Originally Published on OpEdNews
The UN celebrates International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, and calls for making sure that the indigenous peoples of the world have the right to access to education, specifying, "to reflect their experiences and culture in places of learning."
This is good. The history of the treatment of indigenous peoples by industrialized nations has been shameful, usually aiming at destroying indigenous cultures and their wisdom.
The fact is, the western world has much to learn from Indigenous peoples, particularly about connecting more deeply with and living sustainably with nature. Indigenous peoples have levels of connection consciousness-- awareness of how they are connected to each other and to nature-- that far surpass westerners. Westerners are relatively blind and ignorant compared to Indigenous Peoples when it comes to knowing how to sustainably connect with and live with and in nature.
They know so much more that their wisdom should be codified and taught in western schools, preferably by indigenous people.
Protecting the dwindling numbers of indigenous peoples should be considered a priority. Who do they need to be protected from? Missionaries, loggers and other exploiters of the forests and natural resources are the biggest threats. Personally, I've long believed that the Indigenous peoples and the lands they live in should be protected by armed guards, instructed to use their weapons to protect the innocents.
I believe that the wisdom and cultural traditions-- their myths, rites of passage, natural healing approach-- of indigenous peoples are so precious that people and organizations-- churches, companies, industries-- should be seen as evil and malignant. This would be a reframe from them being rescuers, saving indigenous peoples from lives without Jesus or whatever god missionaries are selling. This would be a reframe from saving indigenous people from the vacuum in their lives from not having shiny technological objects. We now know that indigenous peoples do not live desperate, dog-eat-dog lives. They work three or four hours a day and have good lives, with profoundly better sense of community and stronger morals than most westerners.
Yes, the UN is correct to call for protecting Indigenous people's rights to education that reflects their culture and values. But we westerners should be embracing indigenous wisdom far more than we currently do. We need to get rid of old Christian stories that aboriginals are ignorant and uncivilized and replace them with stories that these peoples offer so much to us that we are missing.
Here's the UN Press release on International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
UNITED NATIONS, 8 August 2016 -- This year, the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples (9 August) is devoted to indigenous peoples' right to education, given the persistent gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous students in terms of access to education, school retention and graduation rates in all regions of the world. "On this International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, I call on Governments everywhere ... to improve access to education for indigenous peoples and to reflect their experiences and culture in places of learning," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, adding, "Let us commit to ensuring indigenous peoples are not left behind as we pursue the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals." A special event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Tuesday, 9 August, will include three indigenous experts on indigenous education: Karla Jessen Williamson, an Inuit from Greenland, currently teaching at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada; Octaviana Trujillo, a member of Arizona's Pascua Yaqui Tribe, teaching at Northern Arizona University in the United States; and Juan de Dios Simón Sotz, a Maya Kaqchikel, Director General of School Education at the Ministry of Education in Guatemala. The discussion, to be moderated by Álvaro Pop, the Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, will focus on the major challenges indigenous peoples face in accessing education, in particular education that is culturally and linguistically appropriate and which is not viewed as a means of assimilation.
According to the upcoming report on t he State of the World's Indigenous Peoples, Volume III, on Education, in Nunavut, the northernmost territory in Canada, Inuit high-school graduation rates are well below average, and only 40 per cent of all school-age indigenous children are attending school full time. In Australia, participation of indigenous 15-19 year-olds in higher education was 60 per cent in 2013, well below the 80 per cent participation for all Australians in the same age group. In Latin America and the Caribbean, on average, 85 per cent of indigenous children attend secondary education, but only 40 per cent complete that level of education.
The right of indigenous peoples to education is protected by Article 14 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which, among other things, states that "Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning." Further, the UN Declaration provides the right for indigenous peoples to all levels of education within the State without discrimination
The right of indigenous peoples to education is also recognized by a number of other international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples. However, the 2030 Agenda does not include indicators on mother-tongue language education, an area that indigenous peoples have been lobbying for.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in some 90 countries around the world. Practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live.