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Called Tribal Peoples, First Peoples, Native Peoples, Indigenous Peoples constitute about 5% of the world’s population, yet account for about 15% of the world’s poor


In this lesson we will consider the claims made by groups on human rights. We will consider, as a case study, the claim on human rights made by indigenous groups around the world. First of all, let's clarify some definitions. To start with, what do we mean by indigenous peoples? Well, to make it dificult, there is no accepted definition but we can use this definitions from the Cultural Survival NGO as our starting point:
There is no universally accepted definition for “Indigenous,” though there are characteristics that tend to be common among Indigenous Peoples:
  • They tend to have small populations relative to the dominant culture of their country. However, in Bolivia and Guatemala Indigenous people make up more than half the population.
  • They usually have (or had) their own language. Today, Indigenous people speak some 4,000 languages.
  • They have distinctive cultural traditions that are still practiced.
  • They have (or had) their own land and territory, to which they are tied in myriad ways.
  • They self-identify as Indigenous.
  • Examples of Indigenous Peoples include the Inuit of the Arctic, Native Americans, hunter-gatherers in the Amazon, traditional pastoralists like the Maasai in East Africa, and tribal peoples in the Philippines.

Read the article on recognizing indigenous rights by Ellen Lutz, Executive Director of the Cultural Survival NGO. You can access the online version here or read the pdf here. The article is not the shortest article in the world but it is really very clear and excellent for summarising the issues. Remember, if there is something you don't quite understand then please just ask.
Whilst reading the article, you may wish to bear the following prompt questions in mind as they will be useful in helping you in structuring your reading for a purpose.
  • Indigenous advocates have pointed out that the whole debate is over the letter 's'. What do they mean by this? Think about the difference between people and peoples
  • What are the 5 rights sought by indigenous peoples according to the article?
  • What difficultulties are there in defining the term 'indigenous peoples'

The article discusses the need for the UN to adopt a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as this does not currently exist. It alos points out, tellingly, that no other group -women, children, refugess, disabled people, victims of disappearance - has had to wait so long. As a whole class, your challenge is to draft a 10 article Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. You need to produce ONE declaration between you so this will require you to break out your teamwork skills. You have 20 minutes only so you would be well advised to consider appointing a time-keeper.

You may find the following video (approx. 7 mins) interesting as it gives a little background on the work carriedl out by Cultural Survival