Reality Check: Rights of Indigenous People


The core of our identification rests within the city, town, country, or region we are from. This place holds information about our background, struggles, culture, traditions, and ways of life. It is merely the birthplace of our ideals and morals and there is sacredness in it as it is a part of us. To have this sacredness ripped away creates the most horrendous consequence; the absence of a home. Today, Indigenous people are still facing tribulations that include the stripping of land, culture, and tradition from their identity thus, forcing an entire population to start over. Even worse, some balance on the threshold of extinction depending on the cruelty of the situation.


What does it mean to be Indigenous?

According to the United Nations the following describes the indigenous populations:

·      “Self- identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.

·      Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies

·      Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources

·      Distinct social, economic or political systems

·      Distinct language, culture and beliefs

·      Form non-dominant groups of society

·      Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.”


What types of situations have been carried out against Indigenous people?     

Generally atrocities against the Indigenous people occur systematically and in effort to drive out or destroy the current population. Thus, enabling a new government and population to take over. This may occur with the intention to take over natural resources, expand in terms of land, or revenge. These atrocities can also hover the line of genocide as well as cross it.  Examples range from the Pilgrims taking America from Native Americans to European Colonies colonizing African or Asian countries as well as any form of genocide or near genocide. Colonization is the prime example of pushing out a population for selfish reasons. The new government tends to put the needs of Indigenous people at the bottom of the list in efforts to get rid of them. Therefore, rights need to be established.

Colonization is not always the root of the problem. Political unrest, the creation of a new government, a new political leader, religious reasons, or any type of dispute can truly contribute to the denial of human rights to Indigenous people. An example of this is the Bangladesh genocide. Tensions between East Pakistan and West Pakistan were on the rise in 1971 and “In an attempt to crush forces seeking independence for East Pakistan, the West Pakistani military regime unleashed a systematic campaign of mass murder which aimed at killing millions of Bengalis, and likely succeeded in doing so.” The only viable option for West Pakistan was to obliterate everything about East Pakistan in order to move forward with a stable and obedient government. It has been reported that soldiers “were told to kill the Hindus and Kafirs (non-believer in God). One day in June, we cordoned a village and were ordered to kill the Kafirs in that area. We found all the village women reciting from the Holy Quran, and the men holding special congregational prayers seeking God’s mercy. But they were unlucky. Our commanding officer ordered us not to waste any time.” The West Pakistanis took away all that was special and sacred to those indigenous to East Pakistan.


What has been done to correct the issue?

In 2007, the United Nations created a resolution for rights of Indigenous people in which 147 nations adopted. Part of the resolution instructs nations that, “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return. “ However, major nations such as Australia, the United States, and Canada voted against the resolution. This is a step backwards as each of these nations has a past of wronging their own Indigenous people. This merely shows that although the world is taking strides to correct its wrongs others will bite their tongues in order to keep from cleaning up their mess. Although there is still a lot of work to continue moving forward, the resolution is a step in the right direction.


**Disclaimer: Although factual information is represented, any analysis is not factual.