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Aboriginal Law Bulletin

Aboriginal Law Bulletin (ALB)
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Nettheim, Garth --- "Book Review - The Gaia Atlas of First Peoples, a Future for the Indigenous World" [1991] AboriginalLawB 22; (1991) 1(49) Aboriginal Law Bulletin 19

Book Review -

The Gaia Atlas of First Peoples,
a Future for the Indigenous World

by Julian Burger,

Penguin Books, 1990

Reviewed by Garth Nettheim

Julian Burger is well known to many Australians. For some years he was the Director of Research with responsibility for indigenous affairs at the Anti-Slavery Society in London. Several years ago he visited Australia for the Society and travelled widely on a study tour which led to the publication of a report - `Aborigines Today, Land and Justice" (1988). Subsequently, he worked as Deputy Director of the Independent Commission for International Humanitarian Issues in Geneva for which he edited the book, `Indigenous people". He currently works for the United Nations with special emphasis on its Working Group on Indigenous Peoples. The author's credit for this book adds, after his name, the words, "with campaigning groups and native peoples world-wide", and the list of consultants and contributors represents an impressive list of people with an interest in indigenous issues.

Gaia's interests are environmental and ecological. In its new series of reference and issue books, it sees the connection with the position of indigenous peoples in a two-fold sense. "Indigenous peoples are on the front line of the ecological crisis. They are the first victims, yet they may also be humanity's hope for the future". This is reflected in the scheme for this Atlas. Part One, "Way of Life", focuses on identification of the First Peoples and consideration of their relationship to nature. Part Two, "Crisis", is concerned with such issues as colonialism, deforestation, mining and other threats both to indigenous culture and to the environments where they still live. Part Three, "Alternative Visions", deals with resistance and the reassertion of indigenous values and aspirations.

The entries are brief and beautifully illustrated. They do not seek to cover the field but focus on particular case studies to illustrate a broader theme. Thus, the chapter on deforestation has a two page summary, accompanied by a world map and a map of Amazonia, followed by three brief entries also illustrated - one on the Polonoroeste development in Amazonia, a second on Palm Oil in Ecuador and a third on logging in Sarawak.

Australia's Aboriginal peoples are represented in several entries and illustrations. Aboriginal concerns are also represented by entries on other peoples - the Inuit, Kayapo, the Maori and numerous other First Peoples.

The final section of the Atlas provides a directory of indigenous peoples and organisations, resources and recommended reading.

In less than 200 pages, the book is a fine achievement, beautifully produced and quite engrossing. It is of great potential value in informing non-indigenous peoples about indigenous perspectives and also in informing indigenous peoples themselves of the experiences and visions that they share with indigenous peoples elsewhere in the globe.

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