Saving Indigenous Peoples

September 20, 2011 • Volume 5, Issue 18
Can native cultures survive in the modern world?
By Brian Beary


Indigenous Brazilians and environmental activists in São Paulo (AFP/Getty Images/Yasuyoshi Chiba)
Indigenous Brazilians and environmental activists in São Paulo protest on Aug. 20, 2011, the proposed construction of the Belo Monte Dam on a tributary of the Amazon River, which would create the third-largest hydroelectric plant in the world. Indigenous lands around the globe are under attack by governments and private investors seeking to develop energy and other resources. (AFP/Getty Images/Yasuyoshi Chiba)

Indigenous peoples in lands conquered by white Europeans — the Americas, Australasia and the Arctic — face a wide range of environmental, cultural and social problems. The world's native populations have rebounded numerically since the early 1900s, when many had been decimated, often by harmful assimilation policies. Australia and Canada have formally apologized for their earlier assimilation policies, and many indigenous groups today are seeking — and being granted — legal recognition of their political, economic and cultural rights. But uncertainty hangs over the survival of native cultures. Fewer young people speak their mother tongues and traditional customs are dying out. Moreover, native peoples often face daunting social problems, including dramatically lower life expectancies and significantly higher rates of poverty, suicide, alcoholism and domestic violence than among nonindigenous populations. Now, native groups face perhaps one of their biggest challenges: governments and private developers encroaching on their ancestral lands to exploit energy and other natural resources.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Human Rights
Nov. 01, 2013  Religious Repression
May 17, 2013  Assisted Suicide
Oct. 16, 2012  Human Trafficking and Slavery
Sep. 20, 2011  Saving Indigenous Peoples
Oct. 30, 2009  Human Rights Issues
Jul. 25, 2008  Human Rights in China
Mar. 26, 2004  Human Trafficking and Slavery
Apr. 30, 1999  Women and Human Rights
Nov. 13, 1998  Human Rights
Jul. 19, 1985  Human Rights in the 1980s
May 18, 1979  Human Rights Policy
Apr. 03, 1968  Human Rights Protection
Mar. 21, 1956  Forced Labor and Slavery
Apr. 27, 1949  Forced Labor
Jan. 25, 1945  Bills of Rights
Global Issues
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements