Indigenous Nationhood in the Age of COVID-19: Reflection on the Evolution of Sovereignty in Settler-Colonial States

Indigenous Nationhood in the Age of COVID-19

  • Sean Hillier York University
  • Elias Chaccour PhD Student, Health Policy & Equity, School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, York University
  • Hamza Al-Shammaa BSc, Kinesiology & Health Science, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, York University
Keywords: Indigenous, COVID, Nationhood, Sovereignty, Canada, United States, Australia


Purpose: Cross-Indigenous systems-level analyses of the assertion of nationhood and sovereignty by Indigenous Peoples within settler-colonial states (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States), by highlighting public policy and broader public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic according to the framework developed by Cornell (2015). Methods: Data was collected through comprehensive searches of policy announcements and media related to COVID-19 and Indigenous Peoples in settler-colonial countries (Canada, United States, New Zealand, and Australia) by using the following electronic databases: Factiva and advanced searches of Indigenous organisation and national government websites. Results: The results of the policy and media scan were categorized according to the framework developed by Cornell (2015). The framework includes instances of imposition of boundaries, organizing as a political body and acting as a nation on behalf of indigenous goals. The results show specific trends in the process of Indigenous assertion of nationhood during the COVID-19 pandemic. These trends are macro-level and influenced by the historical, social, and political circumstances of the states in which the respective Indigenous communities reside. The framework was identified most accurately in Canada, followed by the United States, and Australia. Conclusions: While Cornell’s framework provides a practical scale of reference, it does not capture the entirety of the settler-colonial Indigenous experience. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, we expect further development of the settler-colonial assertion of Indigenous public health and nationhood.


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