In honour of the inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures, their ways of relating to people and the environment: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2019 celebrated in the Western Ghats – Tamil Nadu

Environmental educator Davidson Sargunam with Kaani volunteers at Mookaraikal

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrated by Kaani indigenous people


The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was celebrated by Kaani indigenous people at Mookaraikal Tribal settlement in Kanyakumari in the Western Ghats.

Addressing the tribal people S Davidson Sargunam, environmental educator said that to create awareness of the needs of the Indigenous peoples, every 9 August commemorates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, chosen in recognition of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations held in Geneva in 1982.

There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.

Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. In spite of their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.

Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, their way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history their rights have always been violated. Presently indigenous peoples are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life.

This year’s observance is dedicated to Indigenous Peoples’ Languages in view of 2019 being marked as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The large majority of the languages in danger are spoken by indigenous peoples. It is estimated that, every two weeks, an indigenous language disappears, placing at risk the respective indigenous cultures and knowledge systems. That is why, on the International Day, the goal is to draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote them at both national and international levels.

According to the data of the UN, indigenous peoples make up less than five percent of the world’s population, but account for 15 percent of the poorest. Do you know that they speak majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.

Indigenous languages are a significant factor in a wide range of indigenous issues, notably education, scientific and technological development, biosphere and the environment, freedom of expression, employment and social inclusion. However, many indigenous peoples continue to be confronted with marginalization, extreme poverty and other human rights violations.

We can’t ignore the fact that language plays an important role in daily lives of the people. It is one of the finest ways to communicate with each other. It is important in the areas like human rights protection, peace building and sustainable development. Due to various factors, languages in the world continue to disappear at an alarming rate and most of them are indigenous languages. For these threats only, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution (A/RES/71/178) on ‘Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ by proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

9 August commemorates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples worldwide. This date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

This year, the celebration of the international day will be dedicated to the International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019.

The linguistic rights of indigenous peoples must be an integral part of the human rights agenda.

On this special day dedicated to indigenous peoples, their human rights, languages, ancient histories, and rich cultures, several activities are taking place worldwide.

UNESCO, as lead agency for the implementation of the international year, is launching a global social media campaign for the promotion of the day, including circulation of the Director General’s Message and launch of a dedicated video. Several Field Offices have organized relevant initiatives for the promotion, revitalization and support of indigenous languages .

Steps are being taken to allowing them to enhance their social, political and economic integration in communities and society by enlarging the scope of activities available to them. UNESCO contributes to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly on article 9 Accessibility, article 21 Freedom of expression and access to information, article 24 education and article 32 International cooperation.

Cultural diversity and multilingualism on the Internet have a key role to play in fostering pluralistic, equitable, open and inclusive knowledge societies. UNESCO encourages its Member States to develop comprehensive language-related policies, to allocate resources and use appropriate tools to promote and facilitate linguistic diversity and multilingualism, including the Internet and media within the framework of UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace.

Practical assistance extended by the Tribal Foundation (Nagercoil)
To counter the existing human versus animal conflict, saplings of lemon were distributed to the tribal people. Since the bush has spikes in its branches monkeys would never prefer the bushes to pluck the lemon fruits. Innovations have been carried in this aspect and it was found a success story that the fruits could be harvested and monkeys spare the bush from raids.

Courtesy (photos and report) Davidson Sargunam by email (15 August 2019)

More posts contributed by Davidson Sargunam >>

For inquiries on environmental exposure programs, please contact
Davidson Sargunam
Environmental Educationist
M: 09994138550

Tribal Foundation
23, Cave Street, Duthie School Road
Nagercoil – 629 001
Tamil Nadu
Reg. No: 1116/2009

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