Land Rights

Our work with Native and indigenous peoples has always drawn the connection between indigenous land rights, environmental protection and human rights. When indigenous peoples are deprived of their ties to the earth and their ways of life, they suffer. The effects of poverty, poor health, discrimination, and grave human rights abuses have many Native peoples and cultures at risk of disappearing completely.

The most important thing we can do to help them is to help them protect and hold on to their lands – lands they need to survive physically, culturally, and economically.  This is why we work to assist Indian communities, especially in Mexico and Central and South America, to get strong legal rights to their lands.  If Indian communities can be sure of holding on to their lands, they have a much better chance of improving their health and their lives and carrying on their cultures and their traditional ways of life.

Helping Indian peoples get strong legal control of their lands will also to a great deal to protect the forests and the other environments where they live. Experts agree that Indian ownership and control is the most successful way to protect and preserve forests and other natural ecosystems. There is also wide agreement that getting lands under the control of Indian communities or peoples is one of the best ways to slow down climate change.

There are millions of Indian people today, making up thousands of Indian communities throughout Mexico and Central and South America, trying to hold on to and use their ancestral lands.  They need help – mostly help from experts such surveyors, mappers, lawyers, and historians who can help them prove their rights and get secure land titles.  

We are making plans now to provide the needed experts on a much larger scale so that hundreds of Indian communities and millions of acres of land can be legally protected from invaders, land grabbers, and others who want to destroy Indian communities and cultures. We want to make these experts available on a permanent basis for Indian communities for years to come.

Indigenous Lands Initiative advances in Racial Equity 2030 Challenge

The Indian Law Resource Center was named as a finalist in the Racial Equity 2030 Challenge by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The Indian Law Resource Center and the nine other finalists were each awarded a grant of $1 million to further develop their proposals as they compete for three grants of $20 million and two grants of $10 million to be awarded next year.

Land of the Brave – A Western Shoshone Documentary

The Indian Law Resource Center is pleased to support LAND OF THE BRAVE - Broken Treaty III, a sequel to the acclaimed BROKEN TREATY AT BATTLE MOUNTAIN and TO PROTECT MOTHER EARTH. LAND OF THE BRAVE, the third and final film of the Western Shoshone Trilogy, documents Western Shoshone life and survival over the past 20 years and their fight to protect their land and way of life. 

Panel Discussion Highlights Need to Safeguard Indigenous Peoples’ Collective Ownership Rights

On October 9, the Center hosted a panel discussion to highlight Indigenous Peoples’ land rights and the impacts of development activities financed by the World Bank. The event, “Indigenous Peoples’ Lands and Development: World Bank Interventions and Lessons Learned”, was held at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC.

Inter-American Development Bank to Investigate Harmful Wind Power Project in Mexico

A massive wind farm project, partially funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is under investigation by the IDB’s Panel of Investigators for negatively impacting seven indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Center is providing legal assistance to the communities to ensure that there is an independent investigation of the project and that their concerns are properly addressed by the IDB’s Board of Directors.

Multilateral Development Banks

Multilateral development banks (MDBs) and some national development banks play a central role in the approval of large-scale development projects, such as dams and forestry initiatives, which have had devastating effects on indigenous peoples and other local communities. The Center works to ensure that these financial institutions respect the environment and human rights of indigenous peoples in all their development activities.


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