International Women’s Day: tribal heroines
(via The Guardian)
In many tribal communities, including the Hadza and the Innu featured here, women and men enjoy equal status. But tribal people often face displacement, murder and rape, according to Survival International. Often humiliated by governments that perpetuate the idea they are ‘backward’, some have their lands taken away. Yet resistance is growing as they take action to protect their land and ways of life.
What problems do tribal peoples have?
Tribal people are still violently attacked, and sometimes killed, particularly in parts of South & Central America, Africa and Asia.
Violence, often self-inflicted, is also a big problem in wealthy countries, which have largely dispossessed their indigenous peoples (such as Canada and the USA, Australia and New Zealand).
In some areas, tribal people are still held in a form of slavery, called ‘debt-bondage’, where they are forced to produce raw materials to pay a supposed debt to an outsider.
The view that tribal people are ‘primitive’ and not able to make rational choices about their own future derives from a colonialist, racist ideology. It is still used to justify their dispossession.
Tribal peoples are generally self-sufficient and dependent on their land to provide their food and support their way of life. It also forms the bedrock of their identity. It is stolen for ‘development’, such as mining, dam-building, farming, etc., as well as for ‘conservation’ projects.
Even where the land itself isn’t taken, its resources often are. These can be timber or minerals.
All peoples are changing all the time, but changes forced on tribal peoples in the name of ‘progress’ result in a far lower quality of life than before, with increased illness, suicide, imprisonment, substance abuse and dependence etc. Changes should be under the control of the people themselves.
More information at Survival International’s website.
1. The Dongria Kondh women of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha state, India – who call themselves Jharnia, or protectors of streams – have lived in the lush, forested hills for millennia. For the past 10 years these women have worked with Dongria men to protect their most sacred mountain, Niyam Dongar, against plans for an opencast bauxite mine. (Jason Taylor/Survival International)
2. The Bushmen are the original people of southern Africa. Between 1997 and 2002, after the discovery of diamond fields in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, almost all Bushmen were taken from their homes in the reserve and driven to eviction camps. Some women and their families have now returned to the reserve, but harassment and intimidation continue. (Mark Håkansson/Survival International)
3. A Nenets woman outside her chum, or teepee, in Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula. Her homeland is a remote, wind-blasted place of permafrost, serpentine rivers and dwarf shrubs; the reindeer-herding Nenets people have migrated across it for over a thousand years. Today, their way of life is severely affected by oil drilling and climate change. (Steve Morgan/Survival International)
4. These Innu women on the shores of the Labrador-Quebec peninsula in north-eastern Canada have resisted attempts by missionaries and the Canadian government to impose European patterns of living. The women have been prominent in opposing extractive industries on Innu lands, and have been active in efforts the people are making to maintain their way of life. (Dominick Tyler/Survival International)
5. Between Tanzania’s Lake Eyasi and the Great Rift Valley live the Hadza, a tribe of approximately 1,300 hunter-gatherers. The Hadza are one of the oldest lineages of humankind. Over the past 50 years, however, the tribe has lost 90% of its land. The tribe value equality highly, recognising no official leaders. Hadza women have a great amount of autonomy and participate equally in decision making with men. (Joanna Eede/Survival International)