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Indigenous Peoples, the ‘teachers’ who can guide us in restoring connections between nature and humans

Flores Women
© WWF-Indonesia/Cristina Eghenter

By: Cristina Eghenter

On August 9th, we celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year the event acquires a special meaning as the world is battling an unprecedented health crisis. This crisis and the converging crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are of our own making, the result of the unwise and unjust ways we consume and produce.

We need to repair our broken relationship with nature in order to secure a healthy and sustainable future for us and the next generations. However, in order to build back our societies and economies, we need ‘teachers’ who can guide us in restoring healthier connections and mutuality between nature and humans. Indigenous Peoples can be our guides at this critical time. We can draw some key lessons from the custodians of nature whose relationship with nature, traditional knowledge, and social solidarity have enabled them to build resilient communities and lives in their territories.

Tana Ulen Long Kemuat, Bahau Hulu, North Kalimantan
© Andris Salo

We can learn from the cultural heritage and practices of Indigenous Peoples where livelihoods and care of the territories are integrated and reinforced in cultural and spiritual traditions. Indigenous Peoples, men and women alike, have championed a more balanced and healthier relationship with nature. They have demonstrated that alternative and more sustainable ways of living are possible. 

During the Covid19 times, Indigenous communities in several remote areas have revived traditional practices and cultivation to safeguard food supplies, including foraging for food and herbal medicines from the forest to supplement diets. They have relied on strong cooperation and mutual support mechanisms. The traditional food systems have shown resilience as they are rooted in the local ecologies, enhance diversity and adaptation.

Dayak Indigenous Peoples
© WWF-Indonesia/Jimmy Syahirsyah

While learning from Indigenous Peoples can help build resilience and restore the natural systems that allow us all to thrive, we need to ensure Indigenous Peoples are respected and recognized, and empowered to continue to govern their ancestral lands.

This is an important lesson for us to reflect upon on this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, as we celebrate and thank Indigenous Peoples for their custodianship of their territories and what gives and sustains the cycle of life on earth.

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