GoJIL Vol. 5, No. 1 (2013)
Protection and Realization of Indigenous Peoples' Land Rights at the National and International Level
Today, it is generally recognized that the relationship to land forms the basis of an indigenous people’s identity, and that indigenous peoples’ cultures cannot be preserved without a certain degree of control over land and natural resources. In the course of colonization, however, indigenous peoples lost ownership and control over most of their ancestral lands, and from the end of the 19th century onwards the existence of inherent indigenous land rights, i.e. rights not derived from the colonial powers but rooted solely in the use and ownership of the land by indigenous peoples since time immemorial, had been completely denied. This began to change in the 1960s. Due to increased pressure by national courts and international institutions, state governments started to recognize the continued existence of inherent indigenous land rights and to develop different policies to protect them. This paper looks at how indigenous peoples’ land rights are nowadays recognized and protected in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and whether the different national approaches are in accordance with international legal standards. It will be shown that none of the States subject to this study acts completely in accordance with its obligations under international law, but that nevertheless all States have some strong points regarding the realization and protection of indigenous land rights and can learn from each other’s experiences.
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