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Indigenous peoples and the state : the struggle for native rights

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Long dismissed as relics of a primitive past, indigenous peoples are increasingly seeking international recognition and protection of their rights to land, water, and fundamental human freedoms. Anthropologist Bradley Reed Howard surveys the struggles of indigenous groups for self-determination in the United States and internationally, calling crucial attention to the urgent need for native social and political representation.



Indigenous Peoples and the State

presents an overview of the confrontation between tribal groups and both nation-states and international organizations. Howard places indigenous issues within the larger context of the work of nongovernmental agencies, United Nations initiatives on human rights, and national self-determination. Two specific case studies of indigenous legal status and rights—involving the Iroquois in the United States and the Maori in New Zealand—illuminate native peoples’ claims to sovereignty, traditional culture, territory, and natural resources.


Ethical problems inevitably arise in any attempt to define identity. Investigating the complex issues of colonialism and culture, Howard reveals that anthropologists have at times played a complicit role in tribal subjugation. He also emphasizes the contributions many cultural anthropologists have made to the progressive transformation of law and recognizes their efforts to preserve indigenous cultures and natural habitats. Anthropological approaches, Howard maintains, offer the best hope for understanding the magnitude of indigenous peoples’ worldwide endeavors to attain human rights.



Indigenous Peoples and the State

draws extensively from native sources on questions of identity, rights, and sovereignty. North American Indians, the Maori, and numerous other native peoples assert international recognition of their independence and status as "peoples" through their treaties and agreements with Western nations. They further demand an accessible international forum through which they can achieve justice and promote national self-determination. Howard’s bold analysis offers extraordinary anthropological and legal support for the declarations and aspirations of indigenous peoples.

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