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
Discrimination Against Indigenous Peoples
In the past and even today, many indigenous peoples have been subject to intense discrimination by Europeans or other people holding a modern worldview. The modern societies, who held superior warfare technology and immunity to deadly diseases, derisively labeled indigenous people as primitive, inferior, savage, uncivilized, backward, undeveloped, ignorant, and other derogatory terms. Through education and greater awareness, these labels have been largely jettisoned and replaced with terms such as indigenous peoples, which do not hold an evaluative judgment of superior or inferior.
Even though their numbers are small and the modern perception of inferiority still continues among some, inclusion of their worldview is important since they have successfully survived for thousands of years compared to modern society that has continued for a mere 500 years. They have much wisdom to share with all of us.
Because of the systematic destruction of indigenous cultures during the Modern Wave (1500 onward), the United Nations (UN) has taken up their cause. The UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September 2007, a process stretching back to 1982. The non-binding declaration outlines the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to identity, culture, language, employment, health, education and other issues. Four nations with significant indigenous populations voted against the declaration: the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
In 2004, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2005-2014 to be the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People. The main goal during this decade was to improve international cooperation around resolving the problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development.
The United Nations has not adopted any official definition of “indigenous” considering the diversity of indigenous peoples. Instead the UN has developed an understanding of indigenous based on the following characteristic:
- Self- identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member
- Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies
- Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources
- Distinct social, economic or political systems
- Distinct language, culture and beliefs
- Form non-dominant groups of society
- Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.
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