Ranjan K Baruah
We are aware about the term indigenous and when we add people with it then it becomes indigenous people. It is important for us to know indigenous people and their challenges and how they live and cope up with modern day changes. Indigenous peoples, also known as First peoples, Aboriginal peoples or Native peoples, are ethnic groups who are the original settlers of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently. People are described as indigenous when they maintain traditions or other aspects of an early culture that is associated with a given region.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.
Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of exceptional 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. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.
In order to raise awareness of the needs of these population groups, every 9 August commemorates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, chosen in recognition of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations held in Geneva in 1982. The theme for this year is ‘Indigenous Languages’. This year’s observance is dedicated to Indigenous Peoples’ Languages in view of 2019 being marked as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
The large majority of the languages in danger are spoken by indigenous peoples. It is estimated that, every 2 weeks, an indigenous language disappears, placing at risk the respective indigenous cultures and knowledge systems. That is why, on this International Day, the goal is to draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote them at both national and international levels.
Previous observances and themes
• 2018: “Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement”
• 2017: “10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”
• 2016: “Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education”
• 2015: “Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples’ health and well-being”
• 2014: “Bridging the gap: implementing the rights of indigenous peoples”
• 2013: Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements
• 2012: Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices
• 2011: Indigenous designs: celebrating stories and cultures, crafting their own future
• 2010: Celebrating Indigenous Film Making
António Guterres, Secretary-General of United Nations on his message said that “languages are how we communicate, and they are inextricably linked to our cultures, histories and identity. Almost half of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages – of which most are indigenous — are in danger of disappearing. With every language that disappears, the world loses a wealth of traditional knowledge.” “I count on Member States to engage and support indigenous peoples in determining their own development through policies that are inclusive, equitable and accessible. The United Nations stands ready to support all initiatives aimed at realizing the rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples”, he added.
As the theme of this year is focussed on the languages, it is important for us to have respect for own languages and also respect for all other mother tongues. There are strong languages being spoken but that does not mean that we should ignore indigenous languages which are used by less number of people. In India, we have seen the diversity of languages and we have seen indigenous languages in different parts and more in north eastern region of the country. Let us all work for the betterment of indigenous people and also for the promotion of indigenous languages.
(With direct inputs from UN publication and feedback may be sent to [email protected]