The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs defines indigenous peoples as “inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They are those who retained social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live.
“Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history, their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today, are arguably the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world,” the UN says.
In the Philippines, an estimated 10-20 percent of the national population are indigenous peoples, according to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. Like their fellow indigenous peoples worldwide, they are subject to abuses to their rights and land grabbing, as well as limited opportunities to earn a living.
In our modern world, indigenous people remind us about who we are as a people before the arrival of colonizers. They preserve traditions, crafts, languages, and other aspects of our unique culture. They are the original environmentalists and climate change advocates, the tireless guardians of our rainforests, rivers, and mountains. (Read: The “Cowboy Cop” who protects the indigenous tribes of Cagayan de Oro)
This International Day of The World’s Indigenous Peoples on Sunday, August 9, show your support for this marginalized group through these simple ways!
Follow Their Lead
“When cash seems to have no value when shops and markets are closed during this pandemic, our environment has continued…Posted by Indigenous Peoples Major Group on the SDG on Monday, June 15, 2020
Indigenous peoples are proud of their identity and maintain a humble lifestyle based on a culture, knowledge, and skills practiced through generations. (Read: This group of engineering students is literally bringing light to an indigenous community in Bulacan)
They also look after our natural resources. According to Global Environment Facility, a group that helps tackle the planet’s most pressing environmental problems, “conserving unique biodiversity relies on the knowledge, innovations, and practices of indigenous and local communities who live in direct contact with nature.”
Keep your own heritage alive. Speak in your native tongue, and share stories about your ancestors’ province and what it’s known for. And while you don’t have to move to the mountains or forests, you can still practice environmental stewardship in the city: buy food from local farms, walk or ride a bicycle to your destination, and use eco-bags and reusable water tumblers instead of single-use plastic, suggests conserve-energy-future.com.
Despite producing amazing crafts, accessories, food, and fabrics, indigenous peoples have limited avenues for selling their wares. (Read: Get to know this local café that has indigenous farmers as its business partners) It certainly doesn’t help that these wares are slowly disappearing too, given the new generations’ lack of interest to learn (and thus retain) their forefathers’ trade.
Various sectors that recognize the value of indigenous peoples’ products and skills have created opportunities for them to showcase their wares and earn from it. Katutubo Pop-Up Market and ArteFino regularly hold gatherings that sell fashion items boasting the intricate fabrics and painstaking weaving skills of indigenous peoples and other Filipino artisans. (Read: The Ifugao Weave Face Masks You Didn’t Know You Needed)
Learn About Their Culture
YouTube is filled with documentaries showcasing the lives and works of indigenous peoples. We recommend Dayaw, a project of House Deputy Speaker and staunch indigenous peoples advocate Loren Legarda, in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and cable news channel ANC.
The third season of the award-winning program celebrates indigenous heritage through 30-minute episodes on the Philippines’ weaving communities (a rich discussion that merits not one but two shows!), talented carvers, metal workers, paper and clay craftspeople, and traditional chanters and singers.
Rest assured, you will come off each episode feeling proud of your country and eager to visit the places and people featured in the show!