Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a day celebrating the native peoples of America, has been recognised by the federal government in the US, and this is a day to recognise their contribution and, crucially, to listen to what they have to say as we transition to a more sustainable future.
But as well as celebrating, we should also note that indigenous peoples’ are still marginalised, and their voices often sadly ignored within many arenas – including unfortunately, all too often, in environmentalism and conservation.
I cannot speak for indigenous peoples’ of course. I do not need to. They can do so for themselves. But what I can do, as someone involved in sustainability and conservation, is learn from what they say, and what their cultural knowledge bank has to share. I can look past revisionist history and learn the truth beyond history books.
Indigenous peoples have notably long espoused many of the same ethics and ideals as those commonly espoused today within other enclaves within the environmental movement. Sustainability to the seventh generation, an understanding of interconnectedness, and respect for the natural world are key. Often, they are the best guardians for the lands they inhabit, knowing them intimately and feeling a deep sense of connection.
Native peoples make up just 5% of the world’s population, yet they are responsible for the conservation of more than a quarter of the world’s land. It is crucial that we all (institutions, governments and individuals) listen and learn, and do all we can to bring their important voices to the table.