Every year since 1994, August 9th is celebrated the International Day of Indigenous Peoples. This day marks the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in 1982. 

 

There are more than 370 million indigenous people worldwide, which is about 5% of the world population. These peoples represent more than half of the world’s cultural diversity, but also 15% of the world’s most marginalized individuals. Many of them are still marginalized, they suffer from extreme poverty and their rights are often violated.

The aim of this day is to strengthen international cooperation to solve problems faced by indigenous peoples such as the recognition and protection of their rights, the environment, development, education and health.

The loss of land and resources has forced many indigenous peoples to migrate to urban areas in order to find better living conditions. These migrations are not only due to persecution and conflict but also to the impacts of climate change. And by moving away from their lands, they are also moving away from their ancestral customs and traditions. Today, in Latin America, nearly 40% of indigenous peoples live in urban areas. In cities, however, they are often victims of discrimination and injustice. Despite the significant progress made in recent years, the formal recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights and the implementation of adequate solutions remain major challenges at the global level.

 

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Some resistance testimonies

The Munduruku Indigenous People in Brazil

Several dam projects are planned in the Amazon. Yet these destructive dams would cause the living conditions, cultures and livelihoods of many people to disappear, eventually forcing them to leave their homes.

This is especially true of the Munduruku indigenous people. Their cacique, Arnaldo Kabá Munduruku fights daily for the respect of the rights of his people and for the official demarcation of their ancestral lands by the Brazilian government, which would put a definitive end to all dam projects.

The river and the forest give us everything we need. They bring us our food, water and medicine. If they build this dam, they will kill the river and with it my people and my culture. The future of our children is threatened by the greed of industrialists and governments. The forest is also important to the peoples of the world: it belongs to all. – Arnaldo Kabá Munduruku, cacique of the Munduruku indigenous people.

 

The Cree People in Canada

To ensure the sustainability of its current economic model, Canada must allow the dispossession of indigenous peoples’ lands and the exploitation of their natural resources, which will be sold to the highest bidders in international markets.

In the northern province of Manitoba, Clayton Thomas-Müller, a member of the Mathias Colomb Cree First Nation, advocates for the right of Aboriginal communities to self-determination and environmental justice.

Here on our land, we are particularly affected by the impacts of extractive industries, but also by the effects of climate change resulting from the activities of these industries. It is our duty not to exploit these fossil resources: our region is the second largest carbon sink on the planet! If the development of the oil sands continues, the future of humanity is in peril. – Clayton Thomas-Müller, member of the Cree people.

 

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Pygmy and Mbororo peoples in Cameroon

In Cameroon, the pygmy and Mbororo indigenous peoples inhabit the northern parts, the northwest region and the southern forest. In figures, there are about 100,000 Pygmies from different tribes (Baka, Bakouela etc.) and about 40,000 from Mbororos, a nomadic people who love mountainous areas.

For the Cameroonian authorities, the challenge is to guarantee them access to education and schooling. The greatest challenges were the sedentarization of the Mbororos and the cultural inking of the Pygmy that led them to reject education.

In 2016, Cameroon’s Minister of Social Affairs initiated a series of activities dedicated to strengthening indigenous peoples’ access to education.

 

How can we support indigenous peoples?

As Nelson Mandela says: “Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair”.

Solidarity is achieved in many ways: by seeking information, circulating the message, sending messages of support, lobbying industry and governments or participating in concrete actions.

Education, development and the promotion of equal human rights contribute to poverty reduction! You can take action too!

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