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Between Indigenous Nations and the State: Self- Determination in the Balance

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Name: 2011-Between-Indigenous-Nations-and-the-State-Self-Determination-in-t.pdf
Title: Between Indigenous Nations and the State: Self- Determination in the Balance
Author: Rudolph C. Ryser
Publisher: Tulsa Journal of Comparative and International Law
Language: English
Publish Year: 2011
Publish Location: US
File uploaded by: CWIS Editor


Along with territorial issues and cultural issues, the principle of self- determination is profoundly influential in the relations between states and between states and Fourth World (“indigenous”) peoples. Stated simply, the principle of self-determination asserts that it is the right of all peoples to freely choose their social, economic, political and cultural future without external interference.’ Since the formulation by the Christian states of Europe in 1648 of basic principles defining the existence and legitimacy of a state, no idea has had as monumental an effect on international affairs as this principle. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson introduced on Jan. 8, 1918 the idea of political self-determination into international affairs when he proposed the establishment of a “general association of nations” as a part of his Fourteen Point Peace Program to the U.S. Senate.2 Both Wilson and Britain’s Prime Minister Lloyd George proposed new principles for inter- national cooperation and collective security, thus accelerating the break- down of empires and the making of what would become more than 150 states over the next sixty years. Despite this auspicious beginning, the United States today offers to lead world opinion in fundamental opposition to the application of the principle of self-determination to indigenous peo- ples, and particularly to American Indians. Under the administration of President William J. Clinton, the U.S. government has joined with China, Japan, France, Iran, Iraq, England and the likes of Guatemala and Peru to prevent the application of international standards of human rights to in- digenous peoples. The external U.S. position contradicts its internal policy of self-determination by distorting international law to favor authoritarian states in their efforts to suppress the rights of indigenous peoples.