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FOCUS December 2010 Volume 62

Being Indigenous


Land is an important part of the survival of the indigenous peoples, be it in Asia, Pacific or elsewhere. Land is not simply necessary for physical existence but for the spiritual, social, and cultural survival of indigenous peoples and the continuation of their historical memory.
Marginalization, displacement and other forms of oppression are experienced by indigenous peoples. Laws and development programs displace indigenous peoples from their land. Many indigenous peoples have died because of them. Discriminatory national security measures as well as unwise environmental programs equally displace them.
Modernization lures many young members of indigenous communities to change their indigenous existence; while traditional wisdom, skills and systems slowly lose their role as the elders of the indigenous communities quietly die.
Whether or not the indigenous peoples should adapt to modern ways, or assimilate to the mainstream society is a decision only the indigenous peoples themselves could make. But the continuing pressure from the dominant population, the business entities, and the government may ultimately decide what would become of the indigenous peoples.
The loss of the indigenous peoples is the gain of no one.