09 August is observed every year as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples also known as the World Tribal Day. Indigenous people are those people who are ethnically the original inhabitants of a region. There are over 450 million such people in the world spread in 90 countries. The International Day, thus, raises global awareness about the indigenous population of the world. It acknowledges the exemplary contributions of the indigenous people. The day is officially recognized by the United Nations.
Indigenous People: An Overview
As already mentioned above, Indigenous peoples, are the original natives of any region. They are often referred to as adivasis, first people or aboriginals, etc. They are, by all means, the earliest known ethnic group/tribe belonging to any area. At present, indigenous people account for 6% of the world population. Unfortunately, on the poverty scale, they make 15% of the poverty extreme. Even on the front of life expectancy, Indigenous people live 20 years less than the global average life expectancy.
History of the World Tribal Day
The first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was held on 09 August 1982. To mark this day, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994 declaring 09 August as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. Since then, the day is being officially celebrated every year worldwide. It was also decided to observe 1995-2004 as the first International Decade of World’s Indigenous People.
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2005-2015 as the Second International Decade of World’s Indigenous People in 2004. It also declared a theme for this decade- “A Decade for Action and Dignity”. It seeks global participation from all the nations and its people for raising awareness and spread the UN’s message on indigenous people.
“Handshake” an artwork by Rebang Dewan, a boy belonging to Bangladesh’s Chakma tribe, was selected as the visual identifier of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The artwork is used on various promotional materials for the 09 August observance. The artwork features two ears of green leaves surrounding the globe resembling planet earth from each side. Within the globe, a picture of a handshake is drawn. It is a handshake between two different hands in the middle. There is a landscape above the handshake with a rising sun. The handshake and the landscape are encapsulated from top and bottom by the blue colour possibly representing water.
Theme of Tribal Day 2020
The year 2020’s theme for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is “COVID-19 and indigenous peoples’ resilience”. An official event has been scheduled to mark the observance. It will be a virtual event featuring a panel discussion on the innovative ways through which indigenous people continue to demonstrate resilience and strength in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic as well as grave threats to their survival.
Indigenous People & COVID-19
We are yet to know the exact origin of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the direct co-relation between pandemic and environmental degradation is well established. Much before the outbreak of COVID-19 or any acknowledgement of the potential outbreak of any pandemic like COVID-19, the indigenous people were worried about the outbreak of such a pandemic. Due to their traditional knowledge and relationship with nature, these people have long known about the direct possibilities arising out of environmental degradation.
It is high time that we must make all efforts the traditional knowledge of the indigenous people. 80% of the world’s biodiversity fall within the native areas of these indigenous inhabitants. We must learn about balancing our relationship with nature from them.