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Worlds Transformed Indigenous Peoples' Health in Changing Rainforests

It is said that one of the great ironies of conservation is that what has been preserved by a thousand wise men for athousand years may be destroyed by a few fools in an hour. Indigenous populations have lived in rainforests for millennia and have adapted lifestyles intimately connected with nature and having relatively low environmental impact. In addition, they have maintained low population…

No Justice in Ok Tedi Settlement

During the first two weeks of January 2004, the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne received an extraordinary series of letters from Papua New Guineans objecting to the pending settlement of their legal case against the Ok Tedi mine and BHP Billiton (formerly BHP). The letters pleaded with the courts to address their concerns about the impacts of the Ok Tedi mine on their rivers and forests: “…

Looking Forward, Looking Back: Canada's Response to Land Claims

In 1874, a band in Southern Saskatchewan living on the margins of Canadian society signed Treaty No. 4 with the Canadian government and released most of its traditional territory in exchange for a much smaller reserve and promises of farm implements and an annual annuity to ensure its survival. Within 30 years the band’s population decreased nearly 50 percent from starvation and disease and the…

Health in Living with the Joy of Nature

In order to live well, every community needs a shaman with inherited knowledge. This knowledge comes to us from the origin of times. Back in the olden times of our ancestors, we learned to relate with all the other living beings through concentration. This is what we call “managing the world,” and it is an obligatory task of every shaman; it is what allows us to live well with other living beings…

Familiar Landscapes, Common Challenges: Totem pol

Tourism threatens the cultures and environments of indigenous communities all over the world. The Buryat and Soyot of Siberia—not normally considered a hot tourist destination—are among those concerned about the growing number of visitors to their important cultural and ecological areas. When a group of ecologists and cultural arts experts from New York State's Adirondack Park traveled in…

Do People Belong in the Forest?

Archaeology has widely documented that rainforests have been inhabited and cultivated for millenia, and greatly modified by human presence. In central Africa, the forest is occupied by two sets of communities, hunter-gatherers (commonly called Pygmies) now turning to agriculture, and traditional Bantu farmers. Both communities are exposed to common diseases, which are particularly diverse in the…

Cultural Survival: A Human Rights Organization

Thirty-two years ago when Cultural Survival was founded, its name aptly described its mission. Outright genocide ofindigenous peoples was no longer the norm, but ignorance, negligence, greed, and the good intentions of those who sought to bring development to “backward” groups combined to undermine centuries-old ways of life, obliterate languages, and isolate and marginalize individuals whose…

Conservation and Health: A Case Study in Borneo

Forty years ago the island of Borneo was covered by the world’s oldest and perhaps most biologically diverse rainforest. Logging and land conversion has since led to deforestation of about half of this great island. Even most national parks in Borneo are now being illegally logged. It is an ecological disaster of the first order. Forest People in Peril Orangutan means “forest person” in…

Celebrating Andean Culture:Center for Andean Ethnomusicology

The Center for Andean Ethnomusicology (CAE), a Cultural Survival Special Project, works to revive local cultures and promote ethnic diversity in Andean countries, through the study and documentation of traditional cultures. Its work often centers on recording cultural representations like music, ritual, and the dance-drama. Since 1985, the project has produced an extensive audiovisual archive of…

Burji Recognition in the Kenya Constitution

At the turn of the 20th century, the Burji community arrived in Kenya from Yavelo Province, Ethiopia, courtesy of the then-commissioner of the Marsabit District in northern Kenya. To encourage farming in his administrative area and feed the colonists and inhabitants -the Borana, Rendille and Gabra- who were predominantly pastoralists, the British colonial official decided to ask his Ethiopian…

Bringing Western Health Care to the Peruvian Amazon

The Achuar Indians live on the upper Pastaza River in the Peruvian Amazon near the Ecuadorian border. They are one of the four tribes of the Jivaroan family that inhabit the vast regions of northeastern Peru and southern Ecuador. I initially went to the Peruvian Amazon to work on a wildlife project, and then became a forest guide. I started the U.S.-based Rainforest Health Project (RHP) with…

An Ecotourism Challenge: The South North Tourism Route

South Africa’s Northern Cape, home to the Nama, Griqua, and Cape Khoi peoples, is one of the most biologically diverse flora regions in South Africa, extending in the northwest region of the country from the craggy desert mountains of the Richtersveld to the coastal seascapes of Hondeklipbaai. The local peoples’ ancestors date back to the early San Bushmen. Despite their ingenuity, fortitude, and…

Intercultural Health Processes in the Colombian Amazon

Amazonian indigenous peoples understand and manage health as a vital expression ofthe way in which human beings and the rainforest environment interact. Health is a cross-cutting theme of social life that is closely related to the cultural dynamics of family and community life, the ecological relations between local settlements and the surrounding natural ecosystems, and the way people conceive…

No Longer Nomadic: Changing Punan Tubu Lifestyle Requires New Health Strategies

Over the past half-century tropical humid forests have undergone unprecedented pressure to make way for people, often at the cost of ecological functions that may affect human health. The role of deforestation in the increase in infectious diseases is the most obvious direct health impact, but more indirect consequences should not be underestimated. In the long term, deforestation causes losses…

Nigerian Communities' ChevronTexaco Lawsuit Moves Forward

On March 25, in a victory for Niger Delta region indigenous groups involved in a lawsuit against ChevronTexaco, a federal district court in San Francisco found that the oil company can be held liable for the actions of its subsidiary, Chevron Nigeria Ltd. The Ilaje and Ijaw indigenous groups' livelihoods have been devastated by soil erosion and other environmental damages caused by Chevron's oil…

Basketballs for Bows and Arrows: Deforestation and Agta Culture Change

Until the 1970s, all Agta boys knew how to shoot small bows and arrows by the time they were four, and by age 10 they often came home with small birds they had shot in the nearby forest. These children would typically pluck and clean their birds (often just one tiny sparrow), roast the meat on coals, and then divide and distribute small portions among their playmates. Today, bows and arrows are…