August 9, 2022 is International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. Recognition of this day is just one piece of a larger movement to spread awareness that colonization is not a singular event in the past, but a current and contemporary global system that continues to oppress Indigenous peoples. It’s also a time to spotlight and listen to Indigenous communities, because we are at a critical stage in social and climate justice where recognition of Indigenous peoples' sovereignty and self-determination, and guardianship of land, will make all the difference in the health and vitality of our planet and collective wellbeing. International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is an opportunity to share solutions to the issues that most directly impact Indigenous and local peoples, such as colonialism, extraction industries, and climate crisis.
In 2022, there are over 476 million Indigenous peoples across 90 countries worldwide. Though Indigenous peoples make up just over 6% of the global population, 25% of the world's lands are in the guardianship of Indigenous peoples, and 80% of the planet's biodiversity and a tremendously rich cultural diversity of languages, traditions, and knowledge systems are found on these Indigenous lands. Because of traditional ways of living with an interconnectedness of land to culture, kinship, and people since time immemorial, Indigenous peoples throughout the world have demonstrated both traditional as well as revolutionary new ways of working with the planet that give us a viable path forward towards a sustainable future for us all.
Though it is true there are Indigenous peoples who have self-governance, and others are able to exercise some measure of autonomy in a few significant ways, most of the world’s Indigenous and local peoples must continue to endure the repeated denial of their sovereignty and self-determination by colonizing governments and corporations who seek to control lands, extract resources, and exploit labor. Indigenous peoples are the most adversely impacted populations by governmental oppression, capitalism, and climate change; disproportionally suffering discrimination, racism, poverty, and lack of access to food, healthcare, housing, and education. Indigenous leaders, activists, journalists, policymakers, storytellers, and Indigenous-led organizations are working together—and risking their lives—to combat the colonial, capitalist governments and corporations that infringe upon these rights; as well as the life and wellbeing of their ancestral lands; and in turn, the future of the Earth’s health and vitality as a whole. Therefore, now more than ever, recognition of this day requires our education, attention, and care of the rights and sovereignty of global Indigenous peoples to self-determination; self-governance of ancestral domain and land rights; intellectual property in the intergenerational exchange of arts, music, dance, spiritual and cultural knowledge, ceremonies, and traditions; and free, prior informed consent.
International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is a day to celebrate, honor, amplify, and uplift the world’s Indigenous peoples, from ancestors to youth to elders, and support their efforts. By shifting the focus towards Indigenous peoples, land, knowledge, and traditions, we are collectively taking one of the first steps to disrupt these systems and learn more about whose land we are on, reflect on the true and accurate history of Indigenous peoples throughout the world, and find out how to take real, concrete, and actionable steps in supporting the rights and autonomy of all Indigenous Nations. As we do this, we must also acknowledge historical and contemporary leadership of Indigenous women and nonbinary people who are right at the front lines of land and water defenses; working as community organizers and educators; creating powerful works of art, film, and literature; standing in leadership of global organization; and achieving great strides as politicians in tribal and federal governments.
This August, we lift up the Indigenous leaders who all demonstrate the wisdom of vital energy, and experience over time, that helps move our collective work forward.
Pania Newton. Illustration by Tracie Ching
Majorie Kunaq. Illustration by Tracie Ching.
Gunn Britt. Illustration by Tracie Ching.
Celia, Sonia & Nara. Illustration by Tracie Ching.
Victoria. Illustration by Tracie Ching.
Deb Abrahamson and Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan (Spokane Tribe). Illustration by Tracie Ching.