A legal analysis for non-self governing peoples and indigenous peoples

A legal analysis regarding the CHamoru and Hawai`ian right to self-determination was written for the University of Hawai`i Law Review Summer/Fall 1996 by Jon Van Dyke, a professor of law, William S. Richardson School of Law; Carmen Di Amore-Siah, an attorney at law, who grew up on Guam and earned her law degree at William S. Richardson School of Law, Honolulu in 1989; and Dr. Gerald W. Berkley-Coates, a professor of history at the University of Guam.

They determined that the right to self-determination is a powerful right that reflects the yearning of all peoples for recognition of their unique heritage and values. This right manifests itself in two distinct ways depending upon whether it is asserted by a nonself-governing people or an indigenous people.

All peoples have the right to govern themselves, and all indigenous peoples also have this right. Nonself-governing peoples have the right to become self-governing either by becoming independent, becoming integrated with their metropolitan power, or becoming a freely-associated state with the metropolitan power.

Although indigenous peoples do not necessarily have the right to secede and become fully independent, they do have the right to enough autonomy and sovereignty to ensure that they are able to preserve themselves as a distinct cultural community and to make the fundamentally important decisions for themselves. By vigorously protecting this right, we can protect the inherent dignity of each group and ensure that the diversity of the world’s populations will continue to enrich the lives of all peoples.

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For further reading

United Nations. “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” United Nations For Indigenous Peoples, last modified 12 September 2020.