ugust 9 was observed as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. The declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly exactly 10 years ago on September 13, 2007. The day marks the celebration of the diversity of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and their cultures, customs, and survival. In spite of the uniqueness of every ethnic group and the substantial differences among them, all indigenous peoples have a common problem: the protection of their rights. After centuries of oppression, genocide, colonisation and “exportation of cultures”, the international community has recognised the need to introduce special measures to protect their rights.
We come across the world that there are many indigenous people cannot access the basic right to education. Their traditional methods of teaching, learning, and cultivating food are not always respected by education systems and teachers. Many indigenous people are struggling to preserve their knowledge and traditions. Traditional knowledge is passed down from generation to generation. Unfortunately, there are growing pressures to the environment and the ecosystems on which indigenous peoples depend.
According to the United Nations, traditional knowledge is “the knowledge, innovations, and practices of indigenous and local communities around the world.” It is estimated that there are 370 million Indigenous people in around 90 countries across the globe. Many still practice their unique customs and live culturally distinct lives from other citizens of their respective countries. The right to education for Indigenous people is protected in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which in Article 14 states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.”
Indigenous people cannot access important natural resources they used to enjoy, such as traditional foods and medicines, adequate water supply, game meat, and honey, due to excessive exploitations of the habitats. It is nice that there are many organizations around the globe are working to promote indigenous knowledge in the food system. Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. It is nice that the year 2018 will focus on the current situation of indigenous territories, the root causes of migration, trans-border movement, and displacement, with a specific focus on indigenous peoples living in urban areas and across international borders. The observance will certainly explore the challenges and way forward to revitalise indigenous peoples’ identities and encourage the protection of their rights in or outside their traditional territories.
Let us commit to ensuring Indigenous peoples are not left behind as we pursue the vision of the sustainable development goals. Let us pray and give thanks in sacred places for the knowledge and materials offered to us from this earth, and for all the relations that keep us connected to the heavens, earth, each other, and all beings.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)