This Land Is…

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

“We don’t need help in the form of money. The help we need is support in speaking to the white people, so they listen and respect us and allow us to live on this land.” – Yaomami citizen

Survival International is a non-profit that helps tribal peoples protect their lives, lands and human rights. They work to change racist attitudes towards, and false beliefs about, tribal peoples. They also monitor the media and counter false and damaging stereotypes which portray tribes as ‘backward’ and ‘primitive’, support legal work to ensure tribes are expertly representedproduce educational materials for schools and the public, showing who tribal peoples really are and how they live, and fund medical and self-help projects directly with tribal people.

Their vision is to foster an understanding of, and respect for, tribal peoples and the choices they make about their futures.

To list some of their own concerns for tribal people, I reproduce here a section of the Survival International website:

Tribal people are still violently attacked, and sometimes killed, particularly in parts of South & Central America, Africa and Asia.
Violence, often self-inflicted, is also a big problem in wealthy countries, which have largely dispossessed their indigenous peoples (such as Canada and the USA, Australia and New Zealand).

In some areas, tribal people are still held in a form of slavery, called ‘debt-bondage’, where they are forced to produce raw materials to pay a supposed debt to an outsider.

The view that tribal people are ‘primitive’ and not able to make rational choices about their own future derives from a colonialist, racist ideology. It is still used to justify their dispossession.

Land theft
Tribal peoples are generally self-sufficient and dependent on their land to provide their food and support their way of life. It also forms the bedrock of their identity. It is stolen for ‘development’, such as mining, dam-building, farming, etc., as well as for ‘conservation’ projects.

Resource theft
Even where the land itself isn’t taken, its resources often are. These can be timber or minerals.

Forced progress
All peoples are changing all the time, but changes forced on tribal peoples in the name of ‘progress’ result in a far lower quality of life than before, with increased illness, suicide, imprisonment, substance abuse and dependence etc. Changes should be under the control of the people themselves.

To learn more, visit

On a similar note, Human Rights Watch recently addressed an issue of forced migration:


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