Customary Law of Indigenous Communities: Making Space on the Global Environmental Stage
9 Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law 77 (2019)
30 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 27, 2020
The high stakes often involved in controversies regarding who owns valuable natural resources and who has the authority to regulate environmental contaminants have resulted in fierce legal battles and struggles to establish and define international principles of law. Grand theoretical debates have played out on the international stage regarding the principle of free, prior, and informed consent and the legal contours of corporate social responsibility. Meanwhile, often under the radar, Indigenous people around the world have worked to create a sustained niche for their community and culture in the face of exploitation and environmental devastation at the hands of the dominant culture. Working both within and outside of formal legal systems, Indigenous communities have consciously stayed rooted in their customary law and traditions to address the biggest challenges facing their way of life. As the beginning of an effort to study these approaches more thoroughly, this article sets forth a taxonomy for classifying different uses of the customary law of Indigenous peoples. A taxonomy will provide a common language for identifying and discussing these efforts and how they fit into a multicultural, international legal system.
Keywords: customary law, indigenous, environment, regulation, taxonomy, transnational law,
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