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The Challenges of Indigenous Legal Systems: Beyond Paradigms of Recognition

Indigenous Political Actors
Rachel Sieder

Across Latin America, indigenous peoples have increasingly demanded that nation-states respect their culturally specific forms of governance and justice ad- ministration. Such demands form an essential part of their claims for autonomy and respect for their collective rights. As well as constituting a central aspect of indigenous peoples' identity, the existence of community-based systems of law reflects their lack of access to official justice systems, which systematically discriminate against them and fail to guarantee their fundamental rights. In this article I will outline recent processes of legal"recognition" of in- digenous justice systems, identifying the main issues of contention, advances, and challenges. Drawing on examples from Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, and Bolivia, I point to some of the innovative ways indigenous peoples are strength- ening and revitalizing their justice practices, and then consider the broader implications of recent developments for politics and law in the region.