Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Indigenous Definition:

Native to a particular territory.

Related Terms: Aboriginal, Indian

Native to a particular territory; not transient or migratory.

The term can refer to people, animals or birds or even oil.

In international law, the term has been defined tentatively by the political body, International Labour Organisation as people who:

"... on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions."

Another foray has been that contained within a 1986 UN Report:

"Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems."

In terms of animals and birds, the Canadian statute Antarctic Environmental Protection Act, prohibits the unlicensed "kill, injure, capture, handle or molest (of) a native mammal or native bird" and then defines a native mammal or bird as being "indigenous to the Antarctic or that occurs there seasonally through natural migrations."

Research and Further Reading:

  • See also Aboriginal
  • Martinéz Cobo Report to the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination of Minorities (1986),
  • C169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989
  • The United Nation's International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - IWGIA at iwgia.org
  • Antarctic Environmental Protection Act, SC 2003 Chapter 20, published at canlii.org/ca/as/2003/c20/

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