Can Indigenous Societies Survive?

indigenous societies

I have done a fair amount of research on Indigenous Societies around the world. They fascinate me. Most Indigenous Societies that still exist seem to be in peril. I wonder, ‘how much longer can they survive’?

Many of the stories I have read are from The Global Oneness Project. Amazingly brave and talented artists, photographers and writers travel throughout the world to study Indigenous Peoples. Their stories and the photos taken may become the last tangible proof that Indigenous Societies still exist somewhere on the planet. It seems that only in the remotes places where nature fortifies its children against invasion do societies continue intact. This is the case with the Mustangs, monks living in an isolated corner of Nepal surrounded by high mountains which separate and protect them from the outside world.

a group of monks on horse back.
The Mustangs, monks of Nepal photographed by Taylor Weidman

    Besides wondering if Indigenous Tribes can survive is the question, ‘Why Are They Disappearing’? This is what I would like to focus on. Indigenous people are intimate with their natural environment. As more of nature is usurped by ‘civilized’ men for other uses, thrown out of balance by ‘climate change’ or outright destroyed by technological advancements’, the people whose land is a physical extension of themselves die as a culture. They individually may survive as the ‘American Indians’ did. But they were confined to reservations, raped of their culture, their dignity, their identity, their land and their spiritual connection to the earth and their natural world.
how the Indians were treated
Native American Tribe Policy from

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    The Mongolian Nomads, studied and photographed by Taylor Weidman, co-founder of the Vanishing Cultures Project. In both cases either man’s interference, climate change, desertification and the lure of a modern world are eating away at not only their cultural integrity but also their very survival. The damming of the Omo River is destroying the livelihood of half a million Africans. Climate change, desertification and the awareness of a modern life are transforming the Mongolian landscape.
    But there is some hope on the horizon. It is unlikely that many or any of the Indigenous Societies will survive as they have historically or geographically. But there is a strong desire to keep their rich cultural heritages alive and if possible, their way of living alive as well. In the case of a Yup’ik Eskimo town on the Western coast of Alaska, families are struggling to maintain the subsistence lifestyle of their ancestors.
    This story is one of destruction, devastation and at the same time an indominable spirit to keep some of the richest cultures on our planet alive. Whatever these people can do on their own or what others are doing to help, all of these Indigenous Societies will survive in our own hearts and minds as we connect to the Mother Earth Spirit that birthed us all.
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Indigenous Cultures: The Kara Women of Ethiopia

Indigenous cultures represented by this young Karan woman

Indigenous cultures are rare, precious, fragile, and quickly becoming extinct. Is this progress or a form of genocide? Is this the price we pay for planetary technological advancements? What happens when there are no civilizations left who dance to the rhythms of the earth and thrive on a daily, intimate relationship with nature?

A story in the current issue of the Global Oneness Project Magazine, photographed and told by Jane Baldwin (the above and other photos), is about an indigenous culture, the Kara Women of Ethiopia. Her photographs and the interview of her encourage readers to ponder these questions. Ms. Baldwin’s story is about her eight year developing relationship with the Kara women.

indigenous cultures are impacted by the Omo River dam projects
Map of the Omo River with dam projects highlighted in red
They are inhabitants of Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley and the Omo River-Lake Turkana watershed. The areas that they and other groups have inhabited for hundreds of years are threatened by the continuing dam building of the Omo River dam project. This one is Gibe III.

The residents of the river valley have had no say in these projects. The projects clearly do not benefit these agro-pastorialists, the indigenous people who have lived in harmony with their river. They are its victims and will be the casualties again, of this half finished project, Gibe III. The dam will benefit those whose priorities differ drastically from theirs. Their flowing relationship with the Omo River will stop. The lives of about a half a million people will be impacted and their traditional way of life will be affected. The consequences will be a disaster.

These people do not read or write. Marriages have traditionally been arranged although that is changing. The women’s lives are based primarily on child bearing and telling their stories through oral tradition. This is current life of the Kara Women. They are subservient in every way to the patriarchy they live in except for one essential responsibility. They are the keepers of their culture’s stories.

They make up songs that they sing to their children from the time they are babies. This is part of how they pass on their stories. What will become of their lives in the river valley when they crash, head on with Gibe III? They will still have their stories. But they will be bloody nightmares not happy memories.

At right, discover more about the Kara Women and other stories about ART | FOOD | HEALING in today’s issues of Alison*s Art Online Magazine, a feature of Alison*s Blog and published by RebelMouse and

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