THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND THEIR RIGHTS
The UN defines indigenous populations as comprising the descendants of peoples who inhabited the present territory of a country at the time when persons of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived there from other parts of the world and overcame them. Indigenous people today live more in conformity with their particular social, economic, and cultural customs and traditions than the institutions of the country of which they now form a part.
- Indigenous people occupy areas in Central and South America, Africa, India (where they are known as Tribals) and Southeast Asia.
- They appeal to governments to come to terms with the continuing existence of indigenous nations as enduring communities with an identity of their own. The loss of land, which also means the loss of an economic resource base, is the most obvious threat to the survival of indigenous people.
- In India, the description ‘indigenous people’ is usually applied to the Scheduled Tribes who constitute nearly eight per cent of the population of the country. With the exception of small communities of hunters and gatherers, most indigenous populations in India depend for their subsistence primarily on the cultivation of land.
- Issues related to the rights of the indigenous communities have been neglected in domestic and international politics for very long. During the 1970s, growing international contacts among indigenous leaders from around the world aroused a sense of common concern and shared experiences.
- The World Council of Indigenous Peoples was for med in 1975. The Council became subsequently the first of 11 indigenous NGOs to receive consultative status in the UN.