Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their own cultural identity, their spirituality

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their own cultural identity, their spirituality; their language and way of life- illustrate and explain.


It bears repeating that the process of colonization has left so-called indigenous peoples defeated, relegated to minor spaces, reservations, bread crumbs of land conceded by the dominant society. Deprived of traditional environments, they were not only politically, but economically, culturally; they are a group of people whose members share a cultural identity has been shaped by its geography. In the late twentieth century, the term refers to a political term, indigenous peoples and ethnic groups with historic ties to groups that have formed in the region before colonization and the formation of national states. The term defines these groups as particularly vulnerable to exploitation and oppression by nation states, and as a result a special set of political rights in accordance with international law have been set forth by international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Labor Organization and the World Bank. Different states designate the groups within their boundaries that are recognized as indigenous peoples according to international legislation by different terms. These include, for example “Native Americans” and “Pacific Islander” in the United States; “Aboriginals (Inuit”, “Métis” and “First Nations)” in Canada.


Contrary to widely held expectations, they and their cultures have survived and are making their presence known in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia, the Pacific, and even on the launching pad of colonization, the continent of Europe.

2.1 The United States of America

This United States rationale leaves Indian tribes at the mercy of the federal government, which has exercised its discretion swinging wildly from extreme to extreme. Accordingly, they were recognized implicitly as the so-called “subjects of international law” and the solemn treaties, particularly the friendship and commerce, were concluded with them, and ratified by the Senate on the constitutional process.

2.2 Canada

A Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized Indian territorial rights as “pre-existing rights. In the early 1980s, important indigenous rights were protected at the level of the Canadian Constitution. In addition, section 35 states, in relevant part:

(1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(2) In this Act, “aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Metis people of Canada.

2.3 New Zealand

In New Zealand, the traditional view is that the indigenous people, the Maori, had no legally recognizable rights to their lands and fisheries after the British annexation; Maori property rights, if any, existed “at the sufferance” of the Crown. Still, in 1840, the British Crown, through Captain Hobson, and the “confederated and independent chiefs of New Zealand” signed the Treaty of Waitangi.

2.4 Australia

In contrast to the United States, Canada and New Zealand, Australia has not come into contracts with its indigenous peoples. Aboriginal lands were acquired on the basis of an enlarged terra nullius doctrine, maintaining that the acquisition of New South Wales and other areas of Australia since the first settlement in 1788 were undertaken by occupation, by the very act of British subjects’ taking possession of the territories in the name of the Crown. In its recasting of the common law, emboldened by the 1986 Australia Act, the Court squarely relies on the inspiration of international law, in particular, the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its prohibition of unjust discrimination.

2.5 Brazil

Brazil’s policies regarding the role and functions of tribal communities have set important trends for Latin America. Indians, most of them inhabitants of the tropical rainforest of the Amazon, numbered 1.1 million at the time of conquest. In Brazil, Indians do not enjoy any “inherent right” of “self-government.” They are considered to be “relatively incapacitated,” legally minor under the guardianship of the Brazilian state, and subject to a special regime of tutelage.

2.6 Other Areas of the World

The phenomenon of indigenous renascence is not limited to the Western hemisphere. Far too little is known of the indigenous groups in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and even Europe. Asia has its own share of resurgent original inhabitants, in areas ranging from Siberia to China, to the Philippines and Indonesia, to name a few. Even in Japan, a country perceiving itself as monoethnic for a long time, a court has just recognized the Ainu as an indigenous minority group with special rights. In contrast, the Anthropological Survey of India recently recorded 4835 indigenous communities’ scattered over thirty-two states and Union Territories. Fiji, in particular, presents the example of a state in which the indigenous people, originally a strong minority, now a slight demographic majority, have been guaranteed, after the coup of May 14, 1987, pre-eminent political power.

2.7 Bangladesh

“The term Adivasis (see India for etymology), is not confined to any particular geographical or political boundaries but is generally used in the Indian subcontinent to denote indigenous peoples. Like India, Bangladesh has its Adivasis, though their proportion in the population is much smaller, perhaps 1.5 per cent”. Until very recently, the majority of the population in the CHT have been tribal people that since British times, have been identified in three circles (i) the Chakma circle consists of most of Rangamati district and one or two Thana in Khagrachari (ii) the Bomong circle includes all of Bandarban and one Thana in Rangamati (iii) the Mong Circle includes the balance of the Khagrachari district.


Surprisingly perhaps, international law has found little reflection or recognition in the domestic decision-making processes regarding indigenous communities.

3.1 Treaty Law

March broken treaties, to take the wording of torture Vine Deloria, Jr., is a historical fact in its brutality and lack of respect for the Trail of tears and other acts of genocide to listen to his son and daughter of the sun atak.

3.2 Customary International Law

3.2.1 The Need for Specific Prescription

Traditional international law, in its positivist frame, permitted only nation-states to act and hold legal rights and duties.

3.2.2 The Role of the International Labor Organization (ILO)

Interestingly, it was a specialized agency of the United Nations; the International Labor Organization (ILO) that first addressed indigenous concerns. Its first attempt, however, launched in 1957, proved to be guided by highly questionable policy goals

3.2.3. The Role of the United Nations

In 1982, responding partly to increasing international cooperation between indigenous peoples, through non-governmental organizations such as the World Council of Indigenous Peoples and the International Indian Treaty Council, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) established a “working group” charged with the task of drafting a universal declaration on the rights of indigenous populations

3.2.4 The Role of World Bank

The World Bank is becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of funded projects for the development of indigenous and tribal peoples. In February 1982, a policy brief describes the operational procedures to protect the rights of “indigenous peoples”.


The principal policy document that set outs the Government’s strategy for redressing past social injustices, creating productive economic conditions and establishing a tribally responsive administration in the Hill Tracts, is the 1997 Peace Accord. The main features of the agreement are

(i) The re-establishment in Bangladesh of tribal refugees, who had fled to Tripura State in India during the insurgency war,

(ii) The restructuring of the local government agencies to allow for an equal representation of the indigenous people,

(iii) The creation of a Regional Council which includes circle chiefs in its membership, and gives the Council overall responsibility for development in the area,

(iv) the revision of the composition of the three Hill Tract Districts Councils which provide for a stronger representation of tribals and women and extends the authority of District Councils to cover land and land management, local police and tribal law and social justice,

(v) Extension of the revenue base of the District Councils and an increase their development funds and

(vi) The creation of a Land Commission to resolve the disputed land titles which in part led to the civil unrest.

(vii) The establishment of a Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tract Affairs

Among the laws passed in accordance with the CHT ‘Peace’ Accord of 1997 are the CHT Regional Council Act (1998) and the Hill District Council (Amendment) Acts (1998) in respect of Bandarban, Khagrachari and Rangamati, respectively. Two further acts which specifically recognize the laws, customs and practices/usages of the CHT are the CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act (2001) and the CHT Regulation (Amendment) Act (2003). In a landmark judgment regarding succession to the position of Circle Chief, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court declared that both the GoB and the Supreme Court should refrain from interfering with tribal customary law and respect the ‘susceptibilities’ of the tribal people (Mustafa J. in Aung Shwe Prue Chowdhury vs. Kyaw Sain Prue Chowdhury and Others (Civil Appeal No. 8 of 1997), Supreme Court of Bangladesh (Appellate Division), 50 DLR (AD) 1998, pp. 73-80 at p. 80 (see also, BLD, 1998 (Vol. XVIII), p. 41.).


Indigenous peoples around the world have come a long way to go. We hope that they just disappear, assimilate and blend in, disappear into the mainstream, or defeat the strudel, “modern” society. First Nations have found their rhythm again, and they grew up to become major players in this “postmodern” social process. Affected by the widespread practice of states, in particular, the problems of the effort to secure the necessary opinion of international standards for the identification of specific rules of customary international law of indigenous peoples. They refer to the following areas:

First, indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their own cultural identity, their spirituality, their language and way of life. Second, they retain the right to political, economic and social development, balance between the rights, interests and needs. Another problem concerns the relationship between Aboriginal groups and its individual members. It seems in line with modern concepts of human rights of individual members of indigenous communities the choice of group membership, allowing them their own traditions, live their lives or to leave and “modern” society to join. All of these issues and their resolution are extremely context-sensitive. Our common goal of constructing a public order of human dignity requires a responsible response to the value aspirations and claims of indigenous peoples as well as to conflicting claims. Social Darwinism cannot be the answer.


1. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2011, October 13). Retrieved October 16, 2011, from

2. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2011, October 13). Retrieved October 16, 2011, from

3. Terminology of First Nations, Native, Aboriginal and Metis (NAHO Glossary & Terms),P1-3. Retrieved October 10, 2011, from

4. Arlene, H. (1993), The Native American Almanac, NY: Wiley

5. Bradford W.(1989)‘ Aboriginal Peoples and the Law: Indian, Metis and Inuit Rights in Canada’ Morse (ed.)

6. Brian S, The Constitutional Guarantee of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, 8 Queen’s L.J. 232 (1982–83).Retrieved on October 10, 2011from

7. David W. (1987), Aboriginal Rights in Aotearoa (New Zealand)

8. Claudine O.(1987), The Treaty of Waitangi, NZ:NZPCC

9. Attorney-General v. Brown, (1847) 1 Legge 312, at 316–18

10. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, reprinted in 6 I.L.M. 368 (1967)

11. L. Roberto Barroso, The Saga of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil: Constitution, Law and Policies, 7 St. Thomas L. Rev. 645, 648 (1995)

12. “So-Called Development” and Its Impact on the Human Rights of Indigenous People in India, in Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples 109 (Cynthia Price Cohen ed., 1998).

13. Nehla Basawaiya, Status of Indigenous Rights in Fiji, 10 St. Thomas L. Rev. 197 (1997).

14. Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – Bangladesh : Adivasis, 2008, Retrieved October 16, 2011 from

15. Indigenous Peoples Development Planning Document, Indigenous Peoples Development Plan, Document Stage: Final, Project Number: 32467 Retrieved October 16, 2011 from

16. “As Long as Water Flows, or Grass Grows Upon the Earth”-How Long a Time Is That?, 63 Cal. L. Rev. 601, 610 (1975).

17. International Labor Organization Convention (No. 107) Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, entered into force June 2, 1959, 328 U.N.T.S. 247.

18. Douglas Sanders, The Legend of Deskaheh: Indigenous Peoples as International Actors, in Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples 73 (Cynthia Price Cohen ed., 1998).

19. The World Bank and Indigenous Peoples, Retrieved on October 16, 2011 from…860066fc9e418525668f00680803?OpenDocument

20. Indigenous Peoples Development Planning Document, Indigenous Peoples Development Plan, Document Stage: Final, Project Number: 32467 Retrieved October 16, 2011 from