Stories articles International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

Back view of a person wearing a cedar hat with blurred people in the background

Photo by Felipe Contreras

August 7, 2023

Celebrating Global Indigenous Cultures

Reflections from the Storytelling Team

This August, people around the world will commemorate International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples to celebrate global Indigenous cultures, knowledge, and achievements. While celebrating, it’s important to remember the event is also meant to raise awareness and promote education about the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous nations under constant threat from colonialism and capitalism. And this day isn’t only significant for Indigenous communities, but also for non-Indigenous people committed to justice, equity, and Indigenous rights and sovereignty to demonstrate their advocacy.

As all of humanity faces the future together, it’s more critical now than ever to actively learn about and support Indigenous-led movements that motivate and empower Indigenous rights to sovereignty and self-determination. These movements are important, because they provide platforms for Indigenous Peoples to tell their stories, bringing awareness that makes a huge difference in the impact of the work. Non-Indigenous people who want to support the reclamation and revitalization of Indigenous lands, cultures, languages, and traditions can assist these movements by actively and vocally demonstrating their advocacy of Indigenous-led initiatives and policies that work towards liberation.

How can non-Indigenous people lend their time, attention, and work in support of Indigenous Peoples? The first step is to listen deeply and with humility. One of the most crucial steps for non-Indigenous Peoples is to step aside and let Indigenous people tell their own stories and listen to learn more about the histories and contemporary experiences of Indigenous Peoples. Where do you get your news and information about global Indigenous communities, events, stories, issues, social justice, and environmental work? Seeking out Indigenous-made media such as film, television, games, art, music, literature, podcasts, news sites, and organizations is a great place to start.

What is it that non-Indigenous folks must learn more about? There are a few key movements to pay close attention to right now. Indigenous rights to sovereignty and self-determination are being fought for globally, and the advocacy of Indigenous-led movements is towards the recognition and protection of Indigenous lands, culture, and natural resources. Not only are Indigenous territories rich in cultural diversity but also biodiversity, demonstrating the vital impact on the Earth of Indigenous worldviews and knowledge-systems that work in tandem with the environment. Since time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples have stewarded their lands, tethering practices of kinship and community to the world around them in relationship and relationally.

The knowledge and care of the land is the knowledge and care of the people, in cultural belonging and reciprocity. Recognition that the health of the people and the health of the land are deeply connected is a core tenant of Indigenous-led movements in protection and sustainability of the earth. A significant movement towards reclamation and protection of lands and sovereignty is the #LandBack movement, which includes rematriation of resources, policy work, land trusts, land tax programs, and actively working with individuals as well as NGOs, corporations, religious institutions and governments in the return of lands and waters to local peoples and Indigenous tribes and nations.

The next step is to share what you learn and ask how you can help! Talk about Indigenous issues with your friends and family. Share Indigenous movies, television, art and music, environmental action, and news on social media to help get the word out. And it’s especially important to share the good news, joy, celebration, achievements, and creative endeavors as much as everything else. The complexity of Indigenous life includes the good, the triumphs, the connectivity of relationships and creative expression as much as it includes the hardships of colonization. And if you have the ability to donate time, labor, or financial resources to Indigenous-led action, then get involved with Indigenous groups in your local community to see where your skills and strengths are most helpful. Finally, take time to learn about undoing racism, anti-racism work, anti-oppression work and practice, practice, practice reflecting on conscious and subconscious forms of colonized thinking in order to help undo harmful norms and behaviors.

When non-Indigenous people show their solidarity and support by amplifying and sharing Indigenous voices and stories, it brings visibility to the lives and experiences of global Indigenous Peoples. It helps decenter white Euro-colonial narratives to challenge systemic inequalities and injustices, colonial-capitalist perspectives and structures, dismantle oppressive societal norms and perceptions, and inspires others to act in support of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. When non-Indigenous people share in the empowerment of Indigenous communities the world over, they are contributing to a global movement towards sovereignty, equality, justice, and respect for the rights of all Indigenous Peoples including guardianship of lands, cultural diversity, and self-determination. As we come together in commemoration of International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, may we all move forward together to build a world in which Indigenous Peoples are honored and supported by all.