In nations with indigenous populations, officials largely confine references to customary land tenure or customary land rights to the surviving rights of such indigenous peoples in relation to land. Although custom may have provided the historical basis for land tenure systems under British common law, land tenure for nonindigenous peoples, nowadays, is largely governed by legislation and formal documentation.

England, long ago, asserted sovereignty over adjacent territories such as Wales and Ireland, and British common law provided some recognition for local customary tenures. In relation to the New World of the Americas, Britain largely relied on treaties as a basis for establishing settlements and acquiring land from prior inhabitants. In New Zealand, a nation-wide treaty—the Treaty of Waitangi, 1840—provided the basis for British sovereignty and ...

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