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  5. Continuing Injustice

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FOCUS September 1997 Volume 9

Continuing Injustice


Much have been written about the roots of the injustices perpetrated on the indigenous peoples in this region of Asia-Pacific and elsewhere. Despite the work done through the years to address this issue, the oppression has not abated. The roots of the problems remain imbedded. Assimilation into the majority society has always been a source of injustice for the indigenous peoples. It perpetuates the belief that indigenous peoples are inferior to those who constitute the dominant population of a country. It seems that the most difficult question is at the level of recognition - recognition of the essential equality of human beings regardless of the social, economic, cultural and political conditions. It seems hard for most people to recognize the rights that belong to indigenous peoples simply because their looks, behavior and thinking are different. Distorted information about indigenous peoples cause discrimination in many cases. They are almost always perceived as people with backward culture and thus unable to be at par with the rest of the modern world. Who should then tell the truth about the indigenous people? Who should show to the rest of the dominant population about their (indigenous peopleÕs) culture that has much more meaning than what people will ordinarily understand? In their own struggle for survival, the indigenous peoples themselves best express their own thoughts, feelings and sense of values. They are the ones who remind people about the importance of spirituality as against crass materialism, of living with nature rather than controlling it, of the deeper value of land as more than just a mere patch of dirt. Indigenous peoples, just like any other people, have their own faults and limitations. But these have been given much more prominence than they deserve. The perpetuation of injustice continues as lies and distortions are repeatedly expressed in various forms of the media. In todayÕs world of free trade, indigenous peoplesÕ stance of preserving their ancestral communities comes out as mere sentimentalism. It is seen as an anti-development attitude that belongs to an era of the past. Hardly explained is the value attached to their ancestral communities (systems, lands, and other resources). What rights will indigenous peoples assert if their very identity is denied? It is time to know the indigenous people as they should be known. Listening to what the indigenous peoples have to say about themselves and about the dominant population is a crucial first step. It is listening with open hearts and minds.

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