Thursday, August 9, 2007

International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

Today, August 9th, is International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. The day, originally designated in 1994, is a day to commemorate and to act on issues effecting indigenous peoples.

In recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 1982, this year’s observance at the United Nations is being organized by the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and the NGO Committee on the Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

For more information of the Day and events at United Nations Headquarters, please visit the U.N.'s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues website.

I can't make it to Washington, and I don't think most other people can, especially indigenous people. So, the day is really a Western day to help raise awareness of what is going on in the world and the particular issues that indigenous peoples face. It is ironic that the U.N. is sponsoring this day, since its biggest players have been actively involved in delaying the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Let's just hope it doesn't turn into a Hallmark Holiday, with people sending cards, flowers, chocolates and the such. That would be even more ironic sense most cards come from trees harvested on traditional indigenous peoples land.

How can we honor the world's indigenous peoples on this day then. I don't want to fly to Washington, using one of the most carbon-taxing methods of travel ever (i.e., the airplane). I don't want to send cards or flowers or anything else that causes environmental damage and encourages companies to continue to push into more and more traditional lands looking for natural resources to extract. Well, how about the old fashioned way. Tell a friend. Word of mouth, according to most marketing gurus, is still the most powerful means of marketing. At coffee this morning, tell your mate. Email your office buddies. Stand around the water cooler and let people know. I bet they will be surprised that you know such a fact, that such a day exists, and that they were unaware of it. Nothing may come out of it. People will still drive their massive SUVs, buy this fall's fashions, fly all over the world for vacations and holidays, and eat strawberries for Christmas, but at least they can't claim ignorance. Who knows, next August 9th they may even decide to ride their bike to work, take a hike in the mountains and enjoy the trees, air, water, and other sacred beings of Earth. It may be a small step, but it is a step.

Happy Indigenous Day!

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