From the American southwest and the desserts of the Middle East to Turkey, Guatemala, Japan and beyond, indigenous communities around the world continue to be marginalized, forgotten and robbed of their ancient cultures. Evidence of this can be found in most corners of the world, despite the comfort and efficiency of digital communication. Whether in the name of politics, natural resources, interventionism or war, ethnic groups continue to be the target of oppression. But there is more to this story.
The living conditions that Native Americans tolerate on reservations are notoriously dreadful. Marlon Brando addressed the matter several times. He even refused to accept an Academy Award in 1973 due to the deplorable treatment of Indians. Not much has changed since then. Consider how the Kurds are battling ISIS half a world away, while Turkey continues to be a threat to Syria’s ethnic minority. Then there are the nomadic Bedouins of Jordan and Israel who have been forced into permanent communities. In Guatemala, more than half the population is considered indigenous. Yet, according to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, the very same people are poorer than the rest of the country and have a shorter life expectancy. They have been subject to human rights violations and sometimes moved out of their forest homes. Across the Pacific, in Japan, the Ainu also have suffered at the hands of the majority.
In a time when the notion of reparations is being tossed around, somehow that concept never seems to apply to the people of indigenous cultures. Whether Navajo, Eskimos, Yazidis, Aboriginal Australians, the Yoruba of Nigeria or some other ethnic group, the definition of indigenous means “born within.” Simply put, they were here first. But they suffer the most. There is a reason the late sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski chose Crazy Horse for the subject of his monumental memorial in South Dakota. Think about it.
Photos: Kuna woman sewing in Panama – Christian Dory from Crivitz, Wisconsin/Creative Commons (CC); Archie Roach performing at WOMADelaide 2011 – Nicholas Harrison/CC; Dance of Wangala (Crop Festival), Mandi (Garo) indigenous people of Bangladesh Biplob Rahman – Biplob Rahman-BD (CC); usage of photos does not constitute endorsement by the authors/sources; Video – Indigenous People Run Their Own Cellular Network/AJ+/YouTube.