The theme for this year is “The role of Indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge”
By Marianne Bechara
Created by the United Nations in 1994, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is always celebrated on August 9. This year, the theme for the occasion is “The role of Indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge”.
Although the date was established 28 years ago, it has a strict relation to August 9, 1982, when the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations – part of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights – happened. Another relevant mark in history was the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1993), determined by the UN General Assembly.
The premise for 2022 has a wide significance, since Indigenous women are active members of their communities. Many aspects related to Indigenous groups keep being transmitted by these women, generation after generation, which has been leading to the protection of their culture over time. Languages, rituals, and oral histories are among these ancestral elements.
Apart from having the role of sharing knowledge, Indigenous women preserve other traditions within their communities, such as the conservation of natural environments. In addition, they have the strength and the awareness to become great leaders outside their societies. More and more, these women fight for their rights all over the planet, claiming respect and positive actions in order to defend Indigenous practices, values, and lands.
It is clear that women are a central part of the Indigenous communities, but, at the same time, they face different types of discrimination. Suffering prejudice in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and class is a common reality among this public. As the UN recalls, they usually find more limitations than other people in terms of education, health, sanitation, and employment. Even with a brave effort to be listened to and become decision-makers, Indigenous women still do not have the representation they deserve.
In Canada, violence against Indigenous women is a matter of great concern. The case of Chelsea Poorman became one of the many situations regarding this group. Reported missing since 2020, the 24-year-old woman was found dead this year, in Vancouver. Her family, her community (the Kawacatoose First Nation), and other members of society still fight for justice.
Several initiatives of the Canadian government intend to promote reconciliation with the Indigenous communities of the country – i.e., First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. According to Justin Trudeau, programs are being implemented “through a renewed, nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and government-to-government relationship based on affirmation of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change”. The Prime Minister of Canada also recognizes that many actions still need to be conducted, while reinforcing his commitment to “the survival, dignity, and well-being of Indigenous peoples”.
Celebrating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is an opportunity for praise and reflection. In regard to this year’s theme, ancestral knowledge constitutes a factor inherent to the aboriginal communities, and its protection has to be guaranteed. The role of Indigenous women in this process, among many others, is essential, and violence against them cannot be tolerated. Initiatives to amplify the voices of these women and combat inequality are necessary not only now, but continuously.
“About Indigenous peoples and communities”:
“Chelsea Poorman’s body lay in Shaughnessy for more than a year. But her death was not considered suspicious”:
“International Day of the World’s Indigenous People”:
“Statement by the Prime Minister on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples”:
“The role of Indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge”: