As indigenous peoples have become actively engaged in the human rights movement around the world, the relationship between indigenous peoples and international law, once deployed as a tool of imperial power and conquest, has begun to change. Increasingly, international human rights law serves as a basis for indigenous peoples’ claims against states and even influences indigenous groups’ internal processes of decolonization and revitalization. Empowered by a growing body of human rights instruments, some as embryonic as the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), indigenous peoples are embracing a global “human rights culture” to articulate rights ranging from individual freedom and equality to collective self-determination, property, and culture. Accordingly, this presentation will identify and provide an account of an unprecedented, but decidedly observable, phenomenon: the current state of indigenous peoples’ rights–manifesting in tribal, national, and international legal systems–reflects the convergence of a set of dynamic, mutually reinforcing conditions. In her lecture, Professor Carpenter will argue that the intersection of the rise of international human rights with paradigm shifts in postcolonial theory has triggered a “jurisgenerative moment” in indigenous rights. Bringing indigenous norms and values to their advocacy, indigenous peoples have worked to assert their voices in and to influence the human rights movement. Indigenous peoples are now using the laws and language of human rights, shaped by indigenous experiences, not only to engage states but also as a tool of internal reform in tribal governance. Accordingly, the presentation will cover historical and recent developments in international law, as well as federal Indian law, and tribal law.

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The University of Colorado Scott Lecture 2015: Indigenous Peoples and Jurisgenerative Moment in Human Rights, Professor Kristen A. Carpenter