by Dr. Denise R. Ames
Why can’t we just get along? This is a question that I have been working on in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. In the next several posts in this blog series I am looking at one of the five worldviews: Indigenous Worldview. I would like to share with you some ideas that I have been exploring.
Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children. … Ancient Proverb
The Oldest Worldview
The indigenous worldview is held by very few people today. Indigenous peoples are any ethnic group who share a similar ethnic identity and inhabit a geographic region with which they have the earliest known historical connection. The adjective “indigenous” has the common meaning of “from” or of the “original origin.” Therefore, in a sense any given people, ethnic group or community may be described as being indigenous in reference to some particular region or location.
Indigenous peoples are usually a politically underprivileged group, whose ethnic identity is different from the nation in power and who have been an ethnic entity in the locality before the present ruling nation took over power. Other terms used to describe indigenous peoples are aborigines, first people, native people, aboriginal, or Native Americans or Indians in the U.S. However, the preferred term, indigenous peoples, appears to be used by different international agencies such as the United Nations and will be used here.
Indigenous societies are found in every inhabited climate zone and continent of the world from small farming villages in India and Africa, to Native American pueblos in the Southwestern United States, to farming and herding communities high in the Himalayas, to nomadic groups in the African savannah, and to remote groups in the far Arctic reaches of Canada and Alaska.
Indigenous societies range from those who have been significantly exposed to modern influences such as the Maya peoples of Mexico and Central America to those who as yet
remain in comparative isolation from any external influence, such as the Sentinelese and Jarawa of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal to the east of India.
The total world population of indigenous peoples is hard to estimate given the difficulties of identification and inadequate census data, but estimates at the start of the twenty-first century range from 300 million to 350 million. This would be just under 6 percent of the total world population. This total number includes at least 5,000 distinct peoples in over seventy-two countries.
Indigenous peoples today survive in populations ranging from only a few dozen to hundreds of thousands or more. Many groups have undergone a dramatic decline and some have even gone extinct, while others remain threatened. Some groups have also been assimilated by modern populations, while in other cases indigenous populations are undergoing a recovery or expansion in numbers.
Some indigenous societies no longer live on the land of their ancestors because of migration, relocation, forced resettlement or having their land taken by others. In many cases, the changes for indigenous groups are ongoing and include permanent loss of language and lands, intrusion onto traditional territories, pollution of traditional lands, and disruption in traditional ways of life.
About the Author
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95