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A Review of the Study of the Political Status of Indigenous Peoples in the Global Context

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Abstract

This paper reviews the literature examining indigenous peoples in the global community. Recent studies tend to focus on one of three themes: definition of indigenousness, relationships with the state, and the role of indigenous peoples in the international governing structure. This paper will examine each of these themes. I begin by exploring definitions of indigenousness, looking at the differing definitions employed by the international governing organizations, indigenous peoples, and the academic literature. In the next section, I explore the relationship between indigenous peoples and the state. The indigenous–state relationship is dominated by the influence of the state. Indigenous groups reject this dominance, seeking freedoms from the state, disputing land rights, and using the weight of morals to motivate the state. However, the state structure itself might enable indigenous groups to attain freedoms and rights. In the final section, I explore discussions of the role of indigenous peoples in the international community.

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