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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Authored by British Online Archives
Published on 9th August, 2023 2 min read

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Today (09/08/2023) is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This was established in 1994 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. It aims to raise awareness about and to protect the human rights of indigenous communities across the world.

Indigenous people often suffer the worst effects of social problems, a direct consequence of their marginalisation and displacement during the process of colonisation. Indigenous people are three times more likely to find themselves in extreme poverty and 47% of indigenous people in employment possess no formal education.

The passing down, from generation to generation, of traditional knowledge is often an important characteristic of indigenous cultures. In many cases, this process has facilitated not only the survival of indigenous communities, but it has also fostered an awareness of and a harmonious relationship with their immediate environment. Traditional knowledge incorporates techniques including plant medicine, shelter construction, and hunting skills.

Much of this knowledge is learned through everyday activities. More specialised knowledge is usually held by “gatekeepers” who have developed expertise and who are therefore entrusted to develop and maintain cultural coherence and stability. For many matriarchal indigenous tribes, such as the Minangkabau of Indonesia or the Khasi of India, women perform crucial roles as “gatekeepers” of traditional knowledge.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to traditional knowledge. For example, temperature changes in the Andes has disrupted crop systems and hunting methods, causing food insecurity and energy problems. Global warming has resulted in the increasing destruction of indigenous people’s ancestral environments. At the same time, there has been a renewed interest in and drive to highlight and learn from the typically sustainable relationships that indigenous people have had with their environments for thousands of years. Understanding and prioritising traditional knowledge could prove key to preventing the worst effects of climate change.

The theme of this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is “Indigenous youth as agents of change for self-determination”. The aim is to highlight the work being done by young indigenous people to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the world today, not least climate change. Young people from indigenous communities are taking a leading role in protecting the planet and fighting for justice for their people, thus helping to ensure the protection and survival of their culture and traditional knowledge.

Today British Online Archives invites everyone to take a moment to further their knowledge and understanding of indigenous people and to appreciate their importance to contemporary society.


Authored by British Online Archives

British Online Archives

British Online Archives provides unique collections of primary source documents for students and researchers studying the Humanities and Social Sciences.


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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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