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Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Home

This research guide is dealing with a specific human rights issue relating to the rights of indigenous people. Thanks to Northeastern Law Students Nicole Santiago and Jenna Pollock for sharing their research results.

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   This research guide is on the rights of the indigenous people. The guide asks how the rights of the indigenous people are protected under the various legal mechanisms including human rights. This guide is intended both for law students and scholars seeking information about international indigenous land rights. This may touches upon human rights law research issues, which is deeply dealt by the Human Rights Research Guide

   The issue of the rights of the indigenous people is a part of human rights issues and is related to public international law and foreign law. The UN Human Rights Council is actively working on this matter through the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Working Group on indigenous population, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. Nationally, each country deals with the rights of their indigenous people differently, and researchers should consult with the domestic law such as education law, land law, conservation law, environmental law, etc. In order to learn how to do foreign law research, please, refer to my other research guide on foreign law in Libguides. In order to figure out the situation and the indigenous people in each country, researchers also need to find the country reports produced by a wide variety of IGOs including UN and NGOs. 

Key Search Terms

indigenous people, indigenous rights, aboriginal people, native people, tribal, aboriginal title, land, land rights, land exploitation, land grabbing, land management, land resources, land law, ancestral land, privatization, natural resources, conservation, conservation law, environment, exploration, first nations, dispossession of lands, forced displacement, forest rights, right to life, self-determination, sovereignty, sustained development. 

Research Strategy

   The biggest problem for this research is the abundance of documents about the rights of indigenous people. I definitely want to suggest that you should define the rights of indigenous people first and understand its legal history and backgrounds. Since there are many specific issues relating to this topic, narrowing down the scope of research is important such as indigenous people and its land rights. It is challenging to pick the most relevant documents among the thousands of documents published.

   Ultimately, you need to find the primary sources which you can apply directly to your case; however, for this research purpose, secondary sources such as research guides, journal articles, and NGO websites will save your research time and will provide a firm foundation for further research. 

   Another challenging point must be a language issue when you do the foreign law research. Please, refer to my foreign law research guide for this issue. 

   For the public international law aspect of research, remember that there may be no treaties and agreements concluded for your specific issue dealing with your country, nor is there definitive custom. But remember there are general treaties which you can apply to your case such as the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (NO. 169) and other human rights treaties. You should also rely on soft law such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and NGO documents for this issue.

   Furthermore, this research is interdisciplinary, requiring research on other aspects of public international law such as international environmental law research as well as human rights research. Human rights research include both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. 

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Aboriginal peoples


Indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples (International law)

Indigenous peoples--Land Tenure

Indigenous peoples -- Legal status, laws, etc.

Indigenous populations

Native peoples

Native races

United Nations. -- General Assembly. -- Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


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