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This book plunges the reader into the unique and vibrant sea worlds of the peoples of northern Australia. We come to learn how profoundly these saltwater people know their bountiful waters and shores, which to them are the sacred endowment of ancestor spirits to their clans - not only as a source of livelihood but of identity, cultural memory, community and spirituality.

In contrast, in western tradition, the sea, unlike the land, cannot be owned - the notion of freedom of the seas has for centuries been a cornerstone of sea law.

In Saltwater People, Nonie Sharp crosses between traditions to discover telling differences and surprising points of contact, illustrating how radically different attitudes maybe about the relationships of peoples to their 'territory'. Sharp's comparative approach touches on both historical and contemporary cases as far afield as Scandinavia, the US, Canada, New Zealand, offering fresh insight into issues of indigenous heritage; land and sea rights; public, private and common property; and environment. Her lively study compels non-indigenous readers to reflect on the origins of their own institutionalised rights to natural resources, and the wisdom each tradition may have for the other.

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