Indigenous Minorities and the Shadow of Injustice Past

International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 19-37, 2000

16 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2011

Date Written: 2000


Heads of state and other representatives of political communities sometimes apologize for injustice perpetrated by previous generations. Thus Queen Elizabeth II recently apologized to the Maoris of New Zealand for their mistreatment by the British in the 19th century. This phenomenon raises perplexing questions concerning the basis and scope of present claims of compensation for past wrongs -- particularly committed against indigenous populations. A theory of such reparation is the topic of this paper.First some notes on what the paper does not address. Our concern is not with the very real injustices committed and perpetrated today against many indigenous populations - including sometimes abysmal shares of benefits and opportunities - and how they should be corrected. Rather, the topic is the implication of injustices committed in the past. Furthermore, to be sure, indigenous and other minority populations may have other grounds for claims to territory, use of the land, or special control over decisions, in addition to past injustice - e.g. based on the need to maintain culture as developed by Kymlicka (1995, 220). There are important international conventions addressing some of these issues, including the 1989 ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights' Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adds to the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities of 1993. Finally, the issue of reparation -- correcting for past injustice -- not only arises in the context of treaty-based agreements struck between residents and newcomers, even though violations of treaties and injurious treaties are but two important cases. Violent or otherwise unwanted invasion onto territory de facto under the control of a previously settled group also raises the problems I seek to reflect on in this paper.Section 2 sketches some challenges to a normative theory of reparation. Section 3 lays out some fragments of Liberal Contractualism, the normative framework brought to bear on this issue. Section 4 returns to consider arguments in favor of holding that past injustices matter.

Keywords: minorities, justice, political theory, ILO Convention on Indigenous Rights, liberal contractualism

Suggested Citation

Follesdal, Andreas, Indigenous Minorities and the Shadow of Injustice Past (2000). International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 19-37, 2000. Available at SSRN:

Andreas Follesdal (Contact Author)

Pluricourts ( email )

P.O. Box 6706
St. Olavs plass 5
0130 Oslo

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