Globalization & Indigenous Peoples

By Shiann Wahéhshon Whitebean, Kelly Marquis, & Stephen Karchut

According to Sklair (1999), globalization has no solid definition but relates to the expansion of powerful corporations worldwide and media on a global scale (p. 161).  This capitalist movement directly correlates with the idea of mass consumption and production.  We are told these projects are for the well-being of the general public, yet these acts are far from innocent and they do not only occur in isolated areas.  Jacques Maisonrouge, President of IBM World Trade, expresses the idea of globalization stating, “that the future lies with global corporations who operate as if the world had no real borders” (Sklair, 1999, p. 144).  The ideas expressed in the articles on globalization contrast sharply with Indigenous worldviews and ideologies regarding land.  Smith (2012) states “Indigenous identity is based on relationship and responsibility to the land” (p. 83).  In order to fully understand the implications of globalization on Indigenous peoples throughout the world, one must gain some level of understanding Indigenous worldviews compared with those of the capitalist mind.

In an effort to define these differences, Smith (2012) outlines “three primary logics of white supremacy:

(I) slaveability and anti-black racism,

(II) genocide, which anchors colonialism, and

(III) orientalism, which anchors war” (p. 68).

The marginalization of Indigenous peoples is directly related to Smith’s logics.  It corroborates the concept of “Terra Nullius” making it acceptable for corporations to abuse Indigenous peoples and ignore their right to self-determination.  O’Sullivan states “Indigenous Peoples associate globalization with imperial expansion and the colonization of their territories.  Globalization is […] continuing to oppress and marginalize” (p. 637).

As we have learned through various case studies and research, globalization has had serious impacts on Indigenous nations throughout the world.  Lands have been appropriated from various Indigenous peoples for globalization projects and the concerns of Indigenous peoples are often negated by corporate leaders.  We see these lands used in ways that damage the air, the earth, the ecosystem and the people who rely on these natural resources. Another effect of globalization is the exploitation of Indigenous knowledge, or the misuse and overuse of Indigenous remedies.

Banerjee (2001) expresses “the consequences for peoples of the Third World and indigenous communities all over the world” as a result of globalization, who are faced with “urban migration, displacement of agricultural communities, environmental destruction and rising inequalities in wealth” to name a few. (p. 709).  He adds “the planet cannot […] support a global population with the current consumer habits of the first world.” (p. 694).


Banerjee, S.B. and Linstead, S. 2001. Globalization, Multiculturalism and Other Fictions: Colonialism for the New Millenium? Organization, 8(4): 683-722.

O’Sullivan, D. (2012). Globalization and the Politics of Indigeneity. Globalizations, 9(5): 637-

Sklair, L. 1999. Competing Conceptions of Globalization. Journal of World Systems Research, 5(2): 143-163.

Smith, A. 2012. Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy. In Ho Sang, D.M., Bennett, O. and Pulido, L. (Eds.) Racial Formation in the Twenty-First Century: 66-90. Berkley: University of California Press.