International Tribal Day: Celebrating the significance of Indigenous people

Every year, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Population is celebrated on August 9. Also known as International Tribal Day, it is observed to create awareness about indigenous people of the world and to protect their rights.

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At the beginning of the 21st century, the United Nations discovered that tribal groups across the world are a victim of unemployment, child labour, and many other problems. The UN thus felt the need to create an organisation for the same and so UNWGIP (United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Population) came into formation. The International Tribal Day was first pronounced by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1994, marking the day of the first meeting of United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Population in 1982. 

According to the United Nations, every 2 weeks, an indigenous language disappears. This shows the amount of risk tribal people face. Therefore, the International Tribal Day is observed to recognize their importance and the contribution they make to protect and conserve the environment.

Image: Survival International

Some interesting facts to know about Tribal People:

  • The Indigenous people constitute around 470 million of the total human population on the planet. Also, more than 100 uncontacted tribes are there in the world.
  • Out of the 7000 languages spoken in the world, 4000 are spoken by tribal people.
  • Tribal people worship nature. They offer their prayers to mountains, rivers, trees, birds and animals. They thus live in harmony with their natural surroundings and have great ecological knowledge.
  • Tribal people have developed extra-ordinary survival skills over the millennia. It is surprising to know that the Andaman tribes were not affected by the 2004 tsunami. They immediately retreated to higher ground as they saw the sea recede. This gives a glimpse of the knowledge they possess.
  • In India, tribal people make up to 8.6% of the total population. They are denoted as Scheduled Tribe in the constitution of India.
  • Some tribal groups of India include the Gond, Munda, Ho, Bodo, Bhils, Santhal, Khasi, Garo, Great Andamanese, Angami, Bhutia, Chenchu, Kodava, Toda, Meena, Birhor and many others.
  • People belonging to the tribal community place a flag on their homes, fields and worship places. These are different from other communities and have symbols like sun, moon, stars etc.
Image: Survival International

Tribal Population in different states of India

  • Jharkhand- 26.2%
  • West Bengal- 5.49%
  • Bihar- 0.99%
  • Sikkim- 33.08%
  • Meghalaya- 86.0%
  • Tripura- 31.08%
  • Mizoram- 94.04%
  • Manipur- 35.01%
  • Nagaland- 86.05%
  • Assam- 12.04%
  • Arunachal Pradesh- 68.08%
  • Uttar Pradesh- 0.07%

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Demand for National Holiday

A few days back, many people belonging to the tribal community and those supporting them, had demanded to declare International Tribal day as a National Holiday. Given the significance and importance of tribal people, many tribal leaders like Hansraj Meena and the Tribal Army are urging the Govt to announce it a National Holiday .

#विश्वआदिवासी_दिवस_NH_घोषित_करो trended on twitter as more and more people urged the Prime minister to declare 9 August as a National Holiday.

The Tribal people are thus important to the world. Their culture, knowledge and contribution towards protecting the environment have always been regarded to be the best. Therefore, International Tribal Day seeks to celebrate their uniqueness and protect their rights. 

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Written By Shiwangi, She is doing her Masters in Mass Communication from GGS IP University, New Delhi.

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