We take it for granted that individuals have a right to the property or land that they own, and their rights should be enforced by the state. When nations are invaded we champion their right to defend themselves and retrieve their land. But there is a risk these principles which we think universal are in fact only applied to the strong. 95% of the Native American population was wiped out by European invasion. Just two hundred years ago the first removal of Native Americans took place and since then 99% of their land has been taken and is now deemed to be 'owned' by others. The small number of Native Americans remaining suffer severe inequalities in health, wealth and education. Little has been done to redress the situation and almost no one is proposing returning the land.
Do we need to accept that principles of rights to ownership only apply to the strong? Is the widely held belief in inalienable rights in fact hypocritical and only applied when it is convenient or thought to be desirable? Or is our attachment to universal rights genuine and should we as a consequence be returning the majority of land in North America to its original inhabitants?