International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples (9th August, 2018)

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The Collins dictionary define indigenous people as people belong to the country in which they are found, rather than coming there or being brought there from another country. In Kenya the pastoralists, hunter-gatherers, as well as some fisher peoples and small farming communities are considered to be indigenous people. Pastoralists are Turkana Rendille, Borana, Maasai, Samburu, Ilchamus, Somali, Gabra, Pokot, and Endorois Hunter-gatherers include the: Ogiek, Sengwer, Yaaku, Waata, El Molo, Boni (Bajuni), Malakote, Wagoshi and Sanya. Indigenous people have the following characteristics;

  • They practice a “traditional” subsistence strategy (hunting-and-gathering, pastoralism, or horticulture)
  • autochthony/first-ness/priority of residence/original inhabitants
  • Distinctive “customary laws” and culture and religions and worldview; differs from the dominant laws and culture of the nation
  • strong sense of identity—who they are as a community, what their past is
  • conquered/non-dominant/minority/oppressed
  • egalitarian societies without centralized political institutions
  • non-white
  • isolation; living in extreme climates; locally-oriented
  • globally allied/members of transnational advocacy networks
  • self-defined
  • less materialistic and market-oriented, more spiritual and reciprocal
  • more connected with environment “guardians of the earth”; “ecologically noble savage”
  • place-bound: living in a distinct territory
  • mobile
  • small size, minority within their nations
  • perceived by others as being “exotic,” “primitive,” “backwards”

No one knows if indigenous people will exist. So much has affected them in such a way that it is thought that extinction is imminent if nothing is done to preserve and protect their way of life. Many face the following threats and fears;

  • marginalization
  • eviction from their ancestral land
  • culture and language eradication due to their small numbers
  • destruction of their natural habitat
  • lack of  recognized as a distinct ethnic group by the government
  • face racism and discrimination
  • death from persecution,  diseases and  wars leading to insecurity
  • poaching
  • climate change - drought
  • access to education
  • modernization resulting in erosion of culture

We celebrate and urge all to acknowledge and recognize the value of indigenous people and their culture. Let us support them and work towards preserving their existence.

Compiled by Grace Sitienei - University of Nairobi Library