Written by Amaranila Nariswari, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
When talking about indigenous people, what do you have in mind? Do you imagine them with their tribal marks and clothes made out of parts of the plants? I, personally, think of how modernity seems to erase the beauty and diversity of indigenous culture. Before we talk more about them, let’s dig into who they really are. According to the World Bank (2022), Indigenous Peoples are those of distinct and specific cultural and social groups with ancestral ties to their land. Their identity and well-being are highly dependent on the lands where they live. They have their own customary law and adhere to their leader, unlike us, who abide by the government. Technically, indigenous people obey their state’s written law, but the customary law holds a special place in their culture and needs to be obeyed, too. As for them, it is considered sacred and became the living law between them.
Indigenous people are assets to humanity. Their way of living is so kind to the earth that they conserve more than 30% of it, guarding more than 80% of the remaining biodiversity we have (Jones, 2021; World Bank, 2022). Most–if not all–indigenous people live by relying on their land. Where they live has ancestral ties to their culture for them to take care of. They cultivate their land, hunt from the forest, and pray to their ancestors in their land, too. They might seem outdated, but their identity is timeless if you really think about it.
Another thing you need to know about indigenous people is that they’re one of the most fragile communities in the world. Despite living far away from modernity, city pollution, and technology that could be harmful, they still need access to basic human needs like sanitation and health, which in reality don’t reach most of them. Their life expectancy is much lower than non-indigenous people, even up to 20 years (World Bank, 2022). They’re also the last to receive public investment as they seem so tiny and far, even though they’re not. Not only that, their lands are often grabbed by either the government or the capitalist–maybe even both, and being the marginalized communities they are, they tend to be helpless regardless of their right to the land.
Not often Indigenous children face hardships living in society. According to the United Nations (n.d), indigenous youth experience a lot of challenges in participating in social activities. They are also prone to discrimination and have the least access to participate in economic and political decision-making processes. When indigenous children go to school, they are considered different from the rest of the students and sometimes overlooked or even bullied. To this, teachers should help indigenous kids adapt to the school environment and educate their students to respect everyone equally and empower one another in good things.
Not only in schools, the government, both at the local and international levels, plays a vital role in ensuring indigenous people’s rights are met. The least they could do is to give more opportunities for indigenous representatives to have a say in decision-making. Giving indigenous communities generous funding and ways to empower indigenous people also helps them to create a better living. Paying more attention and building more basic-need facilities like hospitals and schools near indigenous lands will also help them easily access basic human needs.
Of course, we can do our portions to help, too! The first thing we can do to help ensure their sustainability is to notice what challenges indigenous communities face. Note that not all indigenous communities have the same problems, and they have different ranges and proximities to the government. Those who are the furthest from the government’s reach are usually the most fragile. Learn what they need and share them with your surroundings. The more people know about indigenous communities’ problems, the more people will care about them. You can also help by volunteering in organizations focusing on indigenous community empowerment, or if you could, you can donate to the organization! Lastly, help them if they have difficulties blending in with society. Embrace, appreciate, and support them in sharing their beautiful cultures!
Jones, Benji. (2021). Indigenous people are the world’s biggest conservationists, but they rarely get credit for it. Vox. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/22518592/indigenous-people-conserve-nature-icca
United Nations. (n.d). The Situation of the World’s Indigenous Children and Youth. Retrieved from: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/mandated-areas1/children-and-youth.html
World Bank. (2022). Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved from: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/indigenouspeoples