Preserving the Past, Providing a Future: Land Claims and Self-Rule

UN Chronicle, June 1993 | Go to article overview

Preserving the Past, Providing a Future: Land Claims and Self-Rule


The bond between indigenous people and their homelands is spiritual, economic and ancestral. The tribe is the communal trustee of the land for living members, as well as for past and future generations, but indigenous people often follow a land-based religion, believing that when their land is taken away, so is the spirit that gives them life. indeed, land is the lifeblood of traditional existence, providing indigenous people with their food, shelter and possessions.

But during a history plagued by foreign conquest, colonization and assimilation, masses of indigenous people have been forced off their ancestral lands or relegated to impoverished and subordinated lives if they remained, despite existing treaties enacted to protect their territorial rights.

In waging an ongoing struggle to secure or regain what they view as legally and historically theirs, indigenous communities have achieved incremental progress by resorting to the very legal tools that have let them down in the past.

Land claims have gathered particular momentum in Canada, with the recent signing of an agreement that will give ownership to some 40,000 Inuit (as Eskimos prefer to be known) and other indigenous tribes living near the Arctic of a vast expanse of wilderness and tundra. The new territory, called Nunavut, is to be established by the year 2000.

Pressing for land rights

In the United States, the Western Shoshone are pressing claims to several million acres taken from them by an act of Congress in 1863, and the Lakota Sioux have refused to accept more than $100 million in court-awarded compensation for the Black Hills, a sacred area expropriated by Congress in 1874 after gold was discovered there.

The High Court of Australia declared in 1992 that the traditional land rights of the Murray island people in the Torres Straits had not been extinguished by the arrival of the British in Australia, which set a completely new agenda for the national debate on indigenous rights.

Similarly, 500,000 native Ecuadorians successfully demonstrated for legal title to more than 2.5 million acres of Amazon land in 1990. Colombia has also begun to acknowledge the territorial rights of some 500,000 indigenous people, who inhabit nearly 2 5 per cent of the country's land area.

The rising tide of land claims put forth by indigenous communities has been matched by intensified efforts to secure greater autonomy and political power.

Although the great majority of the nearly 300 million indigenous and tribal peoples live in Asia and the Americas, progress towards indigenous self-rule has been led by the Nordic countries, where a strong liberal democratic tradition, coupled with effective political organization on the part of indigenous communities, has made self-rule and high levels of local autonomy a reality.

The Saami people of Finland were granted what some describe as an exceptional concession with the creation of a Saami Parliament in 1973, a move replicated for the Saami people of Norway in 1987.

Denmark passed a Home Rule Act in 1979, granting the local Inuit population of Greenland wide powers of self-government within a single State system, while maintaining the territorial and legal unity of Denmark. Although they cannot enter international treaties on their own, the Inuit of Greenland now have considerable legislative autonomy on a wide range of domestic issues.

Colonial treaties: A problem

In the developing world, a major problem area for tribal peoples is that of treaties promulgated during colonial rule. In the post-colonial era, many such agreements have been sidestepped, amplified or otherwise changed.

Many indigenous communities have had no choice but to place their grievances before the international community through the UN. Indigenous people base their claims for the right to self-rule on the fact that the principle of self-determination is mentioned in the UN Charter and included in the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Preserving the Past, Providing a Future: Land Claims and Self-Rule
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.