June 12-14: International colloquium 'Heritage and Rights of Indigenous Peoples'

Leiden University: Kamerlingh Onnes building (Steenschuur 25, Leiden), Room B.017

June 12

Schedule & speakers

09:00-22:00 hs

June 13

Schedule & speakers

09:00-18:00 hs

June 14

Schedule & speakers

11:00-17:00 hs

Organisation & Coordinators


The sustainability and protection of indigenous heritages are vital to the identity and cultural continuity of indigenous peoples. During the past centuries, however, a great amount of sacred, religious items or human remains has been taken from indigenous communities as scientific ethnographic collections to be stored in national and foreign museums. First this happened in the context of colonial expansion, more recently in the context of continuing relations of ethnic marginalization and social injustice within independent states (“internal colonialism”). A number of World Heritage Sites, nationally designated protection areas or "parks" may include parts of the homeland of indigenous peoples. Local perceptions of heritage and place as well as indigenous knowledge and interests, however, are often not given full weight in conservation / development policies or in research designs. In a number of cases this has led to confrontations, mistrust and lack of collaboration between the indigenous peoples (right-holders) and other interested parties (stake-holders).

Indigenous cultural rights

Since the 1970s, the emancipation struggles of indigenous peoples have resulted in a general recognition of indigenous cultural rights, at least in theory. From a nationalist discourse that saw indigenous peoples as “backward minorities” which had to be integrated into mainstream modernity, new ideas have been developed that stress the participation of indigenous peoples in all matters and activities that concern them. This has been internationally established, for example in the I.L.O. convention 169 (1989) and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly of the U.N. in 2007.

As this is a relatively recent development, and full of problematic aspects (because of the multiplicity of parties concerned and the still present consequences of colonialism in many areas), it is important to monitor and evaluate the progress on the ground. In-depth case studies need to be made, shared and discussed, on what the local practices of the protection of indigenous heritage are, and how indigenous concepts, rights and agency are being taken into account, especially when problematic issues such as repatriation have to be dealt with, but also in research designs, interpretations and publications. Global migration, conflicts over cultural patrimony, and global heritagization have led to a situation of “Indigenous Heritage at Risk”. In general the complexity of conflicting interests, diverse religious and political visions, as well of the power structures involved has only become bigger and more pressing.


The colloquium brings together international (including indigenous) experts from different disciplines and regional specializations (Africa, Americas, Asia) to discuss theoretical, legal and practical aspects of indigenous heritage and rights (including topics such as representation and repatriation), situating specific cases within a wider comparative framework.

Lectures and discussions: ALL ARE WELCOME!

Further information:

Heritage and Rights of Indigenous Peoples International colloquium June 12-14

Last Modified: 03-06-2014