WHY PROUD, NOT PRIMITIVE?

Tribal people are not stuck in the past; they are proud of their self-sufficient and sustainable ways of life.

The negative attitudes that tribal people face on a daily basis are at the root of many of their problems – they are used as excuses to deny them their rights.

Dongria Kondh woman in millet field, Orissa, India
Dongria Kondh woman in millet field, Orissa, India
© Toby Nicholas/Survival

PREJUDICE

Across India, tribal people are still being considered and called ‘primitive’ or ‘backwards’.

• Negative attitudes towards tribal peoples still prevail in India today

• The use of terms like ‘primitive’ and ‘backwards’ is alarmingly common, even by the government

• These beliefs are used to justify persecution and the theft of tribal lands

‘Unless we affirm our culture and right and language, we won’t live. Our colour is good, our language is good, our art is good, our way of living is good. If we can respect your religion and your practices, why can’t you respect ours?’

- G. Thenadikulam, Wayanad District

Learn more about tribal peoples. →

MAINSTREAMING

Living on their land, in the ways that they choose, tribal peoples in India and around the world are thriving.

• In India, tribal people are still being pushed to ‘join the mainstream’

• This colonial approach robs tribal peoples of their rights, their land and their health

• Those forced into the mainstream end up on the edges of society where disease, depression and addiction soar.

‘We say, ‘you don’t have to take care of us. We’ll take care of ourselves. We’ll lead our lives the way we know.’

- Arjun Chandi, Majhi Kondh

Learn more about mainstreaming. →

THEFT OF LAND

This prejudice is used to justify widespread abuse of tribal peoples’ rights including, most devastatingly, the theft of their lands.

• Protecting tribal peoples’ land rights is vital

• For tribal peoples, theft of their land violates all of their rights because their land is their home, their livelihood, and their spiritual centre.

• It is only when tribal people are secure on their land that they can freely make choices about their way of life and their future

‘Land is what will see us through, not only us but our children. We will not give up our land for anything in this world. If we give our land for mining it will not make our lives any better. In fact, we will end up with no jobs, no land and no home.’

- S. Pollanna, Ananthagiri

Learn more about the Forest Rights Act, which recognises the rights of tribal peoples to their land but is now under threat →

SCHOOLING

Education is a vital need of children everywhere, but schooling is used as a rationale for removing tribal children from their communities, dislocating them from their ways of life.

• Removed from home, sent to distant boarding schools, children often gain only the poorest quality schooling.

• Tribal children are not uneducated – they are taught to be experts on their land – how to feed their families, treat the sick and practice their rituals.

• Schooling for tribal peoples must be their choice – based on respect: for their rights, their ways, their language and their land.

‘[The Jarawa’s] knowledge of indigenous plants, herbs, diseases, and creatures of the jungle is immense and needs no schooling. No one can really educate them further. It is we, who need to be educated because soon all this knowledge will evaporate, with the immanent danger of the extinction of the tribe.’

- Anvita Abbi, Professor of Linguistics, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Learn more about schooling and tribal children. →

Ready to take action?

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