DUBAI, 18 November 2021 – Telling indigenous people’s stories, especially those of the elderly, ensures crucial knowledge is passed on and will prevent cultures from becoming lost, according to speakers at the ‘Te Aratini, Festival of Indigenous and Tribal Ideas’. The three-day event is being held from 17-19 November at Expo 2020 Dubai as part of Tolerance and Inclusivity Week.
It is led by the National Iwi Chairs Forum, a coalition of independent Iwi (Tribal) Chairs, and coordinated by Māori leaders in partnership with the Aotearoa New Zealand government, and is the first indigenous festival in world expo history.
The event highlights the importance of indigenous peoples’ knowledge and how others can be a catalyst for coexistence and acceptance. This includes discussions on affirming the importance of indigenous and tribal peoples’ economies. The event also aims to show how indigenous knowledge can be disseminated through cultural tourism, and how taking care of the planet also takes care of indigenous people.
Diwigdi Valiente, Head of Sustainability at the Panamanian Ministry of Tourism, and a climate activist from the indigenous Guna people in Panama, said: “Storytelling is a means to keep indigenous people’s culture alive, to preserve their languages, which are in danger of disappearing. It is also a way to communicate with people who may not understand our values and beliefs. Every time an elderly indigenous person dies, all the knowledge gathered by that people’s culture throughout tens or hundreds of years dies with them.”
Valiente added: “We, as indigenous people in Panama need to convey the message we received from our ancestors – the elderly realise that unless we integrate their traditional values… and spiritual beliefs in a way that is understood, not only by our people but by the majority of Panamanians, we will be subject to losing much of our heritage and culture.”
ShoShona Kish, musician and founder of the International Indigenous Music Festival in Canada, said indigenous people’s stories are essential: “In Canada, there are many sources of support for the arts, in addition to the really great support for indigenous peoples’ rights nowadays, and I feel very fortunate to have them. We are still trying to resist the deep systemic silencing of indigenous people and the attempt to quell their stories.”
Kira Shiroud Origan, Influence Manager of Otyara Agency New Zealand highlighted the importance of stories in instilling peaceful coexistence with tribal cultures: “Narration of stories helps us to create the world we want to live in, especially true stories of aboriginal [people]. That’s where the power lies – in the capacity to change the world, as these stories of indigenous communities or people of determination, and other oppressed and persecuted societies, [are spreading across] the world, giving me hope.”
Countries participating in the festival include hosts Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as the UAE, Australia, Canada, USA, Malaysia, Paraguay and Panama.
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