Circle of relearning

When Columbus found himself in the ‘Turtle Island’ he believed he had reached India and insisted, de-spite knowledge to the contrary, that the people he encountered were Indians. This encounter elucidated by modern curriculum serves as a point of reference to illustrate that not only were indigenous people being defined by others, but that these definitions made value judgments that relegated indigenous peoples to the margins of human existence. 

The fact that land belonging to indigenous people was defined as ‘vacant land’ which could be colonized in the name of ‘discovery’ and subsequently legitimated by international law is clear indication that indigenous people were not recognized as people. Through that process, indigenous people lost knowledge of and faith in their own traditions, knowledge system and values; but fortunately did not lose faith in their political identity and in their will to decide their own future.

The endurance and perseverance of indigenous people to assert their individual and collective identity in the face of compelling and overwhelming circumstances is perhaps what saved them from vanishing, the leftovers of whom would finally have been assimilated into the dominant society. The collective conscience of their nationhood in concrete practical terms has ensured that indigenous peoples have not become a thing of the past. Tragically, dominant societies till today attempt to define who indigenous people were and are. 

The realization of the bankruptcy and unsustainability in modern state system and dominant knowledge system has necessitated the need to explore alternatives. The search for alternatives is indicating an inevitable return to the teachings of indigenous knowledge system. Ironically, the indispensable contribution of indigenous knowledge in the human search for alternatives has not been completely grasped by indigenous people themselves, as they continue to confront the guile of State distraction.  

It is essential for indigenous people to come out of the ‘distraction’ to take ownership over their knowledge system. Failure to do so could mean the dominant knowledge grabbing hold of indigenous knowledge and wisdom, and repackaging it in a consumerist manner just as if it were its own. This possible usurping of indigenous knowledge would have a profound effect on humanity and its struggle for freedom.

Indigenous people are therefore demanded by time and history to reinforce their identities and to deliberately reconstruct their nationhood based on indigenous values and wisdom. These two processes of reinforcement and reconstruction are intertwined with each other. In essence it involves the process of relearning, rethinking and reinterpreting the development of indigenous identities, culture, self-governance and institutions in ways that would meet the challenges and needs of modern day aspirations. Indigenous people need to reflect and evaluate on the notion that there are a variety of ways to be modern without losing the essence of being indigenous.