9 August: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples


Daniel Horgan – TRANSCEND Media Service

“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pokanoket, and many other once powerful tribes of our people?” – Tecumseh (Shawnee)

We are Still Here,” is the name of a documentary describing the Wampanoag’s Language revitalization program. Jane Little Bird Doe of Cape Cod, Massachusetts had a vision for bringing back her people’s language. ‘When one loses their language they lose their sense of identity. One can lose themselves.’ As indigenous people and languages go extinct at a rapid rate in the world today there is also push back. Pride. Strength. This vision of language revitalization is being carried out by many tribal peoples all across the US and around the globe.

And there are the Mayan K’uiche’ in the highlands of Western Guatemala. More pride and strength.   The Mayan K’uiche’ are survivors of a Genocide Campaign led by former President Rios Montt, the only political leader to be convicted of such crimes in a court of law.

In Asia, where 2/3 of the world indigenous people live today there are the Kuy of Cambodia. The Kuy fight for “Prey Lang”, which means “Our Forest”. Which is being encroached on by developers. They fight for their land and their soul.

As well intentioned as the Western created Environmental Movement may be, have we thought how silly such a construct is? Indigenous people throughout human history have been the true environmentalists. Stuarts of the land that hold great value to their societies. Medicinal plants. Plants and Animals which provide a means to subsistence living. Spiritual value that Western religions cannot comprehend. In Kenya the Samburu have been displaced in a land grab. Why? To create a National Park. A construct of the Environmental Movement. The Samburu are “Still There”. Using the courts. Fighting.

In 2009 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, a bill of rights attempting to guarantee political autonomy, religious freedom, access to health care, control over one’s education and conflict resolution mechanisms.

Originally 143 countries ratified the Declaration. The US and Canada not among them. The free world is free for some. Not for others. This we know.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, “On this The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I call on the international community to ensure that they are not left behind. To create a better, more equitable future. Let us commit to do more to improve the health and well-being of indigenous peoples.”

Indeed a good message. Close your eyes. Take a moment to think about the world with only nature and indigenous people. Utopia.

(The observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples at UN Headquarters will take place on Monday, 10 August 2015, in the ECOSOC Chamber, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The event will be webcast live on webtv.un.org. Read the Press Release.)


Daniel Horgan is a graduate of the European Center for Peace Studies, Austria. He is a former student of Johan Galtung and Dietrich Fischer and an occasional contributor to Transcend Media Service. He is also a former intern at Cultural Survival, an indigenous rights organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Aug 2015.

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