceptable bases for American and Canadian sovereignty today. Treaties with the Indigenous peoples are therefore...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Osgoode Hall Law SchoolYork UniversityTorontoCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kevin W. Gray
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada