|Pete: “Assuming there are portions of the island that don't have huts and and villages on it, and that these portions of land contain extractable resources, John may feel free to inhabit these areas and start harvesting.”|
Hi Pete. This is an interesting hypothetical, but the focus of attention has been misplaced. The issue is not so much one of property rights as sovereignty, that is, the power to make and enforce rules, norms of behaviour, and so on over a defined geographical area. You have told us that the Kiki have little notion of property rights, but you do mention that the tribal elders make a decision that is presumably binding on all members of the tribe.
Therefore, and if the Kiki are anything like any other “primitive” people, they will have well developed notions of sovereignty – the tribe will claim the authority to expect and enforce certain norms of behaviour, and punish any transgressors. This authority will be embodied in tribal elders, who will appeal to tradition to support their judgements.
And of course this sovereignty will typically extend over the whole island. This is where John will face some difficulty in squaring his idea of property with the islanders’ idea of sovereignty, since his actions in the uninhabited areas will be construed as a beach of sovereignty, effectively, as an invasion.
What John has to do is persuade the islanders that “property rights” and “drilling for oil” could be positive tribal norms, perhaps by interpreting the Great Sun God’s instructions to allow for these notions.