The Indigenous Worldview, Part 4

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 

Characteristics of Indigenous People

One characteristic of indigenous people is that they reached a social and technological plateau hundreds to thousands of years ago, although many have recently adopted modern technology so this characteristic may no longer apply. Many indigenous groups rely upon subsistence-based production based on pastoral (herding), horticultural

04 Peruvian potato farmers

Peruvian potato farmers

(simple agriculture) and/or hunting and gathering techniques. Many live in non-urbanized societies, although this is changing as well. Indigenous societies may be either settled in a given locale or region or follow a nomadic lifestyle.

A few indigenous people continue to observe an ancient hunting and gathering or foraging way of life in which their material possessions are few. Following a nomadic way of life, they must rely on nature for all of their material wants and needs. Their social structure is usually egalitarian with women having equal status, their kinship bonds are strong, and elders are respected as wise leaders. This all but disappearing way of life is

04 Beja Nomads, northeast Africa

Beja nomads, northeast Africa

practiced by people such as the !Kung in southwest Africa and Mbuti in the forest regions of the Congo who have continued their traditional ways for thousands of years. Other examples of indigenous peoples include herders who move their camps in order for their animals to feed on fresh pastures. Some still survive on the Mongolian steppes, but their way of life is also rapidly changing.

Many traditional agricultural people have historically been self-sufficient in supplying their own food and other needs but this way of life is being eroded by the increasing commercialization and globalization of agriculture and animal husbandry. As a result, many traditional people have migrated to cities from “underdeveloped” areas of the world.

04 Mbuti, Flickr site, McMarc Louwes Mbuti mother and child

Mbuti mother and child, central Africa

Some people in villages and herding camps have been able to survive but also work at jobs that pay a wage in order to purchase basic needs in a cash economy. Even though this “hybrid” approach does not replicate agriculture or herding people of the last several thousand years, many are able to preserve their cultural traditions, close family networks, and indigenous religious traditions as much as possible in face of mounting pressures from the “outside,” globalized world.

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.

Please email or visit for more information.

For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95wviewscover



This entry was posted in awareness, cultural divide, differences, diversity, indigenous, Uncategorized, worldviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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