Rights and Status of Indigenous Peoples: A Global Comparative and International Legal Analysis

Document Type


Publication Title

Harvard Human Rights Journal


Wounded Knee, the Trail of Tears, the Siege of Cusco'-these words, vessels of meaning, capture only a tiny fragment of the history of suffering, actual and cultural genocide, conquest, penetration, and marginalization endured by indigenous peoples around the world. The focus of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People is to honor the memory of the victims, but also to celebrate the survivors and their values. The global community recognition implied in this dedication testifies to the success of indigenous peoples' refusal to accept the alternatives of dying or living the lives of the conquerors. The Indian way of life has not merely survived; it is back as the foundation of a strong identity6 which has forced itself to the top of the international agenda. Its values could be, and increasingly are, sought after models7 for a world drifting slowly, but seemingly inexorably, into alienation. Beyond the cultural sphere, indigenous peoples have reentered the arena of power. Under the battle cries of human rights and self-determination, they have become recognized actors in the world constitutive process. This Article is designed to review the legacy of conquest in various arenas around the planet, and to arrive at a transnationally valid conclusion, if possible, on the status of indigenous peoples under domestic law (Part I); to describe the actors and trends in decision-making in international indigenous law (Part II); and to appraise these developments with particular focus on the issues of conceptualization of indigenous peoples, their claims to self -determination, unique collective rights, as well as innovative avenues of enforcement (Part III).

First Page


Last Page


Publication Date