Indigenous Sovereignty: A Reassessment in Light of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


This Article explores the concept of "indigenous sovereignty" against the backdrop of the resurgence of indigenous peoples as actors in international and domestic law and policy. The Author starts with the traditional Western notion of sovereignty and its dynamization via the principle of self-determination, cabined by the exclusionary concepts of terra nullius and uti possidetis. The next Part delineates the global indigenous renascence occurring since the 1970s and the resulting state practice that has led to treaties and to the development of customary international law in the field. The Article proceeds to analyze the scope and legal effect of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It lays out various understandings of indigenous self-government under the rubric of self-determination; and ultimately, based on an assessment of the authentic aspirations of indigenous peoples, their "inner worlds," it suggests a functional redefinition of the legal scope and the limits of indigenous sovereignty.

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