[Book] International Law and Indigenous Peoples

We witnessed a modest amplification of community-oriented 
rights in the body of international norms in the last decades 
of the twentieth century, reflecting a sharper understanding 
of the importance of community in the construction of personal 
and social identity, and of community membership as a focus for 
oppression. Indigenous peoples claim recognition as distinctive 
human groups with a right to take their own decisions in matters 
affecting them, and resist the depredations of others. 

An important tendency of indigenous politics has been to search 
for adaptations of human rights principles that relate to their 
circumstances – reflected in their interventions into ongoing 
deliberations towards a UN Declaration, and an American Declaration, 
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While a considerable amount 
has been achieved in the elaboration of instruments specifically 
dealing with indigenous rights, what is sometimes characterized 
as a form of human rights ‘exceptionalism’ for these groups remains 

Whatever recognition they have achieved thus far, a swing of the 
pendulum against the recognition or welcoming of difference is 
always possible, particularly in times of felt scarcity,globalizing 
pressures and the ‘securitization’ of politics and law. Indigenous 
peoples are ideal-type endogamous groups: self-defining, rooted 
historically, eco-religious, and self-organized – though the groups 
are also, as with all human groups, in part the product of interaction 
with others, and of non-ideal categorization by racial supremacists, 
colonists and the like.

                                                - Patrick Thornberry

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