34 NYU Journal of International Law and Politics 189 (2001)

Reconciling Five Competing Conceptual Structures of Indigenous Peoples Claims in International and Comparative Law

Benedict Kingsbury

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On what conceptual foundations do legal claims made by indigenous peoples rest? Uncertainty on this issue has had the benefit of encouraging the flowering of multiple approaches, but it also has done much to heighten national dissensus on questions involving indigenous peoples, and it has been a serious obstacle to negotiation in the United Nations’ and the Organization of American States (OAS) of proposed Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This article seeks to clarify the debate by distinguishing and exploring five fundamentally different conceptual structures employed in claims brought by indigenous peoples or members  of such groups: human rights and non-discrimination  claims; minority claims; self-determination claims;historic sovereignty claims; and claims as indigenous peoples, including claims based on treaties or other agreements between indigenous peoples and states.