Indigenous. The word is powerful, there is no doubt ~ a descriptive adjective that evokes strong concepts of ancestral roots, cultural and historic sensitivities as well as endemic ties to place, species and habitats. It represents ancient tribal peoples who, more often than not, have been usurped in the image of a European trail wagon, tallship, or CAT 60 Tractor. The problem continues.
Globalised capitalist markets persist in nothing short of gargantuan theft. The people who constitute these markets use false utilitarian arguments (supply for the greater good), in trying to justify fossil fuel extraction, deforestation, damming, and other planet-wrecking pursuits for profit. The reality is that they enlist proselytes to conjure most of these markets from thin air. Consumer-junkies keep the process alive in forms of novelty-addiction that seem hard to break, when all we really need, in terms of material things, are good organic food, pure water, recyclable clothes and shelter designed for locale from local materials.
Right now, the Standing Rock Protests, one of the biggest gatherings of First Nation peoples in decades, unite to stop brazen neoliberal arrogance manifesting in the form of the Dakota Access Pipeline, snaking its way across spirit-lands like a bad omen.
All over the world, we are seeing indigenous authenticity rising to fight for these sacred ties to land and seas, when, often, biodiversity rich areas selected for Western systems of conservation are only in a good ecological state because of eons of successful co-existence of indigenous peoples.
At least, a notional global postcolonial respect for the Rights of Indigenous exists more soundly in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) , but how sad it is that rights need to be enforced in the first instance. No one should need the “right” to flourish. All should be able to simply… flourish.
Those of us who revere the one biosphere we call home, and truly understand the stress it’s now under, may thank these peoples for trying to stem the blood loss, the profound inequality and environmental destruction which flows from Western growth-greed. The growth mantra is the instrument of harm, and the gash in our collective psyche needs to heal, fast.
Now, what if you, like me, are of Western ancestral heritage and cannot be classed as indigenous under such a UN Declaration? Moreover, if you are not endemic, have no ancestral attachment to a particular region, is it still possible or even respectful, to suggest that one may engender a sense of indigenous belonging and, therefore, legitimacy in feeling eutierria with the immediate environment in which you have made your home? We need time to assimilate, some of us more than others. For when we feel that true belonging, we love, and what we love, we are motivated to protect.
Perhaps we need a new word, beyond indigenous, to articulate, at least, the potential for this kind of belonging, belonging that is colour/race-blind, discernable in whatever timeframe we each need as individuals. There is no intent here to devalue endemism, rather, to increase the value of adopted endemism via kinship between peoples.
The adopted endemism generates a fully human response to economic oppression materialized as growth-greed. As Bill Neidjie says in Gagudju Man (2002),
“Language is different,
Skin can be different,
but blood same.
Blood and bone,
Man can’t split himself.”