Although many people consider Western development integral to the world’s progression, many tribal groups argue that some attempts at development result in driving society backwards.
Members of the Dongria Kondh tribe in India have been forced to change their way of life after the mining company, Vedanta Resources, demolished the tribe’s land to extract precious minerals.
“It’s crazy when these outsiders come and teach us development,” said tribe member Lodu Sikaka, according to Survival International. “You have to pay to take a bath, for food and even to drink water. In our land, we don’t have to buy water like you, and we can eat anywhere for free.”
In addition to drastic changes in their lifestyles, many tribes face threats of starvation, obesity, AIDS and addiction. Alienated and overcome by cultural shock, their members often turn to suicide.
Over the course of one year, 56 Guarani natives committed suicide in response to ranchers seizing their land.
“The Guarani are committing suicide because we have no land,” said Rosalino Ortiz of the Guarani tribe in Brazil, according to Survival International. “We don’t have space anymore. In the old days, we were free. Now, we are no longer free. So, our young people look around and think there is nothing left and wonder how they can live.”
While each tribe has its own unique culture and development issues, a longing for freedom unites tribes to encourage preservation of their rich cultures. If this freedom is taken from them, a piece of diversity will be removed from the world.
“Instead of introducing problems and seeing how we could resolve one tenth of these problems, we should be conscious of the importance of this diversity and the importance of these different ways of life,” said author Oren Ginzburg in a phone interview with The Guilfordian. Ginzburg’s most famous work, “There You Go!” is a satire that offers a novel approach to understanding development and its impact on indigenous peoples.
Junior Delaney Williams agrees with Ginzburg.
“I think this issue really relates to one of Guilford’s core principles: diversity,” said Williams. “We need to maintain individuality. Having all these types of people brings new ideas to the table, so they can bring issues into a different light.”
A potential solution to protect this diversity could be to relay the voices of these tribes through a mass-distributed medium. For example, Ginzburg’s 2-minute video adaption of “There You Go!” has reached thousands of viewers on YouTube and more on the Survival International website.
Western societies must communicate with tribes in order to evaluate artificial changes before relaying tribal concerns to the broader public.
“It is not that the Yanomami do not want progress or other things that white people have,” said Davi Kopenawa of the Yanomami tribe in Brazil and Venezuela, according to Survival International. “They want to be able to choose and not have change thrust upon them.”