Indigenous Rights

Indigenous peoples the world over suffer the impacts of the over-consumption of resources by the world's industrialized countries.  Global Justice Ecology Project works in partnership and solidarity with indigenous peoples internationally to support their efforts for autonomy and self-determination.

The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Overview


"Despite some progress over the last decade, indigenous peoples around the world continue to live in hardship and danger due to the failure of states to uphold their fundamental human rights.

Indigenous peoples are being uprooted from their lands and communities as a consequence of discriminatory government policies, the impact of armed conflicts, and the actions of private economic interests.

Cut off from resources and traditions vital to their welfare and survival, many indigenous peoples are unable to fully enjoy such human rights as the right to food, the right to health, the right to housing, or cultural rights. Instead they face marginalisation, poverty, disease and violence - in some instances extinction as a people.

With the disruption of traditional ways of life, indigenous women may face particular challenges, losing status in their own society or finding that frustration and strife in the community is mirrored by violence in the household. For the growing numbers of indigenous women who have migrated to urban settings or who live on land with a heavy military presence, racial and sexual discrimination in the larger society may lead to a heightened risk of violence and unequal access to the protection of the justice system."

--- from Amnesty International

Statement on Indigenous Rights from the Indigenous Environmental Network:

"Indigenous peoples in Canada, the United States and throughout the Americas hold valuable land and water resources that have long been exploited by the provincial, state and federal governments and by corporations trying to meet the energy needs of an industrialized world. Indigenous peoples have disproportionately suffered impacts due to the production and use of energy resources - coal mining, uranium mining, oil and gas extraction, coal bed methane, nuclear power and hydropower development - yet are among those who benefit least from these energy developments. Indigenous peoples face inequity over the control of, and access to, sustainable energy and energy services. Territories where Indigenous peoples live are resource rich and serve as the base from which governments and corporations extract wealth yet are areas where the most severe form of poverty exists."

The destruction of the world's remaining native forests and related ecosystems threatens the existence of forest-dependent and indigenous peoples around the globe.

Indigenous and rural communities rely on native forests for water, food, medicines, shelter, livelihoods and culture. 

Indigenous communities all over the world have been forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands to make room for dam mega-projects, mining operations, oil extraction, plantations, logging operations, bio-prospecting, and other forms of land, resource and cultural theft.

The Link to Forests:  Demand for wood-based products and other resources comes from the Industrialized North, but it is predominately the Global South that is paying the price. 

The new focus on wood as a future source of biofuel (cellulosic ethanol) is becoming the newest great threat to the world's forests and indigenous peoples.  The existing demand for wood-based products is already causing massive deforestation around the world.  Creating a huge new demand for wood to produce ethanol will exponentially increase this global deforestation.  The world's forest-dependent peoples will pay the highest price for the gluttonous consumption of the North.  The SUVs of the United States will be fueled with blood.

Existing plantations of trees and future plantations of genetically engineered (GE) trees also threaten native forests and indigenous communities.  Contamination of native forests with GE tree pollen or seeds will upset the ecological balance of forests leading to wide ranging impacts.  Some studies suggest that pollen from certain GE trees may be toxic to people who inhale it. 

Additional studies have found that eucalyptus trees can host a deadly pathogenic fungus: Cryptococcus gattii. This fungus can cause fatal fungal meningitis in people that inhale its spores.  Huge plantations of eucalyptus for paper or biofuels may present a serious health threat to nearby communities by creating excellent habitat for this pathogenic fungus.  Industry is currently engineering eucalyptus trees for plantations in Brazil and the U.S. South, where they could pose a threat to communities and forests.

Click here to view the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Global Justice Ecology Project is the North American Focal Point of the Global Forest Coalition, which consists of Indigenous Peoples' Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations around the world and works to defend the rights and lands of indigenous peoples. Click here to view their report on Climate Change, Forest Conservation and Indigenous Peoples' Rights. Please support this important solidarity work today with a secure contribution.

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Indigenous Protest at the UN Climate Convention, Bali Indonesia, 2007 Photo:  Langelle/GJEP
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