Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas: Rights, Principles and Practice

By Colchester, Marcus | Nomadic Peoples, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas: Rights, Principles and Practice


Colchester, Marcus, Nomadic Peoples


Resume

Populations indigenes et zones protegees: droits, principes et pratiques

Les populations indigenes, bannies de force, des zones protegees par La 'conservation Coloniale', ont cause des problemes sociaux graves tout en provoquant une reponse vigoureuse. Maintenant, les partisans de la conservation de l'environnement acceptent les progres de la loi internationale qui reconnaissent les droits des indigenes et ont fait changer la categorisation de zone protegee; ceci afin de permettre aux indigenes d'etre proprietaires et d'avoir un pouvoir de controle. Les principes qui reconnaissent ces droits et les Directives qui permettent de les appliquer ont ete adoptes. Des obstacles de taille sont toujours en pratique. Cependant, des exemples positifs laissent voir des solutions.

Resumen

Gentes indigenas y zonas protegidas: derechos, principios y practica

Las poblaciones indigenas excluidas pot la fuerza de las zonas protegidas por la 'conservacion Colonial' causaron problemas sociales serios pero tambien provocaron una reaccion energica. Ahora, los conservacionistas aceptan los cambios progresistas de la ley internacional. Estos cambios reconocen los derechos indigenas y han cambiado la categorizacion de zona protegida. De este modo, se les permite a los indigenas ser propietarios y controlar estas zonas. Se han adoptado principios que reconocen estos derechos y las Lineas Directrices que los aplican. Obstaculos enormes siguen en practica mas ejemplos positivos van sugeriendo soluciones.

Colonial Conservation

It is easy to forget, now that conservation has become a mainstream concern of the global community and the subject of international treaties, that the idea of conserving nature through the creation of protected areas is a relatively recent invention. The idea was born in the tumultuous rush of land grabbing during the American conquest of the West, when settler families, the US cavalry, gold miners, cowboys and Indians struggled to impose their different visions of life and land use on the continent.

One of the first to conceive of the idea of a 'national park' was the artist George Catlin, who ventured into the Wild West in the 1830s to capture through his oil paintings the dignified visages of the 'Plains Indians'. Musing on what he felt would be the inevitable disappearance of the their way of life he wrote:

   And in future what a splendid contemplation ... when
   one ... imagines them as they might be seen, by some great
   protecting policy of government preserved in their pristine
   beauty and wildness, in a magnificent park, where the world
   could see for ages to come, the native Indian in his classic
   attire, galloping his wild horse, with sinewy bow, and shield and
   lance, amid the fleeting herds of elks and buffaloes ... A nation's
   Park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of
   their nature's beauty! (Catlin 1841: vii, emphasis in original).

However, when the first such park was actually created thirty years later, it was during the disruptions of the American Civil War at a time when a devastating series of 'Indian Wars' was being waged to subdue Indian autonomy and realise the country's 'manifest destiny' (Colchester 1994: 2-6). It was this dominant vision of conquest, combined with 'wilderness preservation' (Ibid.), which defined the way the first parks were created in the USA at Yosemite in 1864 and Yellowstone in 1872.

As Keller and Turek (1998: 20-22) relate, the startling landscapes of Yosemite, substantially an outcome of Native American land use systems, were proposed for conservation by the very same settlers who, twelve years previously, had waged the 'Mariposa Indian War' against the area's indigenous people--the Miwok. In this one-sided struggle, forces sanctioned by the US Government made repeated attacks on Indian settlements. Villages were burned to the ground to force the Indians out of the area and to starve or freeze them into submission. …

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