Summary: Joint Session between Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, Gender and Development and
Working Group on Human Development
Role of indigenous knowledge in development
||17 July 2002, 11:30-13:00
Moderator(s):|| • Ms. Patricia Borraz, Almaciga|
Presenters/ Participants:|| • Mr. Alejandro Argumedo, ANDRES|
• Mr. Ricardo Cox, Universitat de Les Illes Balears (UIB)
• Mr. Diego Gradis, Traditions for Tomorrow
• Ms. Leonor Zalabata, Confederación Indigena Tayrona
||A.M. Lancianese (ICVolunteers)
The running theme was how to preserve and document indigenous knowledge, in order to be used in concert with modern technology, as a way of maintaining current lifestyles.
Ms. Paticia Borraz of Almaciga pointed out that there was a dichotomy between the importance of traditional knowledge and the importance of technology and how trade can be developed.
Mr. Diego Gradis of
Traditions pour demain stated that it was not possible to "chop up knowledge like it is done in the West," stressing that the various aspects of knowledge were tied together. He continued:
"Our knowledge protects land against aggressors. Indigenous knowledge has functioned for 1000
years." He regretted that this indigenous knowledge is being lost. He further suggested that indigenous knowledge should be considered as part of the solution to problems in the world, rather than just to be kept for its own survival.
Mr. Ricardo Cox of the Universitat de Les Illes Balears brought attention to the fact that participation from indigenous peoples is crucial. Real participation, he said, happens when indigenous peoples are involved in decision-making, in terms of development. He regretted that regions of indigenous peoples are often being invaded by planners who impose technology. He pointed out that this imposition was "separated from the land and its integrity." Mr. Cox, like the others, talked about the need to preserve the knowledge for future generations, to provide education and training, not only for the future but also to address current problems.
"In this way, he said, we can face development." There needs to be a dialogue concerning technical and local knowledge, because technology merely provides alternative options. Indigenous peoples want to incorporate modern technology, but they do not want to lose or replace their knowledge. Mr. Cox reminded the audience that for centuries, these indigenous cultures had lived in harmony with nature. "We have to block interference from the outside" he exclaimed. He called for a 'new model', one that simply integrates modern technology.
Mr. Rubén Ortiz of the Asociación de Agroturismo y Ecoturismo Indígena informed participants that although most indigenous peoples have not had the benefits of a university education, they have not remained static. For years, they have had industries such as transportation, construction, eco-tourism, tourism, coffee, leather, fabric products, ceramics. Mr. Ortiz pointed out that it was important not to stereotype the indigenous as only peasants and farmers. He said that many merchants have learned how to train and how to open markets on their own. There is even a Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala.
"In my area, he said, we have the indigenous merchants and we also have modern supermarkets. We have learned to accommodate ourselves." Mr. Ortiz then described the cultural richness of his homeland, in terms of fine art and academics and mentioned the difficulty of unifying the local with the modern knowledge. He concluded: "We must gain space in the world. We have learned to be invisible for 500 years...we're there, but they haven't seen us!"
Ms. Leonor Zalabata of the Confederación Indígena Tayrona explained that indigenous regions were not like any other land on earth, as they were inextricably linked with spiritual knowledge. She stressed that indigenous wisdom was not created by any one person, but instead could be found with animals, with the interpretation of nature, in all of natural life.
"This is the wisdom not found in books," she underlined. "But we need to guarantee, she said, that indigenous knowledge continues to grow and develop. Many values are not negotiable!"
When technology and tradition knowledge get in contact, it is important that traditional knowledge not just be swept aside, but recognized as a long-standing asset, a cultural wealth. Further, speakers agreed that decisions should come from the indigenous peoples themselves, as only they have the traditional knowledge.
Presenters' Documents Available
17.04_gradis_diego.doc (32 K)
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