August 9th marks the International Day of World Indigenous People. It is a day to celebrate the impact that Indigenous cultures have worldwide. It also brings to light conversations around Indigenous rights.
It is important for cultural diversity that we recognize the number of Indigenous people across the globe and be aware of their vast traditional practices and knowledge that inhere from their heritage. This way, we can celebrate the role that they play in our global community.
It is important to be aware of the differences between Indigenous cultures, however, as they are not monoliths. There are also many myths surrounding. There are also many myths surrounding them. As well as this, you may wonder what you can do to support Native people and celebrate their heritage respectfully. Read on to find out more about Indigenous people and how you can take part in the cultural appreciation of their influence.
International Day of World Indigenous People is a celebration of them and the impact all of their different cultures have on this world. It also begins conversations about their specific rights.
This year's focus, from the UN, is "Indigenous youth as agents of change for self-determination." This highlights the role that young people play in the preservation of their heritage and traditional practices. It also pays homage to their fights for climate justice as well as Indigenous people's right to have control over decision-making that affects them.
There are an estimated 476 million Indigenous people worldwide and more than 5,000 different cultures, from the Navajo in the USA to the Sámi in Scandinavia, the Maasai in Kenya to the Ainu in Japan. Native people have ancestral ties to the land from which they originate, whether they are still there or displaced from it. These ties are incredibly deep. The relationship between the unique cultural group and the land they belong to is inextricable. This is why another term often used is "Native people."
Indigenous people own or occupy a quarter of the world's surface but conserve 80 percent of global biodiversity. This is why climate justice is a theme for this year's IDWIP and why many Indigenous people fight to protect our world's ecosystems.
There are many misconceptions about Indigenous people. Debunking them is crucial if we are to be understanding and respectful of their cultures.
While some elements of Indigenous culture are under threat, such as languages, Indigenous people themselves still exist worldwide, contributing to our global community. This is why we celebrate their heritage and culture on the International Day of World Indigenous People.
While some of the most well-known Indigenous cultures are those listed in the above sub-heading, there are many more spread across the world. In fact, 70 percent of them live in Asia. Each has its own unique culture.
While there are commonalities between the cultures of the social groups of Indigenous people in a similar geographical area, there are also many differences. For instance, there are over 500 different Native tribes in Australia alone, each with their own language and territory.
While these cultural markers do belong to some Indigenous people, such as the dream catcher being traced back to the Ojibwe Native American tribe, these are not the be-all-and-end-all of Indigenous culture and not every social group will use them.
Additionally, there are many common misunderstandings about the nature of these practices or items. For example, certain headdresses in Native American Plains tribes are called "war bonnets." These are worn by highly respected men within the tribe and must be earned through significant action. Historically, this would be through participation in battle, hence their alternative name. They are used mainly for ceremonial purposes but are not a part of all Native American cultures.
Not all Indigenous people live on reserves in their respective countries. For example, in Canada, only 40% of the First Nations population does. This means that the majority do not.
There are as many different cultural traditions as there are Indigenous people. Each tribe will have similarities and differences with those around them. This means that talking about "Indigenous culture" as a monolith is a misnomer.
However, there are some well-known examples of Indigenous culture that we can talk about here that have not been mentioned above. This will give a taste of the rich heritage that Indigenous people preserve.
Tā Moko are the tribal tattoos that the Maori people of New Zealand have. They are most famously facial works of art, but they can cover other parts of the body, too. Men receive them on their faces as a symbol of nobility, and women have them vertically from their lips down their chin to symbolize leadership within their community.
Smudging involves a bundle of herbs, often sweetgrass or the endangered white sage, that are harvested ethically by Native people. These are burned as part of spiritual rituals. A much-misunderstood process, the ritual must be conducted with the proper tools and prayer to accompany it by a tribe's shaman. It is believed that the smoke from the herbs wards off evil.
Also known as Ayers Rock, Uluru is a place sacred to the Anangu peoples of Australia and is held in high regard by the wider Aboriginal community. The name translates to "great pebble." It is a massive sandstone monolith that is considered one of the natural wonders of the world. It plays a deep role in the religious beliefs of the Anangu, and they now ask people not to climb it, instead giving tours themselves.
Reindeer and the Sámi people of northern Scandinavia live in a symbiotic relationship. Traditionally, they are herded and kept for sustenance, with every part of the animal being used when slaughtered. Each summer, the people migrate with their reindeer from the higher reaches of Lapland down into the tundra, a practice dating back thousands of years.
Using Malamutes or Canadian Inuit Dogs most commonly, the Inuit people are known for traveling and transporting goods using sledges pulled by 12 dogs, called "qimmit". This was the most efficient way of traveling across the snowy, icy environments of northern Canada. The dogs would also help to hunt as well as serve as protection. Sometimes, dogsledding is turned into a sport.
In 2007, the United Nations set out a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. While the full document is quite long, some of the most notable rights to be laid out are:
- Article 2: The right to be free of discrimination based on their indigeneity.
- Article 4: The right to self-determination and government of their own affairs.
- Articles 5 and 11–16: The right to maintain their own culture.
- Article 8: The right to not be forced into assimilation with another culture.
- Article 9: The right to belong to an Indigenous culture as per the community's traditions and customs.
- Article 10: The right to not be forcibly removed from their land.
- Article 18: The right to participate in decision-making processes that directly affect them.
- Article 26: The right to the land and resources of it they traditionally owned.
- Article 29: The right to environmental conservation of their land.
These rights are a comprehensive guide to both the universal human rights of Indigenous people and those specifically that pertain to them. While history may not have been kind to Native people, we can move forward positively and progressively by ensuring we treat them with dignity and respect both individually and as a group.
If you've been thinking about supporting Native people more in your daily life, International Day of World Indigenous People is a great time to set about doing just that. But what does being an ally look like? Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to this end. Here's just five examples of ways to do this.
Indigenous cultures are vast and varied and have a complicated and often difficult history. Educating ourselves on the differences between these cultures, their traditional practices and knowledge, and key historical events is one way to support them. By being informed, we can treat them with the respect they deserve.
When doing this, it is best to prioritize the voices of Indigenous people themselves. Their experience is one that is sometimes not heard as often as it should be but will come from a place of expertise. There is also a rich tradition of oral history that is best said by those who know it best: the people themselves.
On top of educating yourself, you might also educate any children in your life. This allows them to grow up respectful of Indigenous people and their cultures. There are many resources available online to help with this if you're not sure where to start yourself, such as the video below.
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Despite the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, Native people are not always afforded the protections they are entitled to. You can support them by calling and writing to your representatives when it is necessary. You might also attend peaceful protests held by the Indigenous communities.
Indigenous people produce many products for market, so one way you can support them is by putting money into their communities by shopping at their businesses. For example, have you always wanted some beautiful beadwork jewelry? Buy it from an independent Native creator instead of a large corporation that mass produces it with no connection to the people themselves.
There are many organizations out there that aim to support Indigenous communities. If you have spare disposable income, consider setting up a monthly donation to one of these, or just donate as and when you can.
Indigenous people have a long history of creating art, media, and literature that often flies under the radar. One way to support them is by engaging with the stories they tell through this. Read books by Indigenous authors and watch shows or movies starring, written or directed by Native filmmakers.
On that last note, perhaps you are an Indigenous person yourself reading this article. You may very well have a story you would like to tell about yourself or your people, or perhaps a work of fiction in mind inspired by your culture. The trouble often is, however, getting words on the page. If this is the case, ghostwriting services can be of excellent use. The Urban Writers have several non-fiction packages that will that will pair you up with respectful, expert writers and editors who can help you tell the story you want the world to hear.