[Ed. – This should be a fruitful area of legal evolution. I’ve got all kinds of inanimate objects that I could sign up for public benefits, if the U.S. government would recognize their legal rights. This could be big.]
In a world-first a New Zealand river has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.
The local Māori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island has fought for the recognition of their river – the third-largest in New Zealand – as an ancestor for 140 years.
On Wednesday, hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their bid to have their kin awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law.
“The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have,” said Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi [tribe]. …
The new status of the river means if someone abused or harmed it the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same.