This chapter presents the final case-area: indigenous peoples. Just as gender and speciesism have been used as discriminating concepts to deny political presence, so too has ethnicity served as a differentiating factor upon which politicisation can be naturalised and hierarchically mediated, particularly when ethnic difference is reinforced by global economic disparity.
Indigenous peoples may be defined as descendants of a country prior to its enclosure as a state. 1 Thus, conceptual inclusion in a social science that has been constructed upon statist discourse logically circumscribes the integral identity of indigenous peoples. Resistance of the term, indigenous, to universally accepted definition 2 is partly a reflection of its linguistic imposition from external sources 3 and, partly, a reflection of the cultural and ecological specificity of the peoples. 4 The contingent nature of political praxis arising from this second factor does not align itself with the prevailing, singular Western logos. Instead, respect for the pluralistic diversity of local conditions requires recognition that there does not necessarily exist internal equity within indigenous communities, nor that indigenous peoples lead mysterious, romantic existences.
Indigenous peoples account for only around 200 million or 4 per cent of the global population; 5 in some areas of the world this number is increasing. 6 However, they represent 90-95 per cent of the world's cultural diversity based upon their distinct socio-cultural ways of interacting with their environment. 7 Indigenous communities are predominantly found within the tropics, a mere 7 per cent of the earth, where between half and three-quarters of the world's biodiversity is also found. As a consequence, indigenous peoples possess a wealth of knowledge of local flora and fauna, of micro-climatic, topographical and soil conditions and have a history of co-existing in a sustainable way with their environment. 8 The World Commission on Environment and Development has said, 'larger society…could learn a great deal from their traditional skills in sustainably managing very complex ecological systems'. However, in practice, as 'formal development reaches more deeply into rain forests, deserts, and other isolated environments, it tends to destroy the only cultures that have proved able to thrive in these environments'. 9