Women empowerment, LGBT, Minorities, casteism, racism are some of the terms which are discussed and are the talk of the town for a long time. But, of late, there is another community that is still neglected and have been forgotten by society. This community is called Indigenous People. Let us know more about them so we can spread awareness.
Indigenous people are those who are native residents of that particular region. They are also known as first people or native people, aboriginals, tribes or ethnic groups, etc. who have different beliefs and knowledge system and unique language. They possess different approaches to the sustainable management of natural resources. They have a strong relationship with nature and they invest in lands in different ways without greed. Simply put, they are true guardians of nature.
They live in or occupy about 22% of the global land area. Approximately 370-500 million indigenous people represent cultural diversity and have created and spoken in almost 7000 different languages. Yet, they face discrimination and stigma in society. Now we shall discuss what challenges or threats they face which makes their life vulnerable.
The vulnerability of indigenous people!
In this 21st century, where we talk about equality and modernization, indigenous people still facing prejudice which is a harsh reality. Sometimes big industries and government authorities force indigenous people to leave their native places/ homelands. And all this happened in the name of development. In return, they get only minimal compensation. Their whole identity, values, love, and bonding with nature, ancestry, rich culture, and language and almost everything remains on stake. They are forced to live in extreme poverty and marginalized condition. They don’t get enough support from the government. Also, they are facing poor infrastructure, illiteracy, and lack of clean water, and many more issues.
Having said that, there are countries where the government deny to recognize them, which happened in Indonesia. Here, Indonesian Ex-President denied the existence of indigenous people which is a shocking revelation. As in reality, Indonesia has more than 1000 ethnic groups, spread over 17000 islands, with a population of about 50-70 million people. Moreover, in a country like India, they are mocked as being northeastern and are poked by name ‘chinki’, which is non-ethical and can be demotivating. In fact, there are several incidents of discrimination with indigenous people that needs to be put an end to. Further, we should know what steps world authorities are taking, considering it a global issue, on which every nation has to take actions to uplift them in the society, and to protect their dignity.
What is the world doing to protect indigenous people
Every year, United Nations celebrates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on the 9th of August, to preserve their rights, traditions and history, ethnicity, and cultural values. United Nations urges every nation to amend the constitution if needed to protect their dignity and rights. With this in mind, meetings and sessions are held to encourage the government from all over the world to let these people participate in the policy-making body. With this, they will be benefited from government schemes and will feel inclusive in society. Commendably, the UN raises funds for their upliftment.
UN also dedicate themes every year to highlight the issues which are significant and need to be focused by government across the world. In the same way, 2019 is considered the international year of indigenous languages. Furthermore, the UN general assembly also dedicated 2022-2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. And Theme for 2020 is COVID-19 and indigenous peoples’ resilience.
Indigenous peoples’ resilience and it’s significance during this pandemic time
Indigenous people live in the forest which they worship as well. Moreover, their traditional knowledge and experiences of forests are boundless. During this pandemic, when scientists are still searching the origin of coronavirus, the only thing research organizations have found to date is the link between environmental depletion and pandemic. On the other hand, these people have sensed that a deadly pandemic was imminent even before the spread of COVID-19. After all, they are connected to biodiversity and nature which is depleting with every single day. Hence, they were worried that one day this degradation of environment and ecology will be the cause of the spread of pandemic disease or virus. Needless to say, today this virus has shaken or can say destroyed the world’s economy & health, happiness, and every aspect of life.
During this pandemic, indigenous people have shown their ability to adapt and resilience. They are trying their own ways to prevent this virus such as voluntary isolation, closing off their regions, and so forth. So there is a lot we can learn from them, such as their ability to work together, their skills of sustainability and resilience and to protect our mother nature. While they are still fighting for their survival in the world, their problems are on hike due to coronavirus spread where they have fewer options for survival.
Risk coronavirus or go hungry?
According to Food and Agriculture Organisations, “ Indigenous peoples’ health and safety are at risk due to Coronavirus.” Many Indigenous peoples live in extreme poverty and have poor access to healthcare. As it has been noted, poor access to social services and technology, and if there are some nearby available resources, are not fully equipped or are lack in staff.
Markedly, in the absence of safety measures and lack of sanitation and clean water, there will be a high risk of Coronavirus spread. They are already losing their traditional lands and regions in the name of development and now due to lockdown their conditions are even worse and are living under the threat of hunger. It is important to realize that they don’t have access to the internet and other social media services, which causes a lack of effective monitoring and early-warning systems related to COVID-19.
There is another factor that can trigger the risks of coronavirus among indigenous people and that is their traditional lifestyle. Since they organize gatherings occasionally to celebrate harvesting, seasons and ceremonies of ages and many lives in multi m-generational houses which are risky and can spread virus undoubtedly.
Time to help and strengthen indigenous people
During a pandemic, it becomes significant for us to help indigenous people and the government should work on this. They are backbones of our cultures so they should be preserved.
Food and Agriculture Organisation Indigenous people unit has given some recommendations to governments across the world and here are some:
• Provide them safety equipment such as PPEs, masks, gloves, and sanitizers, etc.
• Include indigenous peoples’ leaders, and representatives in emergency and health committees.
• Information related to COVID-19 should be given in indigenous languages as well as in local languages.
• The right of Indigenous people to be or remain in Voluntary Isolation must be respected.
• Stop any planned or ongoing evictions of indigenous people.
All things considered, there is a great need to understand that the greed of humans causes environmental damage. And then these kinds of pandemics may occur. Hence, this is the time to stop and think for the environment and conserve the keepers of the environment: indigenous peoples. They are worshipers of biodiversity. Together we can fight against pandemic; our science and their traditional values and perspective of sustainable development will do magic. And after all, we are children of Mother Nature, so spread love and equality. As Dalai Lama once said “ Be a good human being, a warm-hearted, affectionate person. That is my fundamental belief.”
If you think indigenous people need recognition and respect . Please share this , this will help us grow and please leave your comments if you have any doubts or suggestions.