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INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

“We have a mother, and that mother is our territories, our common home of all the Indigenous peoples and everyone who inhabits this earth”

Maximiliano Ferrer

Indigenous peoples live on all continents ranging from the Arctic to the Pacific via Asia, Africa and the Americas (OHCHR, 2020). And, according to the United Nations (2021), Indigenous peoples are the inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are uniquely different from those of the dominant society in which they live. Yet despite their cultural differences, Indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems and obstacles in the protection of their rights as distinct peoples. As a result, Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years.

 

Throughout history, however, their rights have always been violated. Today, Indigenous peoples are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. In response, the international community is tentatively recognising that special measures are required to protect Indigenous rights and maintain distinct cultures and ways of life.  By way of reinforcement, (In)Justice International is intent on revealing and disseminating the extent and manifestation of the traumatic obstacles that Indigenous people had, and still have, to face and overcome.  Nevertheless, such neoliberal-endorsed/inspired acts of travesty against Indigenous groups (see 'Neoliberal Greed' and 'The Environment') have emanated from illegal deforestation, land clearances, mining and the desecration of sacred sites (as in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Brazil), the confiscation of lands either by deception or force (in the US and New Zealand) and the inculcation of ‘white’ norms and values of the dominant ‘social’ configurations of the 'civilised' Western (Minority) World (epitomised by the Residential Schools in Canada, 1880s-1996 and Missions in Australia 1820-1987). 

 

Despairingly, such practices still continue in a relatively unabated manner and, in the midst of all this violation, Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable. So too are Indigenous youth who are disproportionately impacted by a lack of access to education, employment opportunities, decision making processes and, above all, access to justice. Indeed, the semi-autonomous status and/or social exclusion of Indigenous communities has led to inadequate mechanisms to address gender-based violence, which tends to be higher than national averages in many countries, whereas Indigenous youths are significantly overrepresented in judicial sentencing statistics.

To reiterate, Indigenous peoples continue to face threats, especially to their land rights as a consequence of natural resource extraction, infrastructure projects, large scale agricultural expansion and conservation orders. In some instances, there is a heightened risk of statelessness, particularly for those Indigenous peoples whose traditional lands cross national borders. As a result, millions of Indigenous peoples have been displaced, attacked, killed and criminalised (OHCHR, 2020).  Typically, these venomous acts against Indigenous groups go unpunished: hence the aforementioned need for (In)Justice International (and our partners Minority Rights Group International) to bring these atrocities to the fore in an attempt to condemn and prosecute the perpetrators. For more videos relating to the plight of Indigenous peoples globally click here.