30th March: Indigenous Rights

Reading guide:

1.  Basic needs of Indigenous People

Food insecurity [Canada]

Aboriginal Canadians face unique challenges to the acquisition and purchase of foods appropriate to their culture. For centuries Aboriginals ate a relatively stable diet until they were forced onto reserves. The reserves were often insufficient in size for hunting and gathering and often unsuitable to sustain much life. This meant that Aboriginals were forced to rely on commodity foods provided by the government the likes of which included white flour and white sugar. As La Duke (2005) describes, this only “changed the starvation from quick and obvious to hidden and slow.” Today, with Aboriginals migrating to cities in larger numbers, they are now relying even less on their country foods and more on inexpensive processed foods which are high in refined sugars and saturated fats (Center for Studies in Food Security, 1996a). Country foods are low in calories and saturated fats, are higher in minerals such as iron and zinc, and are an important source of protein compared to store bought foods (Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment, 2006; Lawn, Langner, Brule, Thompson, Lawn, et al, 1998). Furthermore, disadvantaged consumers cannot always adequately procure the proper dietary requirements that ensure a balanced, healthy lifestyle. As a result, their ability to purchase a variety of goods (Riches, 1999) and to participate in traditional food acquisition by fishing, hunting, trapping, and gathering is restricted due to limited income and the high cost related to the organization and preparation of these activities (Kuhnlein & Receveur, 1996).

We know that compromised nutrition negatively affects one’s physical and psychological health and quality of life (Che & Chen, 2001). Under and improper nutrition unbalance the  harmonization between one or more of the four quadrants of the health and wellness of First Nations, Inuit, or Métis people. People living in conditions of food insecurity tend to have poorer health than those who are food secure (Chilton, Chyatte, & Breaux, 2007; Tarasuk, 2004).

Source: http://foodsecurecanada.org/sites/foodsecurecanada.org/files/FSinMBABCommunities.pdfhttp://www.indigenousfoodsystems.org/sites/default/files/policy_reform/Aboriginalfoodinsecurity%20report_University%20of%20Ottawa%20finalversion.pdf

Diseases of acculturation [Venezuela]

In 2002, in an Indigenous community in Venezuela, investigators reported serious rates of alcohol use (86·5% of all men and 7·5% of all women were reported to be heavy alcohol users). They report that “Focus group discussions revealed that traditional patterns of binge drinking of corn liquor had gradually been replaced by consumption of commercial beer and rum at more frequent intervals and with more negative social consequences”.

Source: http://www.who.int/social_determinants/resources/articles/lancet_montenegro.pdf

The importance of early life experiences [Australia]

A wealth of research, both in Australia and overseas, shows that a child’s educational success depends upon good health, and an early start in a supportive and nurturing environment.

Many Aboriginal children in remote communities are disadvantaged even before going to school, and indeed before birth. There is an increased risk of intra‐uterine growth retardation and low birthweight because of maternal infections, poor nutrition and smoking, and of brain damage from foetal alcohol syndrome if the mother is a heavy drinker. The burden from poor nutrition and infection often continues in early childhood, leading to listlessness, impaired growth and decreased capacity to learn. Children of pre‐school age are rarely read to in remote communities, and too few are exposed to formal early learning experiences and knowledge of the wider world that would help to prepare them for school.

Source: https://www.google.com.sg/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDAQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aihw.gov.au%2FWorkArea%2FDownloadAsset.aspx%3Fid%3D6442459651&ei=elpRUcDqN8eJrAeSoYCQAg&usg=AFQjCNHH0k7ktQs-xJsrwRDLaxFreEYOfw&sig2=6X1UpXKVzk_FwM1W_wvOew&bvm=bv.44342787,d.bmk

In remote areas, food are more expensive as well as lower in quality due to transportation and other factors, whereas poverty and poor health usually results from failure in adapting to lifestyles of modern societies. Attempts to integrate them failed miserably when their cultural context were not taken into account,  leading to a disadvantaged community that could not escape the poverty cycle .

See http://www.smh.com.au/national/policy-of-integration-left-aborigines-isolated-20090212-85zb.html, why did this policy fail?

2. Cultural Disconnection [New Zealand]

Identity loss tied to Maori suicide

Being cut off from Maori culture is a key factor behind the high rates of Maori suicide and attempted suicide, a study has found. Massey University researcher Nicole Coupe interviewed Maori treated at Auckland hospitals following attempted suicide and compared them with a control group. She found much higher numbers among the attempted-suicide group were not connected to things Maori. “They didn’t have a secure identity,” she said. “Interestingly, the majority could actually say who their iwi were, but they couldn’t tell us much more than that. They were much less likely to speak te reo than the group from the wider community.”

Other suicide-attempt risk factors included poor general health, cannabis use and having been abused by others. Maori have much higher rates of suicide in most age groups. Maori males aged 15 to 24 in 2001 had a 34 per cent higher suicide rate than non-Maori: 38.9 per 100,000, compared with 29.2.

Dr Coupe said last night that Maori who lost contact with Maoritanga – things like their whakapapa, marae and Maori language – “lack a sense of belonging to a place”. Rebuilding these connections, like learning the language, could help to reduce the risk of Maori suicide.

About a quarter of suicides by young Maori males occur in prison or police custody.

Massey University study.

  •  250 Maori who were treated at Auckland hospitals after attempting suicide were interviewed. They were compared with a control group of 250 Maori randomly selected from the same communities.
  • Each participant was asked 400 questions about his or her personal circumstances, background, health, employment, drug and alcohol use and whether they suffered depression and anxiety.
  • Those connected with Maori culture were three times less likely to have attempted suicide than those who were not connected.
  • Cultural connection included being able to speak Maori, name their iwi, ancestors and marae, having visited their marae and having access to their whanau.

Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10364903

Stolen Lives: why are indigenous Australians killing themselves?

“We looked at studies in Canada, New Zealand and Australia that look at the social emotional causation. We have found that studies in other places showed that cultural disconnection was a major cause of suicide especially amongst Aboriginal youth,” Dr Sheehan explained. “So you look at Aboriginal kids who are separated from their culture, who are called Aboriginal, treated as Aboriginals but have no understanding of what being Aboriginal is — it’s an incredible conflict to carry and there is no real cultural education happening.

“The knowledge of Aboriginal culture is very significant for Aboriginal communities as they take away the doubt and they bring a positive cultural perspective to people who have been deprived of that cultural perspective. “Identity and selfhood are important for emotional well-being. Australia has historically denied these basic human needs to Aboriginal people.

“Aboriginal people were deprived of a true understanding of self because their biological make-up was seen as an impediment something that had to be erased. That’s a crime against humanity. But Aboriginal people have had to live with that legacy and develop a concept of self in a zone like that, so understanding what culture is in that context is almost impossible.”

Dr Sheehan sees suicide as the direct result of colonialism: “Colonialism is a set of ideas that still exists today in various forms, definitely as an ideology. Colonialism deprives the colonised of positive self-images and for me, that’s a crucial part of the Aboriginal experience.

Source: http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/02/14/stolen-lives-why-are-indigenous-australians-killing-themselves/?wpmp_switcher=mobile&wpmp_tp=1

Cultural identity connects people with the same beliefs together. Humans are social animals and require a sense of belonging to some entity. The loss of a sense of belonging was demonstrated to increase the chance of suicide among indigenous individuals. Foster parents in Australia are given guidelines and  support for helping their foster children maintain their links to their culture and therefore their cultural identity. How much will this aid in maintaining a sense of belonging of the children to their indigenous culture?

3. Government management [Russia, Australia, Sweden]

Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North

The 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the closure of so-called “futureless” indigenous villages, forced relocation of native populations into larger, often multi-ethnic settlements (where the leadership was often non-native), an increase in the removal of children from their families for residential school-based education, and heightened state interference in traditional economic activities (reindeer husbandry, hunting, fishing) with an eye toward “rationalization.” Such challenges to cultural persistence contributed to acute social pathologies, evidenced in an indigenous life expectancy 20 years short of the relatively low Russian average. Indeed, by the early 1980s, Soviet officials had launched a hushed program of research into the origin of the problem. In 1988, a silence-shattering article called “The Big Problems of the Small Peoples,” published in the official journal of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, brought these adverse statistics to the public eye. Soviet inventions of a history lauding the great progress made by these peoples under socialism rang painfully hollow in the face of such misery and social dislocation.

Source: http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/russia/indigenous-peoples-russian-north

Stolen Generations

The Stolen Generations (also known as Stolen children) were the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. The extent of the removal of children, and the reasoning behind their removal, are contested.

One view suggests that the motivation and purpose of the laws providing for the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents was child protection, with government policy makers and officials responding to an observed need to provide protection for neglected, abused or abandoned mixed-descent children.[21]

The social impacts of forced removal have been measured and found to be quite severe.[45] Although the stated aim of the “resocialisation” programme was to improve the integration of Aboriginal people into modern society, a study conducted in Melbourne and cited in the official report found that there was no tangible improvement in the social position of “removed” Aborigines as compared to “non-removed”, particularly in the areas of employment and post-secondary education.[45] Most notably, the study indicated that removed Aboriginal people were actually less likely to have completed a secondary education, three times as likely to have acquired a police record and were twice as likely to use illicit drugs.[45] The only notable advantage “removed” Aboriginal people possessed was a higher average income, which the report noted was most likely due to the increased urbanisation of removed individuals, and hence greater access to welfare payments than for Aboriginal people living in remote communities.[45]

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen_Generations

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – Sweden : Sami

Issues arise too over the resource privileges that Sami receive in order to maintain their unique heritage, which is officially interpreted as ‘reindeer herding’. The Swedish state allows between 300 and 500 reindeer per family. If a herder depends more upon non-herding sources of income, their membership in the herding collective with accompanying resource rights can be questioned. The herding unit, the sameby, can engage in no economic activity other than reindeer herding. Currently, only 10 per cent of Sami in Sweden belong to a sameby.

Reindeer husbandry is regulated in the Reindeer Husbandry Act, where Sami rights have been collectively referred to as reindeer husbandry rights. The Act gives the Sami the right to use land and water for their own maintenance and that of their reindeer. This right is based on tradition from time immemorial and is protected in the Swedish Constitution. It belongs to the Sami people and may be exercised by any member of a Sami village. There are 51 Sami villages for reindeer herding, whose members are entitled to pursue reindeer herding. A member of a Sami village has the right to hunt and fish on outlying land in reindeer grazing mountains in Jämtland and in the traditional grounds of the Sami people. This right to hunt or fish applies regardless of who owns the land.

While in theory the Swedish Supreme Court acknowledges Sami land rights, in practice these rights and Sami landownership are controversial and therefore frequently disregarded. As elsewhere in Scandinavia, the rise of extractive industries and tourism poses a threat to herding and the traditional Sami way of life. For example, because of concerns about damage caused by Sami reindeer to settlers’ property, herding and farming have ostensibly been kept apart. Problematically, however, a significant area of that territory officially designated as herding land is unusable as pasture. In the hope of resolving this issue, in September 2005 the Swedish government asked the Board of Agriculture to negotiate an agreement on winter reindeer grazing between Sami villagers and Swedish landowners. In May 2006, the government extended the negotiating period until the end of that year.

Some municipalities offer integrated Sami education, which means that the Sami children attend municipal schools, but a part of their education has a Sami focus. Sami children are allowed four weeks a year out of school to participate in reindeer herding.

Source: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/publisher,MRGI,,SWE,49749ca35,0.html

The traditional practices of indigenous people are sometimes wrongly seen as detrimental to the development of the people, although in some cases such as child marriage and polygamy, the practice is indeed harmful and should be stopped due to violation of human rights. When, in your opinion, should a tradition be encouraged and when should it be discontinued? What are the reasonings behind the actions taken above and  in what aspect could they improve?

4. Language [America & Scandinavia]

Cultural Assimilation of Native Americans

Americanization policies were based on the idea that when indigenous people learned United States (American) customs and values, they would be able to merge tribal traditions with American culture and peacefully join the majority society. After the end of the Indian Wars, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the government outlawed the practice of traditional religious ceremonies. It established boarding schools which children were required to attend. In these schools they were forced to speak English, study standard subjects, attend church, and leave tribal traditions behind.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_assimilation_of_Native_Americans

Minority language use in Slovakia

Slovaks who are from a national minority are permitted to request that legal documents and to be interrogated by a government official in the individual’s native language. The Act, passed in 1999 also recognizes the rights of these individuals to communicate in their own language, but stated that it is imperative that, as a citizen, they are able to communicate also in Slovak. The principle of this act is followed closely by other countries in their goal to integrate minorities.


The Sami vs. Outsiders

Along with the churches, boarding schools were another factor in the assimilation process. In fact, they took over for the churches. Sami boarding schools, which began in the 19th century, did not allow the use of the Sami language. The first teachers were missionaries and clergymen. This was true in all the nation states. In the early schools the policy was that the Sami language should be used in the education process. But when the boarding schools started, each country’s respective language was used. In Norway, Thomas von Westen, the “apostle to the Lapps,” wanted to have the Sami language used in both churches and schools, and for a while the Sami language was used. However, in 1773 the government decreed that only Dano-Norwegian was to be used. This lasted until 1830 when the clergyman Niels Vibe Stockfleth convinced the authorities to use the Sami language in textbooks. In 1879 the law mandated that instruction be given in the child’s native language. However, this did not happen because of the 1860’s teacher instructions, which constantly decreased the use of the Sami language in the Sami districts. So in effect, the 1879 law was ignored. Then in 1880 the diocese of TromsØ decreed that, except as a guide in religious instructions, only Norwegian was to be used. And then in 1936, the authorities again forbade the use of Sami language in schools.

In Sweden among the first teachers were the “catechists” who were sent out to instruct the Sami during their migrations. In 1913, “goatte schools” were established. Like the “catechists,” these schools were to travel with the Sami on their migrations. According Nickul (in The Lappish Nation), the purpose was to have the schools conform as much as possible to the Sami lifestyle. Yet, the authorities insisted that the language of instruction be Swedish. Not surprisingly in Finland and Russia they too forbade the teaching of the Sami language. In 1937 the Russian government decreed that Sami language books would be reprinted in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Clearly the authorities were unsure of what direction to take. It would have helped had they consulted the parents, for all were unanimous in the view that the Sami language should be used. But again they did not consult the parents. This is just one of the many examples of where the nation states have totally disregarded the opinions of the Sami people. Nowadays, we know that before learning a new language, the pupil first needs a firm grasp of his native language.

Source: http://www.utexas.edu/courses/sami/dieda/hist/sami-west.htm#school

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – Sweden : Sami

On 1 April 2000, Sweden officially recognized Sami as a minority language. Legislation enacted ensures the right to use Sami when dealing with state authorities and the court in Sweden. The law applies to municipal, state, regional and local authorities in the Sami administrative area.

This legislation gives Sami individuals the right to use Sami in all oral and written communication with authorities concerning official decisions related to them. Authorities are obliged to use Sami in oral communications and provide information that a written answer can be translated orally into Sami if the individual requests it. Provision also exists for Sami-language education within the Sami area.

Within so called ‘Sami schools’ instruction is given in both Swedish and the Sami language. Some municipalities offer integrated Sami education, which means that the Sami children attend municipal schools, but a part of their education has a Sami focus. Sami children are allowed four weeks a year out of school to participate in reindeer herding.

Despite the efforts made to protect the Sami language in recent years, major problems still remain. Some analysts say the Minority Languages Act, has not had a large impact – partly because of the weakened state of the language before it was introduced (many young people can’t speak it fluently), and there are not enough officials proficient in the language to allow its widespread use in bureaucratic settings.

Source: http://www.minorityrights.org/?lid=1506&tmpl=printpage

Most of the indigenous languages are slowly disappearing as the state language is introduced to more and more communities. There is a need to protect and conserve such indigenous languages as a mark of heritage and humans’ cultural diversity. It is imperative however, if the local communities want to be able to interact with the rest of the globalized world, that they must be able to communicate fluently. What do you think of this balance between maintaining the  prevalence of the indigenous language and introducing a more common language? Is bilingual education with regards to the state and indigenous language always possible?

5. Culture Disparity [Australia]

Closing the gap in Indigenous education Workshop Report

Furthermore, some educated Aboriginal adults from traditional communities still refer to the “secret English” spoken by educated white people, as they realize that they do not understand language used to refer to mainstream business and culture. This gap in language and meaning between the cultures can impair communication. It seems likely therefore that some of the past effort on well intentioned consultation with traditional Aboriginal communities has been ineffective because of continuing difficulties with communication and meaning between parties embedded in different cultures. Even today, there are very few people who have lived sufficiently in both cultures to be proficient in both English and a traditional language, and with the knowledge from both cultures that is needed to explain complex concepts across the cultural interface.

Source: http://www.menziesfoundation.org.au/education/IndEd%20Workshop%20presentations/Closing%20the%20gap%20in%20Indigenous%20education%20-%20Workshop%20Report.pdf

Australian Indigenous Employment Disadvantage

Gray and Hunter carried out the first longitudinal analysis of the probability of Indigenous employment and labour force participation using Census figures from 1986, 1991 and 1996; their definition of employment included wage and salary earners, self-employment and employers but excluded CDEP employment to be consistent with the exclusion from the definition of employment of other labour market programs for non-Indigenous and Indigenous people. They found that:

  • living in a major urban area increased employment opportunity and labour force participation for non-Indigenous males and females, but that region of residence did not affect Indigenous males’ and females’ non-CDEP employment or labour force participation probabilities;
  • having difficulty speaking English decreased employment probability and labour force participation for non-Indigenous males and females, but it had no effect for Indigenous males while for Indigenous females difficulty with English affected their employment probability but not their labour force participation;
  • having a degree or diploma had no significant effect on the probability of employment or labour force participation for Indigenous males; Indigenous females with degrees were no more likely to be employed or to participate in the workforce while a diploma reduced their probability of being in the workforce but did not affect their probability of employment. (Gray & Hunter 1999, pp. 6-7)

These results indicate that school quality, discrimination and other causes not able to be determined through using the available quantitative data ‘will need to be addressed if significant inroads into Indigenous employment and participation are to be achieved’ (Gray & Hunter, p. 10). However, although their analysis casts doubt on the efficacy of policy initiatives aimed at improving education and increasing geographical mobility in addressing Indigenous employment disadvantage, they are unable to discern the precise policy required.

Source: http://epubs.scu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=jesp

Education is universally recognized as one of the most fundamental building blocks for human development and poverty reduction (World bank). However, indigenous people are disadvantaged in terms of education due to numerous factors, especially when they are unable to understand and learn the hidden curriculum of a modern society (A hidden curriculum is a side effect of an education, such as the transmission of norms, values, and beliefs conveyed in the classroom and the social environment. – Wikipedia). With reference to the above education workshop, how can such initiatives benefit the lives of indigenous children?

See: http://www.menziesfoundation.org.au/education/IndEd%20Workshop%20presentations/Closing%20the%20gap%20in%20Indigenous%20education%20-%20Workshop%20Report.pdf

6. Social discrimination [Japan]

Burakumin (部落民?, “hamlet people”/”village people”) is an outcaste group at the bottom of the Japanese social order that has historically been the victim of severe discrimination and ostracism. They were originally members of outcaste communities in the Japanese feudal era, composed of those with occupations considered impure or tainted by death (such as executioners, undertakers, workers in slaughterhouses, butchers or tanners), which have severe social stigmas of kegare (穢れ or “defilement”) attached to them. Traditionally, the Burakumin lived in their own hamlets or ghettos.

The prejudice most often manifests itself in the form of marriage discrimination, and less often, in employment. Traditionalist families have been known to check on the backgrounds of potential in-laws to identify people of buraku background. These checks are now illegal, and marriage discrimination is diminishing; Nadamoto Masahisa of the Buraku History Institute estimates that between 60 and 80% of burakumin marry a non-burakumin, whereas for people in their sixties, the rate was 10%.[6]

Cases of continuing social discrimination are known to occur mainly in western Japan, particularly in the Osaka, Kyōto, Hyōgo and Hiroshima regions, where many people, especially the older generation, stereotype buraku residents (whatever their ancestry) and associate them with squalor, unemployment and criminality.[7]

Adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burakumin

Today stereotypes against indigenous people still exists. The indigenous people are being denoted as primitives, savages, or uncivilized due to their historical background or cultural practices.This hinders the efforts made to acknowledge their rights as fellow humans. What factors do you think are responsible for this continued prejudice against the indigenous population and how effective do you think governing bodies have been in tackling this challenge?

7. Economy vs. Culture [Russia, China, Hawaii]

Russia: Stop the Silencing of Indigenous Voices. Reinstate RAIPON.

Indigenous Peoples’ organizations all over the world are appalled that Russian authorities represented by the Ministry of Justice have suspended the activities of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), naming inconsistencies in technical regulations between the bylaws of the organization and the Russian Federal law. The suspension occurred on the day before the opening of the Arctic Council in Haparanda, Sweden.

Russia’s Indigenous Peoples are continually faced with environmental disasters caused by extractive industries and oil spills that pollute their rivers and threatened their sources of livelihoods. They struggle for self-determination and the protection of their lands, languages, and cultures.  RAIPON has been a courageous voice in the fight to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and their work must be supported not silenced and marginalized.

Cultural Survival has urged the Russian government to reinstate RAIPON’s status, including its continued participation in the Arctic Council.

Source: http://www.culturalsurvival.org/take-action/russia-stop-silencing-indigenous-voices-reinstate-raipon

International Work Group for Indigenous affairs [Update 2011- China]

The protests have become symbolic of the Mongolians’ dissatisfaction with a national development policy that is increasingly marginalising them. In recent decades, the Chinese government has prohibited ethnic Mongolians from practicing their traditional way of pastoralist nomadic herding, citing the need to prevent destruction of the pastureland. However, after this prohibition came into effect, the Chinese government went ahead and allowed companies to exploit the region’s coal and mineral resources. The prospecting activities, mining operations and running of coal transport trucks have extensively damaged the pastures and the area’s environment. Local Mongolian communities were extremely angry and eventually started protesting.

For the Mongolian people, the Han Chinese are intruders on their traditional territory. The Han Chinese incursion began in the middle of the 19th century. To this day, the Mongolians call on the spirit of Gada Mairen, a celebrated hero who led an armed uprising in the 1930s against the exploitation and political oppression of the Han Chinese settlers and the corrupt government.

Read more: http://www.iwgia.org/regions/asia/china/859-update-2011-china

Negative Impact of Tourism on Hawaii Natives and Environment

Although foreign investment appears to be beneficial in that it has modernized the island and placed the resorts on a pedestal displaying a sense of well being, it has created strife for local communities. This however is far from reality for many Natives and residents of local communities. Granted wealth has been accumulated from the tourism industry in Hawaii, little to none of these profits have been passed down the chain of stakeholders. “While the few local elites and transnational corporations are the primary beneficiaries of a dominant tourism industry, Native Hawaiians continue to be the poorest, sickest and least educated of all people in Hawaii.” 11 This has inevitably led to a class division on the island that has threatened Hawaiians very way of life.

“Globalization is blamed for increasing the chasm between new groups of haves and have- nots- between the well educated and the poorly educated, between the technologically skilled and the unskilled, and between those living in countries that compete successfully in the global economy and those who do not.” 12

Native Hawaiian culture is among the biggest issues when it comes to globalization and tourism within Hawaii. With all of the development over the recent years many Natives have found it difficult to maintain the livelihoods of their ancestors which to them, is a part of how they define their sense of self and well-being. With the loss of traditional jobs many have turned to the industry to make a way of life. This has led to the so called ‘hula’ marketing, which quite simply is the sale of the Hawaiian culture. Although job opportunities are considered a good thing, there are negative factors that must also be considered. Jobs within the tourism industry are synonymous with low wages, meaning that many cannot support a family, let alone get ahead in life. Yet many are forced into accepting these jobs because if they do not the positions will be given to traveling workers. Lacking free choice many Natives have no alternative but to turn to crime as a means of making a living. Ironically enough, globalization and the tourism industry are destroying the very core of what they are marketing (Hawaiian culture), which will eventually lead to the complete incorporation of the Natives into modern society leaving transnational investors with one less commodity to sell.


The increase in extensiveness of the tourism industry has exerted profound and unprecedented pressures on local communities. The destruction and commercialization of local cultures reduces our cultural diversity. To what extent should the government exploit these communities for the tourism trade, if at all? Morally, do these communities control their sovereignty completely and should be regraded a distinct from the government which occupies their land or do these communities, by being a part of the land of another country (ignore for the moment the fact that the government took over their land during colonization) be used by the government to expand their tourist industry?

8. Land Rights [Mexico]

Defending communities and the earth

The vice-president of CIMI, Saulo Feitosa, told IPS that 39 indigenous people were murdered last year in Brazil by the police or landowners’ hired gunmen, or in fights among indigenous people arising from their “being confined in small territories.”

According to the group, a total of 241 members of indigenous communities have been murdered in the past 10 years.

The proliferation throughout the country of land conflicts involving indigenous people is a result of the government’s slow place in demarcating indigenous reserves and ensuring their protection, said Feitosa.

He pointed to cases like the Raposa Serra del Sol reserve in the northern state of Roraima, where the demarcation process has been completed, but non-indigenous illegal occupants have not yet been removed from the territory, which has led to the persistence of legal disputes and physical attacks.

Efforts by the government of leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to demarcate the pending areas are moving very slowly, at a rate of only six reserves a year, Feitosa complained.

At this pace, he said, it will take 45 years to demarcate all of the indigenous reserves, even though the president had promised to complete the entire process by the end of his term, in December 2006.

Reflecting the deterioration of relations between indigenous people and the government, five anthropologists resigned from their jobs in the National Foundation for Indigenous People (FUNAI), the government agency in charge of indigenous policies, on Tuesday. They formed part of a 14-member council of advisers.

In their letter of resignation, the anthropologists criticised the “outdated concepts” that orient FUNAI’s actions, such as classifying indigenous groups as “uncultured” or “in the process of integration,” or seeing their “absolutely legitimate grievances” as impertinent.

Source: http://www.ipsnews.net/2006/02/brazil-indigenous-people-fight-for-their-rights/

BRAZIL: Indigenous People Fight for Their Rights

Veloz also asserted that the dialogue had to include other communities and that the relationship with the Zapatistas had national repercussions. He also said that the poverty and exploitation of Indigenous Peoples in Mexico is worse than it was in 1997.

“From 2000 to 2010, they delivered 138,378,800 million acres to mining businesses, a quarter of the whole country,” Veloz said. He also asserted that historical records show that between 1521 and 1830, Spain removed 192 tons of gold from Mexican soil. Between 2000 and 2010, companies more than doubled that figure to 419 tons [or 838,000 pounds].  Veloz noted that more than 70 percent of those businesses are foreign and the majority of those operations are in indigenous lands.

“And considering these facts, the poverty in indigenous territories stands in brutal contrast. I would ask then, to those who hurled insults at the work of the CHPC and demonized the San Andres accords (the peace treaties with the Zapatistas) to explain this historic reality,” Veloz stated.

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/01/25/facing-historic-debt-mexico-announces-new-indigenous-dialogue-commission-147222

2012: Year of Indigenous Resistance in Mexico

In Mexico, indigenous activists frequently continue to be the target of violence and repression. Among the latest suspected victims is Celodonio Monroy Prudencio, Nahua defender of the Manatlan Biosphere Reserve from illegal loggers in the borderlands of Jalisco and Colima states.

The director of indigenous affairs for the municipality of Cuatitlan in Jalisco, Monroy was taken away from his home last October 23 by a group of heavily-armed men dressed in military-style uniforms, according to his wife Blanca Estela, who reportedly witnessed the forced disappearance. “We don’t know anything, (officials) don’t know anything, and when I ask them they say they don’t know”,” she later told La Jornada’s Jalisco edition.

Despite the ongoing and historic repression directed against them, Mexico’s indigenous communities push forward in defense of their lands, their cultures and their ecosystems.

Source: http://www.opednews.com/articles/2012-Year-of-Indigenous-R-by-Kent-Paterson-130204-255

9. Indigenous knowledge in Disaster Management [Africa]

The communities studied in Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania have well developed indigenous knowledge systems covering practically every aspect of life from food production and health care to nature conservation and natural disaster management.The studies in the four countries (in Africa) have come up with recommendations to deal with some of the challenges and the status of indigenous knowledge in the project countries. Some of the recommendations made by all the individual country studies include the following:

  • Further country research on indigenous knowledge should be carried and data banks established.
  • Indigenous knowledge should be documented urgently to avoid the information being lost as the elderly custodians of the knowledge disappear from the scene.
  • Laws to safeguard intellectual property rights relating to indigenous knowledge should be enacted.
  • Indigenous knowledge systems should be integrated with modern knowledge.
  • Indigenous knowledge should be taught in schools and popularized among members of the public.

But the major challenges facing indigenous knowledge is the increasing pressure on land and demand for fuel wood as a result of fast growing populations and increasing poverty. In many cases people have now started to violate some of the traditional rules that enabled the communities to conserve nature and its biodiversity and live harmoniously with it.


  •  The South African desk study points out that there is need for research on indigenous sources of food such as mopane worms (caterpillars), locusts and termites and the edible stink-bug which are important sources of protein in South Africa.
  • Indigenous knowledge of food preservation techniques, such as drying food fruits and vegetables, should be popularized to ensure food security and reduce dependency on food aid.
  • The medicinal plants reported in the study should be investigated scientifically.
  • Medicinal plants should be planted, not just gathered

It is worth noting that in Tanzania indigenous knowledge on land use and management is particularly well developed. An outstanding example is the ngoro and intuumba systems, used to maintain soil fertility. Farmers still use these techniques to avoid the use of expensive fertilizers.

Yet in Tanzania, as in the other project countries, there has been inadequate support for the formal promotion of the traditional technologies and know-how. Indigenous knowledge has not been harnessed to fit into the current scientific practices for environmental conservation and natural disaster management. In fact, until recently indigenous knowledge has been regarded as backward, static and a hindrance to modernization. This attitude has undermined the capacity of the local or indigenous communities to innovate, in a fast changing world.

Source: http://www.icsu.org/icsu-africa/news-centre/news/Appendix9IndigenousBookletUNEP.pdf

As seen from above, indigenous knowledge can help to solve many existing problems in a more cost-effective and local-friendly way.  The  inappropriate use of such knowledge, however, can lead to biopiracy where a patented company reaps profit from  indigenous discoveries and practice. Given the guidelines highlighted above, what are the moral issues regarding the use of indigenous knowledge? Also, If they are found to be scientifically sound and are proven to be effective, how much can this be used to promote the awareness of such cultures around the world?

10. Why indigenous autonomy? [Latin America]

Indigenous health in Latin America and the Caribbean
In some settings, western medical interventions such as vaccination, family planning, and maternal care have all played a part in the demographic recovery of Indigenous communities.However, studies suggest that Indigenous peoples of Latin America still have inadequate access to mainstream health services, and health prevention and promotion programmes, and that services that do exist are often culturally inappropriate. Some of the barriers to health care access are structural and economic factors (distance and location of health care facilities, isolation of Indigenous communities, scarcity of health insurance or funds to pay for services, or time factors) and poor cultural sensitivity and appropriateness of health care systems (disregard of health personnel towards Indigenous peoples or their culture, disrespect for traditional healing practices, language and religious barriers, or uncomfortable and impersonal environment of hospitals and clinics).

In many Latin American countries, Indigenous communities have become organised and have  developed their own health services. In 1991, the Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (Aidesep) in Peru developed their own health policy and programme for 120 communities of the Ashaninkas, Yinnes, Shipibos, and Konibos, and for three Indigenous organisations. This policy strengthened local Indigenous health experts, and revived the use and management of medicinal plants. In other countries, national institutes  have been created with similar aspirations and with a specific focus on Indigenous medicines. In Panama in 2000, the Indigenous community of Kuna created the Autonomous Institute of Traditional Medicine, with the objective to ensure that the Ministry of Health “recognizes the existence, value and importance of traditional Indigenous medicine”.

Source: www.who.int/social_determinants/resources/articles/lancet_montenegro.pdf

Indigenous autonomy aims to recognize the rights of indigenous people to their own forms of government and social organization, in accordance with their identity, history, cosmovision, and culture. Furthermore, it seeks to challenge the colonial and post-colonial repression of indigenous peoples. In Bolivia, where almost 70 % of the population self-identifies as indigenous,[ii] autonomy represents an effort to recognize indigenous self-determination.

By redistributing political power and decision-making, the initiative attempts to permit self-governance, and is central to the MAS’s stated goals of “decolonization” and the construction of a plurinational state.[iii] During his presidential campaign, Evo Morales promised to restore the dignity of Bolivian First Nations.  However, his administration has not prioritized the autonomy process, showing gaps between a discourse on indigenous rights and implementation of these promises.  In particular, lowland indigenous groups including the Confederación de Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia (CIDOB), which is the largest umbrella organization of lowland First Nations people, have rejected the new legislation for failing to incorporate their demands.[iv]

Source: http://ain-bolivia.org/2012/02/indigenous-autonomies-in-bolivia-part-i-legal-guidelines-and-gaps/

While most of the world’s indigenous communities are fighting against discrimination and assimilation, notable exceptions exists whereby some communities are given recognition and even substantial power to build an autonomous government.  One such example include the Komi and Sakha peoples in Russia who now run their own republics within the Russian state. Do you think Indigenous communities should be permitted to self-govern in accordance to their traditional social organization and culture? What are the possible obstacles, and why are these success stories a minority? What are the factors that the government and the indigenous people themselves should adopt in order to achieve a peaceful solution like the example above?

Reading: http://www.capabilityapproach.com/pubs/5_5_Binder.pdf



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