Current Issue

Volume 74, Number 6

December 1999

Indigenous Peoples and the International Environmental Community: Accommodating Claims Through a Cooperative Legal Process

Rupta Gupta

For centuries, the Inuit peoples of the Arctic region have relied on whale hunting for physical sustenance, and the hunt serves as the central ritual of their culture. During the past century, however, commercial overhunting has seriously endangered whale populations, and environmentalists have taken up their cause, pushing for a moratorium on whale hunting. While the Inuits are sometimes granted a narrow exception to the regulations, their hunting rights are constantly under attack by those who fear that any hunting at all will drive the whales into extinction. In this Note, Rupa Gupta argues that the conflict between the rights of whales and of the Inuit is a false one and is based on Eurocentric notions of individual rights. She demonstrates how both the whales and the Inuit culture are endangered by commercial whaling and presents Inuit notions of social and environmental interdependence as an alternative interpretive framework to that of individual rights. Finally, she suggests that Inuits and other indigenous peoples be included in the international institutions and scientific communities that control the dialogue on environmental management.