Publication of the week: Dr Sarah Sargent31 May 2017
Sargent, S., “Rights and reparation: An assessment of the UNDRIP’s contribution to American Indian land claims”, in S. Sargent & J. Samanta (eds), Indigenous Rights: Changes and Challenges for the 21st Century (Buckingham: University of Buckingham Press, 2017), pp.88-115. ISBN: 978-1-908684-16-5.
Over 25 years in the making, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is described by the UN as setting “an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples that will undoubtedly be a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations against the planet’s 370 million indigenous people and assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalisation.” The concerns and sticking points were consistently over some key provisions of the Declaration, such as indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and the control over natural resources existing on indigenous peoples’ traditional lands. The four member states that voted against were Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – though all four have since moved to endorse the Declaration.
This chapter considers the effectiveness of the UNDRIP on resolving long-standing land claims by American Indians. The UNDRIP took over 20 years to draft and bring to the United Nations General Assembly for an approval vote. The land claims by American Indians pre-date the UNDRIP in many instances. The chapter focuses on land claims by the Western Shoshone peoples, and traces the efforts to resolve the dispute in other domestic and international arenas, before considering the contribution the UNDRIP might make in resolution. The chapter concludes that the UNDRIP is in some ways an opportunity lost for redressing land claims, and that much remains to be done in finding satisfactory resolutions at the international level.
Dr Sarah Sargent is the stream convener (since 2009) for the indigenous and minority rights stream for the annual SLSA conference. Her ongoing research interests focus on issues of culture and cultural heritage, as well as legal theory, and the rights of indigenous peoples.