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Why Is Indigeneity Important?

Waldron, Jeremy
June 4, 2015

Source: (2007) In Jon Miller and Rahul Kumar, ed., Reparations: Interdisciplinary Inquiries, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, Pp. 23-42.

“Though it is not in the dictionary — not yet — ‘indigeneity’ is already a term of art in the politics and philosophy of cultural rights and the rights of First Peoples. The etymology is fascinating, but I am mainly interested in the abstract idea of indigeneity. My discussion therefore lacks the richness and concrete focus of the chapters in this volume by Rebecca Tsosie and Janna Thompson. But I make no apology for talking about abstractions, because the question I want to ask in this chapter is about the bearing of the abstract idea of indigeneity on situations of the sort that Tsosie and Thompson describe. My discussion is in some ways critical of theirs, but it is intended at least at the outset to be complementary. They offer the riches of thick description; I add to that the analytics of conceptual analysis. For I want to ask: what does it add to our understanding of the predicaments and choices that Tsosie and Thompson set out for us, to describe Aboriginal peoples of Australia (the Wik people of the Cape York peninsula, e.g.) or Native Peoples in North America (the Great Sioux Nation, e.g.) as the indigenous people of those countries? And of course, despite my philosophical austerity, I have my own concrete points of reference: what does it add to our understanding of the predicaments and choices facing the people and government of New Zealand, to describe Maori (the Ngai Tahu people of New Zealand’s South Island, e.g.) as the indigenous people of that country?” (excerpt)


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