The Survival of Tribal People
As the world requires more resources, the remaining uncontacted and unorganized tribes are continually under pressure. Survival International is a UK based organization, dedicated to spreading awareness about specific tribes and the issues they face.
According to Survival International there are 150 million tribal people that live in more than 60 countries around the world. They often receive little respect in their own countries, and have been seen as delays in progress.
While Canada may have some legs up in Aboriginal relations over other countries, we certainly are not guiltless in this respect. The memory of residential schools is still relevant for many families. In Sault Ste. Marie, the former Shingwauk Hall (now Algoma University), served to try and “assimilate” countless Aboriginal children. While this is in the past, it is still a reality in many countries.
The Innu of Quebec and Labrador are a focus of Survival International. They call the land in which they live Nitassinan. These once nomadic peoples were settled into villages in the 1950s and 1960s. Now, life in these communities have high rates of alcoholism, gas-sniffing, violence and suicide. The governmental programs that were meant to provide a more western lifestyle, have fragmented their way of life.
While tribal societies continue to try and hold on to their traditional lifestyles, governments continue to dole out their historic lands to corporations. Aboriginal lands are often rich in resources such as minerals, timber and water. Aboriginal peoples do not necessarily utilize these resources; however, the removal of these resources impacts the environment(s) that they depend on.
The green movement currently focuses on saving ecosystems and species. Though this is a noble pursuit, tribal peoples should be included within this framework. Tribal peoples are still often used by naturalists traveling to foreign countries because of their understanding of the land and its complexities. Their understanding of traditional medicine continues to influence the pharmaceutical companies and change everyone’s lives. The days of viewing aboriginal peoples as fauna is rightly over. It may be time to view these individuals as the first stewards of the land, and the experts in their world.