ANCESTRAL CULTURES ARE THE KEY TO FORGING OUR IDENTITY AS INDIGENOUS WOMEN
The Indigenous Peoples of the whole world stand against discrimination and racism through the community transmission of our ancestral knowledge. Our actions as Indigenous Women, strengthened by the Global Leadership School of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI), are key to projecting our worldviews in an intercultural dialogue with today’s world.
Naming our children in our traditional language. Leading an arts workshop where grandparents connect with their grandchildren, recognizing each other as part of the same tradition. Working together with other women on a traditional embroidery project. Organizing groups of women entrepreneurs based on the principles of reciprocity and barter. Indigenous Women have been deploying different strategies all over the globe to defend our traditions and transmit our worldviews to future generations.
This can be seen through the experiences of Laura Vukson, a member of the Tlicho People in Canada; Theresa John, a Yupik Inuit woman in Alaska; Romba’ Marannu Sombolinggi’, of the Toraya People in Indonesia; and Antonia Zamora Garza, from the Nahuatl Tlaxcalteca People in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala, among many other stories that can be read here.
All of them are moved by the wisdom of our elders who, despite the conditions of exclusion that exist in most of our communities, continue to be a beacon for the transmission of a philosophy based on a harmonious relationship with the earth and the natural world, understood as the source of all life and energy.
Laura was born in Ontario, Canada. The culture of the Tlicho people informs her life practices. At 38 years old, she is the mother of two children whom she named in her traditional language. This means a lot to her and her family, as it contributes to preserving at the source part of the indigenous culture to which they belong.
When she was eight years old, because there was so much racism in her city, she was ashamed of being Indigenous. Despite this, she survived segregation and managed to recognize herself as part of an Indigenous People. Today, as the director of a training centre, she promotes interventions of indigenous artists in remote communities in Canada to help children return to the values of their culture.
Theresa (63), Yupik Inuit woman, leader and wise protector of the values of her people, also recognizes the loss of traditional cultural practices and languages in her country. For this reason, she believes it necessary to share local, ancestral knowledge with children and prepare them to become better leaders of tomorrow.
Inspired by her grandmother, she focused her leadership on finding ways to solve the social problems that affect her people. From the academic world where she works as a professor, she promotes the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, ensuring that students receive ancestral knowledge and get directly involved in the planning of rituals, dances, and songs in the region.
In the city of Rantepao, Indonesia, Romba has a similar path to that of her peers from the Arctic and the Pacific. As part of the Toraya People, she comes from a family that maintains the local cultural customs and knowledge, and is respectful of the traditional rules that govern her community. When she was a child, her grandmother and grandfather took her travelling. She got to discover various new places and their diverse cultural elements.
The Toraya culture recognizes tangible symbols that represent authority and leadership, such as the name Tongkonan, which comes from the word “tongkon”, meaning “to sit”. The Tongkonan house is the centre of government for the Toraya community, so it cannot be privately or individually owned. This house represents the ancestral heritage of each family member or their descendant. “I am grateful to come from the family of a community leader,” she says.
“For me, there are two identities that meet, or intertwine. First, my identity as a woman, built since I was born, then my identity as Indigenous, with my own cultural practices, with a different identity,” explains Antonia (31), from San Francisco Tetlanohcan, where her roots as woman and Indigenous are established.
As a leader of her community, she promoted the recording of oral histories, where children get together with their grandparents to learn about what life was like before in the Nahuatl language. “That summer course was very nice and rewarding, because the children, who are now adolescents, were able to reflect on the community’s culture,” she says.
She also worked with groups of women on the use of medicinal plants with ancestral recipes, and put forward an embroidery workshop in an effort to recover an art that was being lost in the communities.
Through these experiences, Indigenous Women are weaving networks and making their way on a path built upon community development and the projection of our millennial identities in children and youth. Discover more stories and join us!