The Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples

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The Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Eleventh session

New York, 7-18 May 2012Item 3

Discussion on the special theme for the year:

«The Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests (articles 28 and 37 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)»


Joint Statement
of International Public organization
Foundation for research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea
And Crimean Tatar People’s Front


Dear Mr. Chairman!

Brothers and Sisters, Ladies and Gentlemen!


President of Foundation for research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea Nadir BEKIROV The Concept of Discovery, which is a subject of our discussion, now is not only anachronism but totally non-scientific theory from as a least geographical, historical and essential point of view.

1. Geographically most of areas, where Indigenous peoples live, particularly in Africa, Asia and especially at the region of Eastern Europe, Russia, Central Asia and Transcaucasia were rather good well-known and reflected since the ancient geographical descriptions. I just point out my native land Crimea, which was famous in Hellenic and Roman sources already 2.5 thousands years ago. This concept little bit may sound in relation of some parts of Pacific and Americas however even in those cases the question arises who discovered whom? If all people and all peoples are equal in accordance with basic principle of contemporary International Law we might say about meeting of different peoples and civilizations but never about discovery.

2. Historically it was not a kind of discovery. It was military reconnaissance and preparation of bridgehead for the mass military invasion and colonization. Who may now to deny it? Even in the case of my native place Crimea there was nor discovery neither even official war. There was just brutal violation of the International Treaty guaranteeing the independence of our State of Crimean Khanate known as Kuchuk-Kaynardzha Peace Treaty by Russian Empire and very sore oppression of liberation rebels accompanied by massacres. I know that the same things were rather wide spread in other parts of the World. In addition as we know the so called discoverers i.e. colonizers manipulated by the colonized lands and peoples exchanging or even selling them up to own whims. It may be illustrated again with Crimea, which was firstly annexed by Czarist Russian Empire, then became a part of Soviet Union and finally appeared at the hands of contemporary Ukraine. The Concept of Discovery has a very selective character meaning that anybody may have a right to the Indigenous Land with except of Indigenous Peoples.

3. Essentially that Concept is not in compliance with the sense of the very word of Discovery. Isaac Newton discovered Gravitation. Does it mean that after it he had become an owner of Gravitation? Or possessed some special rights to it?
4. The general point for the destiny of all Indigenous Peoples of the World is — no mind did they live at the areas neighboring Europe or even in Europe or over the oceans — the several centuries policy of invasion, colonization, physical and cultural genocide, deprivation of their historical native land, human rights, and sometimes even Statehood. At present time this is continued by the attempts of some states and unfortunately international organizations to preserve them at that powerless situation, which must be evaluated as a continuous crime against Indigenous Peoples, which shall be identified, investigated and stopped without any geographical prejudices wherever it is being done now.

5. Only criteria to evaluate the situation of concrete Indigenous Peoples must to be their real position in their land: do they have their rights in accordance with their treaties and International law standards or not? Was the redress for their losses submitted them by the ruling State or not?

If yes, we may state a satisfactory situation, which shall be continued with the concept of Free, Prior, Informed Consent in future. But unfortunately mostly it is not like this. For instance concerning my people of Crimean Tatars in Ukraine, which is a victim of several centuries oppression from different colonizers changed one each other, whose rights have not been restored and whose situation aggravated recently due to the policy of Ukrainian State. That State has in its acting Constitution the article 11 ensuring the responsibility of the Ukraine for the protection of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious identity of Indigenous Peoples. This provision appeared in Ukrainian Constitution at 1996 however nothing was done in order to realize it through the Law. Ukraine even yet has not adopted a Law on the restoration of the rights annihilated by the en-mass deportation of 1944 not speaking about basic rights of Indigenous People. Finally the constitutional provision turned out to the great lie. Crimean Tatars, Karaimes, Krymchaks even are not recognized by the State as Indigenous Peoples and are treated as National Minorities still.

In those circumstances we must to create an international mechanism of claim of the redress from the State, in which jurisdiction is our land now, was it «discoverer» or not. And I ask a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to launch that process.

Thank you Mr. Chairman


President of Foundation

for research and Support

of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea



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