The Myth of the Inkarri: Colonial Foundations in International Law and Indigenous Struggles
This paper questions whether the established human rights discourse can serve as a strategic tool for indigenous peoples, or if it is in fact working to delegitimize indigenous discourses and worldviews. Its exploration of indigenous rights and international law is part of a larger contemporary inquiry into the universalist aspirations of the public international legal system and the continued debate over the possibility of globally accepted human rights. Claims to universality of international law are regularly brought to negation or ignorance of its violent origins. Much of International Law’s official history is the creation of rights among sovereign nations based on the idea that in time the legitimacy of a just order would work from the top down as it would from the bottom up. The origins of international law, however, are based on the exclusion and discrimination of the indigenous other as barbaric and incompatible with other legal addressees. This legacy casts its dark shadows on international law’s claims to universality, because such universality would demand the inclusion of indigenous peoples as equal actors. In search of International Law’s memory of its violent origins, this paper shall look to the existing, yet fragmented and often rejected narratives and memories of those that found themselves excluded in the creation of international law. This constitutes an act of decentring mainstream discourses and reviving indigenous memory of exclusion and oppression, which will contribute to a better understanding of international law’s repressed memory of its own colonialist heritage. The objective is not to provide proposals for a reform of international law, but to outline conditions, which indigenous peoples encounter in the sphere of international law as they attempt to advance their claims.