Every August 9th, countries around the world celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The event is to protect and promote the rights of the indigenous population as well as to recognize the contributions and achievements that indigenous people make to improve issues of global concern. It was first pronounced in December 1994 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. On August 9th, 1982, the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights held their first meeting.
Protecting Indigenous Communities from “Civilization”
Around the world, there are more than 5,000 groups or communities the world defines as indigenous. The United Nations celebrates this diversity as a heritage that must be preserved. We live in (and are continually heading to) a more globalized world where ideas tend to conform. However, that world sees diversity as an obstacle to conformity – a diversity that gets crushed and smoothed out. Meanwhile, many communities are still trying to resist that cultural leveling.
The indigenous communities are doing their best to keep their ancient ways of life and traditions alive. These traditions have different cultural, political, economic, and social characteristics to those of more dominant societies.
In spite of all the substantial differences among indigenous ethnic groups and the uniqueness of each one of them, they all share a common problem – the protection of their rights. After centuries of colonization, genocide, oppression, and exportation of cultures, there is a need for extraordinary measures to protect their rights. The Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People adopted in 2007, and it stands as the complete instrument that gives unprecedented importance to collective rights in international human rights law.
Fighting for Protection
It is necessary to involve representatives of indigenous communities at every level of decision making. Former Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, Ted Moses, was the first indigenous man to participate in a United Nations meeting. However, despite their public declarations, indigenous people’s rights are consistently trampled on.
Indigenous people know the nature around us better. They carry an abundance of linguistic and cultural diversity. But in the Americas, they’ve been deprived of their natural resources, territory, and lands since the 16th century. Without their consent, the property of tribal and indigenous people has been taken away and used by anyone from conquistadors to private companies.
In Peru, some laws protect the indigenous peoples’ prior consultation rights regarding their lands. However, there is a conflict among the legal framework constituted by laws, ministerial resolutions and supreme decrees that violate these laws that protect the rights of indigenous people. For example, when an administrative or legislative measure that affects indigenous communities directly is given, they must be consulted. But then, there’s the Peruvian General Mining Law that doesn’t require a prior consultation process. It means that two conflicting laws both, require and don’t require, prior consultation before concession rights are granted, creating a situation that defies the human rights of indigenous people.
In Peru, indigenous people form about a quarter of the total population of Peru(which is almost 6 million people.) Estimates are since the year 1500, most of the 2,000 indigenous tribes that were present died out. It was a consequence of the Spanish colonization of the continent as many of them didn’t have immunity against infectious diseases brought by the colonists.
The recognition of indigenous nations is important. The world celebrates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People to recognize their contributions towards the environment, development, and peace.
As part of the conservation project Peru Verde works with local communities trying to teach them to avoid hunting and destroying the forest in each location they work.
Feel free to about tours that will take you to Peru’s indigenous people’s cultural heritage sites and ancient cities.