Indigenous Peoples in International Law

Indigenous Peoples in International Law

Indigenous Peoples in International Law

Indigenous Peoples in International Law

Synopsis

In Indigenous Peoples in International Law, James Anaya explores the development and contours of international law as it concerns the world's indigenous peoples, culturally distinctive groups that are descended from the original inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. Anaya demonstrates that, while historical trends in international law largely facilitated the colonization of indigenous peoples and their lands, modern international law's human rights program has been responsive to indigenous peoples' aspirations to survive as distinct communities in control of their own destinies. Over the last several years, the international system--particularly as embodied in the United Nations and other international institutions--has exhibited a renewed and increasingly heightened focus on the concerns of indigenous peoples. Anaya discusses the resulting new generation of international treaty and customary norms, while linking the new and emergent norms with previously existing international human rights standards of general applicability. Anaya further identifies and analyzes institutions and procedures, at both the domestic and international levels, for implementing international norms concerning indigenous peoples.

Excerpt

Half a millennium ago, people living on the continents now called North and South America began to have encounters of a kind they had not experienced before. Europeans arrived and started to lay claim to their lands, overpowering their political institutions and disrupting the integrity of their economies and cultures. The European encroachments frequently were accompanied by the slaughter of the children, women, and men who stood in the way. For many of the people who survived, the Europeans brought disease and slavery. Similar patterns of empire and conquest extended to other parts of the globe, resulting in human suffering and turmoil on a massive scale.

As empire building and colonial settlement proceeded from the sixteenth century onward, those who already inhabited the encroached-upon lands and who were subjected to oppressive forces became known as indigenous, native, or aboriginal. Such designations have continued to apply to people by virtue of their place and condition within the life-altering human encounter set in motion by colonialism. Today, the term indigenous refers broadly to the living descendants of preinvasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. Indigenous peoples, nations, or communities are culturally distinctive groups that find themselves engulfed by settler societies born of the forces of empire and conquest. The diverse surviving Indian communities and nations of the Western Hemisphere, the Inuit and Aleut of the Arctic, the Aborigines of Australia, the Maori of New Zealand, the tribal peoples of Asia, and other such groups are among those generally regarded as indigenous. They are indigenous because their ancestral roots are imbedded in the lands in which they live, or would like to live, much more deeply than the roots of more powerful sectors of society living on the same lands or in close proximity. Furthermore, they are peoples to the extent they comprise distinct communities with a continuity of existence and identity that links them to the communities, tribes, or nations of their ancestral past.

In the contemporary world, indigenous peoples characteristically exist under conditions of severe disadvantage relative to others within the states constructed around them. Historical phenomena grounded on racially discriminatory attitudes are not just blemishes of the past but rather translate into current inequities. Indigenous peoples have been deprived of vast landholdings and access to life-sustaining resources, and they have suffered historical forces that have actively suppressed their political and cultural institutions. As a result, indigenous peoples have been crippled economically and socially, their cohesiveness as communities has been damaged or . . .

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