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Indigenous Peoples


Emerging States & Claims to Autonomy and Independence


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2009 |2008 | 2007 | 2006 | Archived Articles



Amnesty's Damning Report on the Treatment if Australian Indigenous Communities (August 8, 2011)

August 9th marks the seventeenth commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which aims to encourage the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous cultures. On August 8th Amnesty International released a report condemning, in particular, the Australian Governments’ policies on Indigenous Peoples. The report accused the Government of abandoning Aboriginal people and forcing them away from their traditional homelands. Claire Mallinson - National Director of Amnesty in Australia - commented that the Government used “paperclips and policy” rather than “bulldozers and violence”, but that the threat was no less pernicious. Amnesty calls for greater inclusion and participation by Indigenous Australians, a sentiment echoed by the UN day promoting worldwide Indigenous recognition. (Amnesty)

Natural History Museum Returns Bones of 138 Torres Strait Islanders (March 10, 2011)

London's Natural History Museum is set to return the bones of 138 Torres Straits Islanders. Although the Natural History Museum holds more than 20,000 human remains, the repatriation of the Torres Straits Islanders landmarks the largest return of bones from any UK museum and heralds a new approach to relationships between museums and indigenous communities. Many communities have been making claims for repatriation since the 1990s. This significant return demonstrates the growing political weight of indigenous societies.(Guardian)


Amnesty Blasts Indigenous Policies (August 14, 2010)

In 2007 the Australian government took 73 Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory under government control, stripping them of their rights to land and self-determination. This action, premised on concerns for child abuse and neglect in these remote communities, suspends the Racial Discrimination Act and breaches countless international human rights standards. Under investigation by the United Nations, the Australian government plans to extend the policy to other "disadvantaged areas" and thus deny that the policy is racist. Yet it is clear that Aboriginal Australians will be the policy's primary targets. Since the 2007 intervention, no associated case of child abuse has been brought before the courts. (Green Left Weekly)

Faroese Skjaldur: An Endangered Oral Tradition of the North Atlantic (2010)

The Faroese language, native to the Faroe Islands, is under threat from dominant Danish and Norwegian cultures. The World Oral Literature Project which strives to document endangered oral languages before they become extinct, argues that the unique character of Faroese is crucial to the preservation of Faroe culture. The conservation of language is vital to foster a sense of national identity, appealing to specific national traditions which stand to be lost should Faroese fall into disuse. Overall, it stands as an example of the intense relationship between language and national identity. (University of Cambridge)


Chiapas: Portrait of the Resistance (January 6, 2009)

Journalist Gloria Muñoz Ramí­rez tells the struggle of the five Zapatista autonomous centers in Chiapas for self-governance. The "Good Government Board" manages the self-sufficient communities whose main achievement has been the opening of a hospital where Zapatistas are not treated as "indigenous people" as they are in Mexican hospitals. The Board also runs a warehouse that supplies hundreds of small community shops, whose profits pay for full-time "health promoters" (doctors) who work in the new hospital. The Zapatista community of the townships is seeking to offer traditional medicines and free education.(World war 4 report)



Indigenous People: US and Canada Guilty of Racism (August 7, 2008)

After 20 years of negotiations, the UN General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples in 2007, an act aiming to reconcile relations between states and their indigenous populations. But, the US and Canada voted against the declaration and continue to abuse indigenous rights to land claims. For example, the US exploits land belonging to the Shoshone tribe to secure gold mining. This Inter Press Service article argues that the general public needs to become more informed on these issues before real change can take effect in the lives of indigenous populations.

Colombia: Indigenous Groups in Danger of Disappearing (July 28, 2008)

There are 28 indigenous groups in Colombia who are facing the threat of physical and cultural extinction. The Permanent Peoples Tribunal, a major human rights organization, issued a verdict that Colombia engages in genocide through its actions and inactions towards its indigenous peoples. Although the 1991 Colombian constitution recognizes and gives territorial rights to its native inhabitants, the government does not always comply with the law. And, powerful multinational corporations drive the indigenous groups off their land in order to exploit their natural resources. (Inter Press Service)

Recognition for a People Who Faded as Japan Grew (July 3, 2008)

Japan officially recognized its Ainu population, located in the country's northernmost island of Hokkaido, as an "indigenous people." In the late 19th century, Japan took control of the island and the Meiji rulers forced the Ainu to assimilate. According to a 2006 government report, the Ainu - who number about 24,000 people - are less likely to be university educated and more likely to receive welfare benefits than the rest of the Japanese population. Although Japan's recognition of the Ainu is a necessary first step to repairing past wrongs, the Ainu are divided on what should be the next step - a government apology, compensation, or reclaiming traditional lands. (New York Times)

Canada's Native People Get a Formal Apology (June 12, 2008)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave the first formal apology to the Canadian Aboriginal population for the government's policies of forced assimilation. For a century, Aboriginal students were required to attend residential schools where school staff exposed them to physical and psychological abuse. While the speech offered the possibility for reconciliation and forgiveness, the government must now act to alleviate poverty, improve education, and settle land claims among Aborigines. (Los Angeles Times)

Guyana's Indigenous Peoples (May 28, 2008)

In this interview with the Guyana Review, David James, an Amerindian attorney-at-law, highlights the problems indigenous peoples in Guyana face. Companies exploit natural resources causing environmental degradation and gravely affecting local communities. The Amerindian Act in Guyana only provides a narrow protection of the rights of indigenous communities. James argues that the Act should adopt principles from the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Amazon Indians Lead Battle against Power Giant's Plan to Flood Rainforest (May 23, 2008)

In Altamira, an Amazonian city in Brazil, the state power corporation is planning to flood 2371 square miles of the rainforest to construct a hydroelectric dam. In addition to destroying the environment, the project also threatens indigenous communities and their food sources and raw materials. Indigenous leaders have sent a letter to President Lula da Silva demanding to halt the plan. But, Glenn Switkes of International Rivers, says that Lula's government will carry through the project no matter how damaging the consequences. (Independent)

Climate a "Life and Death" Issue for Native Peoples (April 24, 2008)

During the 7th annual meeting of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, indigenous leaders urged UN member states to adopt the "Universal Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples" into domestic law. The UN General Assembly passed this resolution in 2007, but as this body is unable to make resolutions legally binding, many indigenous communities still have no formal rights over their territory and resources. Consequently, governments and transnational corporations harm native peoples, making extensively use of their lands and forests. (Inter Press Service)

Indigenous Movements in the Americas: From Demand for Recognition to Building Autonomies (February 26, 2008)

Indigenous peoples in Latin America are demanding autonomy, in addition to constitutional recognition. Since the 1990s, several Latin American governments have recognized the rights of indigenous peoples in their legislation, but they have not ceded any real political power. Indigenous movements now seek to construct their own independent political regimes. The author points out that they will only succeed if the Latin American nation-state undergoes serious changes. (CIP Americas Policy Program)

Australian Government Intervenes in Aboriginal Communities (January 24, 2008)

In 2007, the Australian federal government intervened in the Northern Territory after a report found high levels of child sexual abuse in the Aboriginal communities. Prime Minister John Howard declared a "national emergency" and increased policing, banned alcohol, and restricted welfare in the communities. But, the intervention served as a superficial "band-aid solution" and ignored the deeper structural problems Aborigines face such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of education. Further, the author argues the intervention was an excuse for the government to take control over Aboriginal land. (Toward Freedom)

HRC Establishes New Subsidiary Body (January 11, 2008)

On December 13, 2007 the UN Human Rights Council established the "Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples." This subsidiary body replaces the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and is determined to continue in its footsteps. This report says the new mechanism will give Indigenous Peoples the unprecendented opportunity "to work with states, UN agencies and bodies to address human rights violations." The body will assist the HRC with thematic expertise mainly provided by five independent experts. (International Indian Treaty Council)


For Aborigines, Help Feels Like a Tightening Grip (August 22, 2007)

The Australian Parliament passed the Northern Territory Emergency Response Bill. The law requires people who receive benefits to spend half of their income on food. It also penalizes guardians if their children don't go to school, bans alcohol and pornography in Aboriginal areas, and allows the government to lease Aboriginal towns' land for periods of five years. This law comes in response to a study prepared for the Northern Territory government which exposed widespread sexual abuse and neglect of children in indigenous Australian communities. But critics argue that the legislation goes far beyond the protection of children. They say that these problems are not unique to indigenous communities and the fact that it only applies to them makes this legislation racist. (International Herald Tribune)

First Nations Feel Betrayed by Canada at UN (August 7, 2007)

Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Colombia, Russia, Suriname, Guyana and a few African nations refused to approve the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples because parts of the content called for "recognition of the indigenous peoples' right to self-determination" and "control over their natural resources." Canada's aboriginal groups have expressed their anger at Ottawa, which has claimed publicly to support the advancement of indigenous rights at the UN, while in fact actively opposing the document. (Inter Press Service)

African Governments 'Block' Indigenous Rights Declaration, Charge Advocates (July 3, 2007)

This article reports on how Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria and Namibia are leading a campaign to weaken the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Supported by several powerful governments with large indigenous populations, including Canada, the US, Russia and Australia, these countries have made a counter-draft to the UN General Assembly with numerous changes weakening the position of indigenous groups. One result of this process has been the suspension of a key UN working group on indigenous rights. (Advocacy Project)

How Chavez Changed Life in the Tribal Territories (July 2007)

According to a 2001 census, Venezuela comprises 35 different indigenous tribes, which make up 2.1 percent of the population. Until the 1990s, they suffered exclusion and discrimination. But when President Hugo Chavez gained power in 1998, he gave political representation to indigenous groups producing a constitution that takes their needs and land ownership rights into account. This Le Monde diplomatique article argues that although change is slow, Chavez initiated many positive changes in the lives of indigenous people.

Bolivia: Not Another 500 Years of Marginalization, Say Indigenous Leaders. (June 13, 2007)

Bolivia is a country marked by cultural and ideological differences. This Inter Press Service article describes how indigenous people comprise more than 60 percent of Bolivia's population, but have historically been marginalized. After the election of Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous president, Bolivia elected a constituent assembly and gave it one year to change the constitution with the aim of increasing the rights of indigenous people. But, the assembly faces obstacles from right wing parties and has only two months left before the deadline.

Too Little, Too Late for Lost Generation Aborigines (June 13, 2007)

This Inter Press Service article argues that the situation of indigenous Australians, many of whom were removed as children from their families and communities and placed in orphanages, remains critical today. The Australian government has not apologized and has done very little to assist people of the "Stolen Generation." There is a great difference in health and life expectancy between the indigenous and non-indigenous populations.

Indigenous Peoples' Rights Ignored Again (April 10, 2007)

This Inter Press Service article highlights the failure of governments to ratify the Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, proposed by the International Labor Organization in 1989. To date only 18 countries have ratified the treaty, the majority of which are in Latin America, while the German Parliament in April 2007 voted to oppose ratification.

'Indigenous' People Fight for Inclusion (April 2007)

The Botswanan High Court rules that the government's decision in 2002 to evict the San - an indigenous group from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve - is illegal. The outcome brings up questions regarding the definition of "indigenous peoples" and the extent of their rights under international law. The UN estimates that there are about 370 million indigenous people in the world, some of whom are among the most marginalized in economic, social and cultural terms. Despite the politically and economically motivated rejection of the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Africa Renewal highlights some examples of progress in African countries in recognizing indigenous peoples' rights.

Towards a Hemispheric Agenda and Coordination of Indigenous Peoples (March 23, 2007)

This interview with Humberto Cholango, leader of the Andean Coordination of Indigenous Organizations and of ECUARUNARI, discusses the increasing coordination among Latin American indigenous organizations. Cholango argues that the 3rd Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala - held in March 2007 - will give the indigenous movement the chance to create its own political agenda centered around greater sovereignty and a retrieval of lost territories. (Latin America in Movement)

In Bolivia, Speaking Up for Native Languages (January 30, 2007)

In an effort to "decolonize the mindset and the Bolivian state," the government is funding a program to teach young people indigenous languages - many of which are still spoken in rural areas. Bolivia's indigenous President Evo Morales has introduced other similar plans, but people living in largely non-indigenous areas have been resistant, fearing such policies would threaten their way of life. (Washington Post)



Aborigines Reclaim Ownership of Tribal Homeland (January 3, 2006)

An Australian aboriginal tribe - the Githabul - won "native title" rights to large parcels of ancestral land in the state of New South Wales. Native title rights do not give the aborigines exclusive ownership, but recognizes their right to shared access - ensuring that they will not be prosecuted for engaging in traditional acts such as hunting. This Independent article argues that the ruling is a major victory for the Australian aboriginal population as they have routinely been subject to discrimination by the Australian government.

Kalahari Bushmen Win Land Battle (December 13, 2006)

Botswana's high court ruled that the government "illegally removed" the Kalahari Bushmen - a group indigenous to the Kalahari Desert - from their traditional lands should allow them to return. Human rights organizations have considered the case a milestone in "establishing the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples" and UK lobby group Survival International claimed that the victory represented a win for "indigenous peoples everywhere in Africa." (Guardian)

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (August 14, 2006)

The adoption on June 29, 2006 by the United Nations Human Rights Council of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples concluded 20 years of work. The Declaration does not define indigenous peoples, instead stating that "Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions." It focuses on forms of participation and involvement of indigenous people in civil society and the life of the state that also maintain their separate and independent ethnic identity. (American Society of International Law Insights)

Indigenous People Fight for Their Rights (February 3, 2006)

In Brazil, wealthy landlords and the country's 400,000 indigenous people have clashed over land ownership issues, and in numerous cases disputes have ended violently. Indigenous groups generally lack the rights and representation of their fellow citizens and the Brazilian government has been slow to protect their land. Though land reform remains an issue, indigenous groups have become a more organized "political force" and have secured greater access to education and health. (Inter Press Service)

Archived Articles

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