Magazine article New Internationalist

Indigenous Peoples

Magazine article New Internationalist

Indigenous Peoples

Article excerpt

'Are you indigenous?' José Bailaba, a representative of Bolivia's Chiquitano people, asked me.

A simple question to which the simple answer was 'no'. My attempts at a more 'thoughtful' one soon led me into a thicket of 'it depends on what you mean by', 'I suppose, if I went back far enough', 'in terms of identity' and so on... It concluded with a self-definition, the concise version of which is 'de-racinated mongrel'. By which time José had visibly, and reasonably, lost interest.

What exactly is meant by 'indigenous people' is contentious and ambiguous. The term probably persists because it is the most universal and least objectionable of various options.

The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IGWIA) starts its own very long definition with the following: 'Indigenous peoples are the disadvantaged descendants of those people who inhabited a territory prior to the formation of the state. …

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