August 9 Celebrates World’s Indigenous People
In December 1994, the U.N. General Assembly ended centuries of international indifference to native peoples around the world by declaring August 9 the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.
Aiming to promote and protect the rights of indigenous people, the new international observance featured educational forums and classroom activities designed to encourage public awareness of indigenous cultures and the modern challenges they face. Since the establishment of this observance and the first two “International Decades” for indigenous people, numerous groups advancing indigenous cultures and interests have popped up around the world.
This year’s theme, “Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices,” strives to promote indigenous media’s role in challenging cultural stereotypes, influencing national agendas and solidifying cultural identity.
Though many indigenous groups exist, indigenous peoples struggle with a variety of social and economic problems. Poverty, unemployment, high incarceration rates, high infant mortality rates and gender-based violence plague many indigenous communities. Furthermore, expanded communications between once-isolated indigenous groups and modern society has led to the loss of some cultural practices and languages. Many indigenous people also live in or depend on food from places that are vulnerable to climate change. In the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas, for example, glacial melting is reducing the amount of seasonal water flow that will be available to rural mountain dwellers in the future.