Aboriginal Advocacy: Using Global Human Rights or Localized Perspectives on Being Human?

  • Author / Creator
    McFadyen, Krista
  • The United Nations’ (UN) adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 is broadly viewed as a critical occasion for Indigenous peoples, the UN system, and international law. The UNDRIP was a result of over 20 years of rigorous debate and negotiation between Indigenous representatives, nation states, UN officials, and community organizations over issues of Indigenous survival, dignity, and well-being. Credited as being more comprehensive in substance and more extensive in scope than any other instrument dedicated to Indigenous peoples, the UNDRIP formally recognizes Indigenous as Peoples with associated rights and is substantiated through international human rights machinery.
    The fervent process of the deliberations and the suspense of the delayed ratifications by Canada has perhaps negated some difficult questions regarding the content and status of the UNDRIP and its potential to reveal tangible benefits for Indigenous people. This research responds to a perceived need to examine human rights discourses and institutions critically and to situate it within the context of colonization and homogenization of political strategy. The specific research question asks, whether global human rights or more localized perspectives of being human can contribute to transformative justice for Indigenous communities.

    To deliberate these challenges, this research seeks to evaluate specific lines of inquiry about cultural patterns for social organization and notions of authority, particularly focusing on Indigenous customary law and legal traditions and contrasting these with Euro-Western systems. It then traces the historical development of human rights discourses and institutions to conclude that the overarching paradigm of human right can privilege Western thinking and so may contribute to cultural or political loss for Indigenous peoples.

    This thesis comments on the process to fully enliven Indigenous research methodology and its associated responsibilities to Indigenous participants and communities. It draws on the perspectives of Elders as traditional knowledge holders and presents dialogue, reflection, and analysis in tune with Indigenous orality. The research connections are measured for ethical integrity and are guided by protocol to ensure that it is grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing and learning and that it upholds the integrity of Indigenous people. Values of respect, holism, and reciprocity require considerations of varied effects of the research method in carrying out the project and motives are geared so that research participants are equipped and empowered to make educational and policy recommendations beyond these research parameters. The research analysis and conclusions both strengthen Indigenous knowledge and inquiry and broaden notions of academic legitimacy and integrity.

    The relatively new correlation between human rights and Aboriginal social justice requires Aboriginal people to understand and articulate what traditional knowledge says about cultural identity as integral to dignity and survival. This is especially true where policy-making processes tend to be grounded in a contemporary conceptualization of community as “globalized”, different from that conceptualization of community among Aboriginal peoples and derived from Aboriginal knowledge systems. This research expands the analysis of human rights as neutral and universal to probe relationships between Indigenous knowledge, institutional processes, and social transformation.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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