Indian Law Resource Center/NCAI to Host Lunch on Human Rights Violations Against South American Indians

More than 1,244 indigenous people have been assassinated in Colombia in the past five years.  This persecution is not unique to Colombia.  It is part of an alarming trend of human rights violations against indigenous peoples in South America.  Indigenous rights to life, land, equality, natural resources, self-determination, and religious freedom are under attack.  A strong American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will help prevent human rights violations in the Americas.

The Indian Law Resource Center and NCAI will host a brown bag lunch highlighting these human rights abuses:

March 19, 2009, 1:00-2:30pm

NCAI Conference Room

1301 Connecticut Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20036

For more information, see the Center’s website,

Bolivians Vote for Constitutional Rights for Indigenous Peoples

From the NYTs:

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivian voters embraced a new constitution Sunday that promises more power for the long-suffering indigenous majority and grants leftist President Evo Morales a shot at remaining in office through 2014.

The charter passed easily in a country where many can still recall when Indians were forbidden to vote. But its sometimes vague wording and resistance from Bolivia’s mestizo and European-descended minority foreshadows more political turmoil in an Andean nation polarized by race and class.

Morales, Bolivia’s first Indian president, says the charter will ”decolonize” South America’s poorest country by recovering indigenous values lost under centuries of oppression dating back to the Spanish conquest.

Bolivia’s Aymara, Quechua, Guarani and dozens of other indigenous groups only won the right to vote in 1952, when a revolution broke up the large haciendas on which they had lived as peons for generations.

Continue reading

John Cross on Indigenous Property Rights

John Cross has posted “Justifying Property Rights in Native American Traditional Knowledge” on SSRN, a paper coming out of the Texas Wesleyan symposium on Intellectual Property and Indigenous Peoples. Here is the abstract:

This paper explores various reasons why Congress might elect to protect the traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression of Indian tribes. It also addresses whether Congress would have the constitutional authority to enact such legislation.

Patrick Macklem on Indigenous Recognition in International Law

Patrick Macklem has posted his paper, “Indigenous Recognition in International Law: Theoretical Observations,” published in the Michigan Journal of International Law. Here is the abstract:

Drawing on a classic essay by Hans Kelsen, this Article addresses the status of indigenous peoples in international law. It argues that the criteria for determining the legal existence of indigenous peoples in international law are a function of the nature and purpose of international indigenous rights. The twentieth century legal history of international indigenous rights, from their origins in international protection of indigenous workers in colonies to their contemporary expression in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, demonstrates that their purpose is to mitigate injustices produced by how the international legal order treats sovereignty as a legal entitlement that it distributes among collectivities it recognizes as states. The criteria by which indigenous peoples can be said to exist in international law relate to their historic exclusion from the distribution of sovereignty initiated by colonization that lies at the heart of the international legal order.

Bolivian President Evo Morales Marching for Indigenous Rights

From the NYTs:

President Evo Morales led more than 100,000 supporters on a march into the Bolivian capital, La Paz, to demand that Congress call a nationwide vote on a new constitution empowering the country’s long-oppressed indigenous majority.

Jackie Hand on Climate Change Threat to American Indians

Jacqueline Hand has published “Global Climate Change: A Serious Threat to Native American Lands and Culture” in the Environmental Law Reporter. Here is the abstract:

During the past decade, public perception of global climate change has transformed from a gloom and doom scenario not to be taken seriously to a nearly universally recognized peril to the planet. Native Americans, especially those in the Arctic region, experience changes in climate with greater immediacy than the general population, and this disproportionate result is expected to become more severe as the effects of climate change escalate. This Article will explore the nature of the impact of climate change on Native Americans, the importance of including traditional tribal knowledge and expertise in understanding the crisis and developing adaptive mechanisms, and the responses by individual tribes as well as by indigenous people as a whole.

Call for Papers: Indigenous Intellectual Property



Texas Wesleyan University School of Law

Friday, October 10, 2008

Texas Wesleyan University School of Law is pleased to host a symposium on the topic of Intellectual Property and Indigenous Peoples, on Friday, October 10, 2008. The purpose of this symposium is to examine intellectual property concepts – copyrights, trademark rights, patent rights, and trade secrets – as applied to the cultural heritage, art, and artifact of indigenous peoples.

Continue reading

Rebecca Tsosie on Environmental Justice

Rebecca Tsosie has published “Indigenous People and Environmental Justice: The Impact of Climate Change” with the University of Colorado Law Review. Here is the abstract:

The international dialogue on climate change is currently focused on a strategy of adaptation that includes the projected removal of entire communities, if necessary. Not surprisingly, many of the geographical regions that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are also the traditional lands of indigenous communities. This article takes the position that the adaptation strategy will prove genocidal for many groups of indigenous people, and instead argues for recognition of an indigenous right to environmental self-determination, which would allow indigenous peoples to maintain their cultural and political status upon their traditional lands. In the context of climate change policy, such a right would impose affirmative requirements on nation-states to engage in a mitigation strategy in order to avoid catastrophic harm to indigenous peoples. This article argues for a new conception of rights to address the unique harms of climate change. An indigenous right to environmental self-determination would be based on human rights norms in recognition that ‘sovereignty claims‘ by indigenous groups are not a sufficient basis to protect traditional ways of life and the rich and unique cultural norms of such groups. Similarly, tort-based theories of compensation for the harms of climate change have only limited capacity to address the concerns of indigenous peoples.

Inter-American Commission Hears Concerns over Indigenous Property Rights in Guatemala

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At Monday’s hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, representatives from the Indian Law Resource Center, Defensoria Q’eqchi’, and Maya communities told commissioners that establishing environmental protection areas in Guatemala without indigenous involvement violates human rights and environmental norms.



Plans to create the Sierra Santa Cruz protected area raised concerns that indigenous lands would be managed and controlled by a private institution on behalf of the Guatemalan government. The proposed project is one of many that seek to gain control of the land and resources which indigenous peoples have traditionally used and occupied in Guatemala.


At the hearing, Leonardo Crippa and William David, attorneys for the Indian Law Resource Center, were joined by four representatives of the Defensoría Q’eqchi’ – Arnoldo Yat Coc, Maria Santos Ax Tiul, Carlos Antonio Pop Ac, Alfredo Cacao Ical – and an indigenous leader, Elias Israel Pop Cucul, who represents 43 indigenous communities affected by the proposed protected area.

Continue reading