Law Text Culture


As aspects of decolonisation, indigenous and other colonised peoples’ historical claims for cultural survival, and for distinct identity, remain unresolved issues in modern international law. Following the salt-water doctrine1 which resulted in the loss of solidarity between the indigenous peoples in the enclave colonies and their counterparts in the third world, these claims have been pursued, for the most part, by the former within a narrow political rubric of human rights and self-determination. This contribution examines the complicity of the colonial nation-state, both as a concept, and an actor in marginalising the indigenous peoples of the enclave territories, and in empowering their counterparts in far-flung places. It notes that since the mid-20th century, however, the United Nations has provided a platform for indigenous peoples to challenge the circumscribing stranglehold of the nation-state as the ultimate arbiter of their claims. The protection of traditional knowledge of both the indigenous peoples in enclave territories and their non-Western counterparts elsewhere provides a rallying point in this endeavour.