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7 February 2011
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The myths, stories and songs passed down through generations of tribal and indigenous people establish the origins of each group in their ancestral lands. In many cases, they have been in the same territory for thousands of years. In desert and in forest, within mountain ranges and on wild ocean shores, in equatorial heat and polar cold, diverse climates and locations have formed the different knowledge, lifestyles and belief-systems of indigenous people today.

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For those living in the dense jungles of the Amazon, the virgin forest is the great provider and informs every aspects of their lives. Groups living in the snow and ice have developed unique and ingenious methods of survival as have those who live in very dry enviroments. Many who survive today do so precisely because of their remote and harsh environments.

The human race has lived as hunter-gatherers for approximately nine tenths of its existence. With the advent of agriculture in Neolithic times, however, farming spread and civilisations grew - requiring ever more land to satisfy their needs. This pushed indigenous communities to inaccessible regions or engulfed them. Many adopted small scale agricultural practices as resources became scarce and these are now an integral part of their culture. Over the centuries, over use of land has increased and the groups that remain today have had to continually adapt to changing and difficult circumstances.

The recent colonial era - when European nations and economies engulfed the world - has also seriously diminished tribal lands and paved the way for the world's present global market economy. Today, indigenous and tribal peoples only exist at what have become the margins of this 'developed' world,development being synonymous with industrialised farming and the ensuing urbanisation and modernisation. Where land is deemed profitable - for mining, agriculture, logging, hydroelectric dams or other reasons - tribal people lose out and have their homelands taken away. As a result, there are very few places where tribal peoples' lifestyles are not under threat.


Brody, H (2002)
The Other side of Eden, Faber & Faber, UK
Lee and Daly (1999)
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers, Cambridge University Press
Moran, E.F. (2006)
People & Nature: An Introduction to Human Ecological Relations, Blackwell, UK

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