INDONESIA: The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, is observed every year on Wednesday (9 Aug). This commemoration was established by the United Nations to honor and preserve the ancestral customs and traditions of indigenous communities around the globe.
In Indonesia, various indigenous community leaders and organizations, such as the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN), commemorated the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples with a series of actions.
In different regions, indigenous communities engaged in protests, discussions, and dialogues to address their rights and issues.
In West Flores, the Pocoleok Indigenous Community commemorated the International Day of Indigenous Peoples by staging a protest at the regional legislative council (DPRD) office and the Manggarai Regent’s office.
They urged the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) to revoke the Decree designating Flores as a geothermal island and demanded the Manggarai Regent withdraw the Decree designating the Ulumbu Geothermal Working Area (WKP) in Pocoleok.
In Lombok, the AMAN West Nusa Tenggara Regional Board held a reflective dialogue on the existence of Indigenous Communities. The dialogue took place at the Jelantik Indigenous Community on Wednesday (9 Aug).
Championing indigenous rights within Indonesia
The Chairman of AMAN West Nusa Tenggara, Lalu Prima Wiraputra, stated that the issues of Indigenous Communities are not only a national topic but also an international one, encompassing tenure, social inclusivity, and the stigma of being marginalized.
Therefore, this year’s celebration of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples is hoped to trigger Indigenous Communities, especially Indigenous Youth, to build strength and come together massively to demand their rights as part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.
Meanwhile, in Tano Batak, the occasion was commemorated by planting various types of fruit trees in the customary territory of Sihaporas.
Johanes Siahaan, one of the representatives of the Sihaporas indigenous youth, expressed his joy in participating in tree-planting activities during this year’s HIMAS celebration.
He stated that this year’s HIMAS theme, which highlights the role of indigenous youth, is quite relevant to the current situation of Sihaporas indigenous youth who are fighting against land encroachment by PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) company.
Johanes mentioned that apart from safeguarding the ancestral land, Sihaporas indigenous youth will strive to restore the green forest, especially in the water source area, by planting seedlings of endemic trees.
Youth indigenous group initiated the “Return to the Village” Movement
Regarding this year’s theme, at the beginning of 2013, the Indigenous Youth Front (Barisan Pemuda Adat Nusantara or BPAN), an affiliate organization under AMAN, initiated the “Return to the Village” Movement driven by the circumstances of the indigenous youth’s existence, which faced various challenges ranging from the degradation of ancestral territories due to extractive industries, and changes in the education landscape, to the advancement of modern technology.
Essentially, this movement called upon indigenous youth residing in cities to return to their villages, protect, and manage their ancestral territories.
In response to this call, many indigenous youths returned to their villages, initiating various initiatives within their communities, such as establishing indigenous schools, developing culturally based tourism, engaging in organic farming, cultivating herbal gardens, and more.
Billy Mambrasar, the Special Staff to the President of the Republic of Indonesia for Education, Innovation, and Outermost Regions, expressed his appreciation for the “Return to the Village” Movement amid the news of many Indonesian citizens choosing to change their citizenship.
Billy mentioned that this movement encourages the trend of young people returning to their hometowns. For instance, in Luwu Utara.
“Sectors like agriculture, maritime affairs, fisheries, and tourism are the main focus. Young people become local champions and inspire others to get involved.”
“Taking the example of the successful work I’ve done as an ambassador for sustainable development and a pioneer of the Papua Interactive Hub concept, where we are mobilizing thousands of Papuan youths to contribute to the development of the easternmost province in Indonesia, a similar approach can be applied in North Luwu and other regions,” stated Billy.
Beyond food security, the “Return to the Village” Movement also aims to preserve local culture. This is achieved through art studios, knowledge transfer, and the establishment of indigenous schools.
Currently, 90 indigenous schools have been established in various indigenous community areas, initiated by indigenous youth with the support of elders within the communities. These indigenous schools are tailored to the conditions of indigenous communities, developed by, for, and within the community.
2023 theme: Celebrating Indigenous youth
For the year 2023, the UN has designated the theme of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples as “Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-Determination.”
This theme underscores the role that indigenous youth must play in decision-making processes, recognizing their dedicated efforts in climate action, seeking justice for indigenous communities, and fostering intergenerational relationships that preserve their cultures, traditions, and contributions.
The inception of the day dates back to a seminar organized by the United Nations (UN) held in Geneva in January 1989.
The seminar explored the impact of racism and racial discrimination in the economic and social context between indigenous communities and nations. The conclusions drawn from the seminar indicated that despite the presence of government officials from indigenous backgrounds, the marginalization of these communities persisted.
Subsequently, the United Nations General Assembly issued Resolution No. 45/164 on 18 December 1990, recognizing the need for a new approach to address indigenous issues. The UN’s commitment to indigenous causes continued in the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, resulting in the emergence of new developments for indigenous communities.
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples finds its origins in the ongoing violations of the rights of these communities. Approximately 476 million indigenous people inhabit 90 countries globally.
Although they represent less than 5 percent of the world’s population, they make up 15 percent of the poorest. These communities speak the majority of the world’s approximately 7,000 languages and embody 5,000 distinct cultures.
Indigenous peoples serve as the inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures, maintaining distinct social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics within dominant societies.
Despite their cultural diversity, indigenous communities face shared challenges in protecting their rights as distinct societies. Throughout history, their rights have been violated, which led to the establishment of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples to raise awareness of their needs.
Recognizing the crucial role of indigenous peoples in environmental management and development, the Earth Summit acknowledged their significance in sustainable practices and traditional knowledge.
This recognition materialized in Agenda 21, specifically in paragraphs 26 to 29, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging the rights of indigenous communities in the context of development.
The United Nations continued its focus on indigenous issues during the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, resulting in Resolution No. 48/163, designating 1993 as the Year of Indigenous Peoples and 1994-2004 as the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.
This decade aimed to strengthen international cooperation to address the challenges faced by indigenous communities in areas such as human rights, environmental preservation, development, education, and health.
On 23 December 1994, the UN General Assembly officially declared 9 August as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This occasion is used by the UN to draw attention to indigenous concerns.
On this day, governments, non-governmental organizations, and concerned groups have the opportunity to organize various activities to enhance awareness of the existence and cultures of indigenous peoples.