The term indigenous people refer to a certain ethic group who have inhabited, a particular geographic region where the people have always historically lived. They can also be viewed as cultural groups who formerly or currently inhabit a geographical region before they were colonized. They have lived in that region even before the current nation-states were formed and in most cases are isolated from the influence of nation-state governance. Other terms that have been used to refer to the indigenous people include, ‘native people’ or ‘aborigines. ’ The indigenous people’s culture is very diverse all over the world.
In estimate, there are about 1100 indigenous culture globally (Horton, 1994). In Africa, we have about 204 indigenous cultures, Asia (81), America (73) Europe (9), Oceania (634) and Circumpolar North (8). Examples of native tribes of Africa include, Acholi (Uganda), Beja (Eritrea), Berber (Morroco and Tunisia), Tuareg (Sahel), Bushmen and Khoikhoi (S. Africa), Benga (Equatorial Guinea), Baka (Cameroon) Merina (Madagascar). In America they include, Taino (Caribbean), Kuna (Panama), Awa (Brazil) and Enxet (Paraguay). Asia has Tibetans (Central Asia), Ainu (Japan), Penan (Malaysia), Assyrians (Iraq, Syria, Turkey) and Lumad (Philippines).
The land surrounding the Arctic Circle also known as Circumpolar North hosts natives such as Sami (Norway, Sweden, Finland), Nenets and Inuit (Greenland, N. Canada, Alaska and Russia). Europe has Basques (N. Spain), Crimean (Tatars), Izhorians and Veps (N. W. Russsia) . The Oceania which includes Islands of the Pacific ocean, New Guinea and Australia which has one of the highest diversity in indigenous cultures, is inhabited by native tribes that include,Baada (W. Australia) Eora (Sydney, Australia) Papuans with over 250 distinct tribes(Papua) , Kanaka Maoli(Hawaii) and Maohi(Fiji).
Almost all indigenous people globally have common characteristics that can be attributed to each one of them . One of the features is that they usually inhabit areas that are still in their natural form. For example, natural tropical forests offer home to very many indigenous people all over the world. Others inhabit bushes, for example the ‘Bushmen’ of South Africa, hence their name. Deserts have also offered a living place for some North African tribes like the Tuareg (Sahara Desert) and Bushmen (Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa). Their lifestyle has led them to adapt so well into living in these natural environments.
They exploit the natural resources sustainably for their survival. The indigenous people are known for their present and historic reliance on subsistence-based production. For example pastoral practices, and search of food through hunting and gathering has been done and is still being on subsistence scale. Depending on the environment in which they live in, the natives have developed ways of exploiting the resources sustainably. This is probably the reason why the resources are not over-exploited. The native tribes society can be considered as a non-urbanized society.
As earlier stated, most people inhabit regions that are still in their natural form. Urbanization through the ages, involve clearing of natural features in order to put up man-made facilities that include, roads, railway lines and most importantly buildings. The native’s lifestyle does not match that in the urbanized regions. They live in traditional-made houses, wear traditional clothes, eat traditional foods and even have traditional religion. This is almost common to all indigenous culture that existed and still exists It is also correct to state that, indigenous tribes are found in every continent of the world as well as climate zones.
Something to appreciate about all indigenous cultures is that they do possess a very unique body of cultural and environmental knowledge, which is very important. It is very unfortunate that the world’s indigenous populations are disappearing. Various factors have contributed to this, which has raised a lot of concern . One contributing factor is losing of the indigenous people’s cultures, while they suffer discrimination and pressure to assimilate into their surrounding societies. Their cultural practices are being eroded as they try to adapt to the modern way of life .
For example, traditional religion practices in most tribes is being eroded by the modern religion (Christianity, Islam), which has penetrated into the native’s areas of living. The indigenous people’s populations are very low in some tribes. This puts the tribe at the risk of extinction in future A small population may become extinct if its members may perish in cases of natural disasters, war or even ‘under’ reproducing (the birth rate is too low). Some native tribes have even been said to probably becoming extinct in the next 20years due to their low populations..
If an indigenous tribe becomes extinct, the culture also disappears. They have been continuously facing threats to their sovereignty, environment, and access to natural resources. For instance, where some natives rely on the tropical rainforests for their survival, deforestation of the forest will threaten their existence in that region. Their sovereignty is important since it gives them the freedom to develop a governance system that promotes their living as a community. Interferance of this system disorganizes their way of life, which in turn threatens their existence.
The natives have and are still experiencing biopiracy. ’They are subjected subjected to unauthorised use of their resources, of their traditional knowledge on these biological resources, of unequal share of benefits between them and patent holder’ (Tindale N. , 1974). They risk losing their culture to other people who do not recognize or involve them in using their information or resources. They have been referred to as primitives, savages or uncivilized people. This has promoted their discrimination in almost all aspects of life. They lack the access to good education and health care.
Lack of this, may result to low standards of living which put at risk their survival and hence their culture. Indigenous cultures may disappear due to the people’s marginalization. ’Their situation, cultures and pastoralist or hunter-gatherer lifestyles are generally marginalized and set apart from the dominant political and economic structures of the nation. ’(Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities, Nov 2003). This is encouraged by the fact that, some indigenous people are physically distinct and this makes them subject to specific forms of discrimination .
For instance the Pygmy people have a distinct physical attribute of being very short. Marginalization leads to low living standards that may contribute to slim chances of survival of these people. Eviction of natives from their original homeland denies them a place to live in. Natural areas that may be converted to protected areas by the states, results to eviction of these people to create room for the protected areas. This though a move towards conservation risks their survival at the end of it all. Sustaining the world’s natural environment is said to depend on assuring the future of indigenous people.
Indigenous societies have in the past and present co-existed with nature. It is sometimes very surprising to see native people interact with nature without destroying it. This is because their lifestyle of subsistence harvesting of the natural resources ensures that they are barely over-exploited. They only exploit resources in small amounts and only when they need them. This ensures the resources are both preserved and conserved for future use. Assuring the future of the indigenous people will promote sustainability of the natural environment.
They act as the custodians of the resources, and will protect it at all cost for their future use. Research –based conservation of natural resource is very critical for effective management of the resources sustainably. Indigenous people have very wide knowledge of the natural resources . Due to their interaction with both flora and fauna in their homeland, they can recognize almost all species of both plants and animals. They have their own ways of conservation, which can be integrated with contemporary methods for effective management of the resources.
Assuring the future of indigenous people assures sustainability of nature through their traditional knowledge they give. Through religion, indigenous culture directs protection of natural environment as sacred. Some indigenous communities have selected some areas as their worshipping grounds, for example erection of shrines on those grounds. All members of the community work together to ensure such areas are not exploited due to their importance in the religion. Security of these areas is assured through this. This traditional religion goes a long way in conserving the natural environment.
Evicting them from these areas encourages over-exploitation of the resources-hence unsustainable management of nature. Education is very critical in sustainable management of the world’s natural environment. Knowledge that is passed from generation to generation is very important for future use. If the natives disappear, then we lose that important knowledge which may jeopardize future plan of sustainable utilization of our natural environment. Conclusion It is very important for people to appreciate and recognize the role the indigenous people.
They play a great role in nature conservation . It is for this reason that human species as a whole should preserve cultural diversity. The cultural diversity greatly ensures that nature is sustainably exploited in different ways which are all effective . We all need this for our survival.
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