Post Classifieds

Indigenous people must be represented

By Kaley LaQuea
On November 5, 2012

There is a substantive disconnect between the implementation of Western culture and values as a whole that places an invisible barrier up to the rest of the world, one mixed with attitudes of indifference and hostility. Compared with other first-world industrialized nations where a majority of citizens speak at least two or three languages, testing scores continue to reflect the fact that the U.S.population can barely handle one. Less than one percent of college students study abroad during their university years. There is a curiosity and appreciation for other cultures missing from our own.

Language is one of the most prominent characteristics that sets us apart from other species. It is proof of continuous evolution and evolving consciousness. Revered anthropologist Wade Davis reminds us A language is not just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules. Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind. This capability is a fascinating advancement with roots dating back to nearly 100,000 years ago, when modern humans began to evolve in Africa. The ability we as a species possess to communicate effectively in hundreds of thousands of dialects around the world is truly a feat, but in some places it is an endangered one.

Linguists at the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages estimate that on average, a native language disappears every two weeks as elders in these cultures die, taking the last remnants of that spoken dialect with them. In 2008, the last fluent elder of Eyak died, a language spoken in the Gulf of Alaska region. That language as the tribe knew it is gone forever.

Many indigenous tribes suffer from first-world contact in numerous ways. The International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 was established in 1989 as an international law designed to protect tribal peoples across the world, but only 22 nations have ratified it. Field researchers at the organization Survival for Tribal Peoples work to protect these tribes from settlers wishing to mine, drill and log in these remote forests. The threats to their native lands include threats from first contact by non-native individuals many of us are immune to the diseases we carry in our systems such as influenza and chicken pox. After the Matis tribe of Brazil was first contacted, its population fell by half; many young and elderly tribe members suffered from pneumonia and died.

In reality, these pockets of culture cling on to a more true sense of what it is to be human. The idea that these tribal peoples should be forced to assimilate with the rest of the world when they have no desire to is a misguided notion, one that has been met with resistance by many. Colonialism still in practice today is pervasive and threatens these tribes ways of living that need to be cherished. They are a link to our past as a species, yet are so much further advanced and exist more peacefully and spiritually than most in industrialized societies today. As Davis explains, All these peoples teach us there are other ways of being, other ways of thinking, other ways of orienting yourself in the Earth, and this is an idea, that if you think about it, can only fill you with hope.

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