Indigenous Experience Today

Indigenous Experience Today

Indigenous Experience Today

Indigenous Experience Today

Synopsis

A century ago, the idea of indigenous people as an active force in the contemporary world was unthinkable. It was assumed that native societies everywhere would be swept away by the forward march of the West and its own peculiar brand of progress and civilization. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indigenous social movements wield new power, and groups as diverse as Australian Aborigines, Ecuadorian Quichuas, and New Zealand Maoris, have found their own distinctive and assertiveways of living in the present world. Indigenous Experience Today draws together essays by prominent scholars in anthropology and other fields examining the varied face of indigenous politics in Bolivia, Botswana, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, and the United States, amongst others. The study challenges the accepted notions of indigeneity and the often contentious issue of indigenous rights. Indigenous Experience Today demonstrates the transnational dynamics of contemporary indigenous culture and politics around the world.

Excerpt

Marisol de la Cadena and Orin Starn

Acentury ago, the idea of indigenous people as an active force in the contemporary world was unthinkable. According to most Western thinkers, native societies belonged to an earlier, inferior stage of human history doomed to extinction by the forward march of progress and history. Even those sympathetic with indigenous peoples—whether Maori in New Zealand, San in South Africa, or Miskitu in Nicaragua—felt little could be done to prevent their destruction or at least assimilation into the mainstream. The U.S. poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described Native Americans as “the red sun descending” in The Song of Hiawatha, an immensely popular and by turns maudlin, mesmerizing, and romantic 1855 epic poem. As forward-looking as he was in some respects, an icon of anti-imperialist Latin American nationalism, Augusto César Sandino, longed for the day when Nicaraguan Indians would be absorbed into a single mestizo, or mixed nation. The future of the world, it seemed, belonged everywhere to the West and its own peculiar brand of progress and civilization.

History has not turned out that way at all. Many tribal societies have indeed been wiped out by war, disease, exploitation, and cultural assimilation over these last centuries. But far from vanishing as the confident predictions once had it, native peoples today show demographic strength, even growth. More than four million people in the United States now classify themselves as “Native American.” Many times more claim indigenous membership globally from the BaSarwa in Botswana to New Caledonians in Oceania and the Ainu of northern Japan. One recent estimate puts the number at over 250 million worldwide spread across more than 4,000 different groups. Just as importantly, indigenous peoples have asserted their place in 21st-century global . . .

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