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Weekly Digest #75
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In this digest-
1. Old Crimes, Long Shadows/ Can reparations help?
2. Happiness Quotient From Around The World
3. Did You Know?
4. Entertainment Quotient
Old Crimes, Long Shadows - Can reparations help?
By: Abhimanyu Rao
Globalisation has long been considered a blessing, one that has allowed development to reach every corner of the world, connecting people across cultures, and even allowed us to import and export products, so that everyone can be connected through common experiences! However, this miraculous connection of nations had an evil twin as well -the terrifying, soul-crushing colonialism - and one of its greatest pitfalls is the destruction of the world’s indigenous population.
Who are indigenous people?
The World Bank says the indigenous people are people with distinct socio-cultural groups that differ from the rest of the population. They often have their own languages, customs, and beliefs, and live connected to nature on their ancestral lands. They usually live in tribe-like arrangements, with distinctive leaders, spiritual leaders, and other major figures.
They are the original inhabitants of the area they live in, and are major players in conservation of biodiversity. (I shall refer to this aspect later in this article.). Some well-known examples of indigenous people are the Native Americans (formerly known by the misnomer “Red Indians”), the Inuits of the Arctic, and the Aboriginal people of Australia.
What problems do these people face?
These people, unfortunately, are often faced with several issues, most of which relate to their status as the indigenous population of a country. Firstly, while they only make up 5% of the world’s population, they make up 15% of the extremely poor population of the world! Their life expectancy is also reportedly 20 years lower than the rest of the world.
They are often marginalised, with very few countries officially recognising their claims to certain lands, recognising their language, and their culture. They are often mistreated by the government, by other people, and therefore denied some basic rights in certain areas. Furthermore, the blatant ignorance of other people has endangered their population far more than ever before. Through the course of this article, I shall write about the plight they face, and the need for reparations. I will begin by talking about actions that have affected them in the past.
1. Colonialism and the American Indian Wars-
The day was 22nd March, the year was 1622. On this historic day, Powhatan Indians, being threatened by British colonists who were advancing further and further into their ancestral land, murdered countless colonists in an event that was soon called the Jamestown Massacre. This attack, while done with the intent of self preservation, ended up starting one of the most infamous wars in history!
From then, all the way to the early 1900s, the natives fought various colonists, including the Dutch, the Brits, and even the French. After centuries of futile battle and heavy losses on each side, the natives finally caved, and began assisting the colonists. Unfortunately, their surrender hadn’t come without some crushing blows.
President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Relocation Act led to thousands of tragic deaths on the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’, and several other operations left Native Americans with lesser and lesser land. Before they knew it, they had a mere fraction of their ancestral lands to live on, and were reduced to second class citizens, marginalised by the colonists. This dreadful injustice set them back years in progress, and caused wounds so deep that they still haven’t healed from that oppression.
2. The Stolen Generation-
13.02.2008- Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gives a heartfelt apology to the indigenous population of the country. He apologises to the indigenous people whom he calls “The oldest continuing cultures in human history”. He apologises to the so-called “Stolen Generation”, and hopes that they can join hands in a new journey of healing and unity, but what is the Stolen Generation? They are the children of indigenous Australians who were forcibly removed from their families to be “assimilated into white culture.”
This was done under the dreadful misconception that assimilation was a great gift to these “backward” indigenous people, and by taking away the progeny of these people to place into a “more evolved” culture, and allowing the natives to go extinct, they would be doing a favour to these children. Children were targeted because the government felt that it would be easier to make them forget their culture.
These children were forced to forget their culture and forbidden from speaking their native language. The “lucky ones” were adopted by white families, but several were just left to grow up in institutions and orphanages.
This was one of the most horrific and inhuman acts ever committed, and it continued all the way until 1970! Luckily, in an uncommon and unexpected move, the Australian Government not only acknowledged this dreadful act, but also asked for forgiveness, and began mobilising resources towards making reparations.
3. Yanomami Measles Outbreak-
The Yanomami are a tribe of South American indigenous people, who primarily live in Brazil and Venezuela. They have had a tumultuous past, originally being affected by the Brazilian Government, who, in 1940, sent teams of soldiers to secure that area of their border, and exposed the Yanomami to diseases like Influenza and Measles. This killed several members of their community, and was a devastating blow to them. The next time they were wronged was in the 1970s, when the military created plans to create a road across the Amazon Rainforest.
They bulldozed the Lungs of the Earth, and in the process, eradicated no less than 2 whole villages of Yanomami people! This also introduced the tribes to alcohol and even more diseases, which was another crushing blow to these people, who had barely recovered from the flu and measles outbreak from 30 years ago. Unfortunately, their trials and tribulations were not yet over.
The 1980s brought a gold rush, a blessing to miners, but a curse to the Yanomami. The curse came in the form of 40,000 devilish miners who slaughtered them, exposed them to more diseases, and even destroyed their homes and villages!
This was a humanitarian crisis like no other, and in the short span of just 7 years, 20% of the total Yanomami population had been wiped out. Finally, in 1992, the Yanomami’s land was officially called Yanomami Park, and all miners were evicted. Unfortunately, to this day, miners attack these people, and expose them to foreign diseases, while also polluting their rivers and their forest.
The reason these diseases affect them so much is that they have all developed an immunity to pathogens in their area, but we are disrupting their ecosystem by introducing foreign pathogens into their area, which their bodies just cannot handle. The Brazilian government has finally begun vaccine camps for the Yanomami, but it may be a case of “too little too late.”
4. Other assorted scenarios-
Gold mines in Bolivia are poisoning its indigenous population, causing issues like diarrhoea, regular fevers, memory loss, exhaustion, headaches, body aches, nausea and vomiting, and even cognitive developmental delays! This has been attributed to the Mercury that Bolivian miners invariably use in their expeditions. They carelessly dispose of it wherever they feel like, and it ends up contaminating the local river, and greatly affecting the indigenous Esse Ejjas people.
The Danes also committed heinous crimes that perfectly mirror the story of the Stolen Generation. They kidnapped several children between the ages of 5 and 9, in order to raise them like Danes, and have them sent back, in order to inspire the rest of the Inuits to become “civilised” like those children. This ripped families apart, and is a massive blotch on the track record of Danes.
What are reparations?
Reparations are acts that attempt to repent for some questionable and discriminatory actions in the past. This is usually done through acts like giving them benefits like reservations, or through monetary compensation.
The need for reparations-
Are reparations a solution to the continued oppression of indigenous people? In theory, it is quite simple - when you hurt somebody, you apologise. If you significantly hurt somebody, you might give them something as a token of your sincerity. If you break something, you are expected to replace it.
When you have shattered the opportunities and lives, you are obviously expected to replace them, but you would never be able to do that. So you do the closest thing you can, for instance, create opportunities for future generations, and give them a little boost to get them started.
This is a great way to begin healing the rifts that years of oppression would have caused. The Australian government paid a hefty $280 million sum to the people affected by their severely misguided actions with the “Stolen Generation” incident. In another heartwarming turn of events, the Canadian Government has approved $40 BILLION as compensation for the missteps made by their Child Welfare System, which was very similar to the events Down Under.
The need to protect Indigenous Populations of the world-
Their culture is one of the most important aspects of indigenous people. This is important because these cultures and people are an integral part of their history, and their extinction is equivalent to the extinction of a species. Indigenous communities live in close harmony with nature. Most of them worship or at the very least believe in the protection of nature and the environment.
Many of their practises are actually beneficial to the environment, and it is no surprise therefore, that the protection of the environment is closely linked to the protection of indigenous people. Some methods of doing this include amending syllabi in school to include stories of the indigenous community. This will also help in clearing any misconceptions about them that may exist in the minds of people, and help the idea of harmonious coexistence.
Another great way is incorporating their culture into places where it is possible. An astounding example of this is musician Renata Flores Rivera, whose cover of Michael Jackson’s hit ‘The way you make me feel’, performed in her native language Quechua, the language of Peruvian indigenous people, went viral. This is a phenomenal example of people using these widespread cultural aspects like music, that connects everyone, and using it to spread their culture to stop it from dying out.
While no amount of positive actions today will ever make up for the atrocities committed against indigenous communities, it is time for a formal acknowledgement of these atrocities, and for moving forward towards a world that protects them.
By: Agastya Rao
1. Koalas are incredibly cute animals, and they are in need of help. The Australian Government has announced that they will spend a whopping 35 Million US Dollars across the next 4 years to help recover the population of Koalas and increase its long term protection. This will add the total money that had been spent on the protection of Koalas to 52 Million US Dollars in 2019. This is heartening to hear and we hope that more countries do this too!
2. A lot of land (a giant part of the country) was stolen from the indegnious people of the USA by colonisers. However, some of this land is slowly being returned to indegnious people. Recently, over 500 acres of a Redwood Forest in California to an indegnious group of Native American tribes. This land was bought by a conservation council in San Francisco called the Save the Redwoods League, before they donated it to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council (which is a group of 10 tribal nations from Northern California).
3. A storm may not always be a totally bad, as wind farms in the UK have recently proved. During a storm known as the “Storm Malik” that hit Sotland and the northern regions of England, the wind farms generated over 19,500 megawatts hitting a provisional all time high of power generated, which also equals to more than half of the United Kingdom’s electricity. This not only helped increase the usage of renewable electricity, but also resulted in a drastic decrease in the price of the electricity in the UK.
By: Mihir Rao
1 . As many people know, animals like lizards and salamanders can regrow their limbs, if they were removed previously. However, a new breakthrough has been made: Using a concoction of 5 different drugs, scientists were able to get frogs to regrow their limbs! Yes, you read it right. Frogs! This is a big step in medicine to regrow/regenerate limbs, and hopefully, this helps us get closer to that goal.
2 . After roughly a month, the James Webb telescope has finally landed at the Second Lagrange point, or L2, a whopping 1,500,000 km away from Earth! Because it landed safely and no disruptions occurred, scientists say that the telescope will probably be able to go without refuelling for roughly two decades! This is great news, since the James Webb telescope will help us to understand space better.
3 . MARS IS ALIVE!! Even though this may sound a little bit like a sci-fi movie title, it’s true. According to scientists, new marks formed by boulders indicate that the red planet is actually geologically active, and tracks formed by these boulders are recent. This discovery is integral in understanding more about the planet, and hopefully getting enough information to one day inhabit the planet.
4 . Scientists from Australia have spotted a very mysterious object in our galaxy! This object has been radiating energy unlike others before, radiating energy for one minute at a time and then stopping for 18 minutes. This discovery is really cool and slightly scary, since there wasn’t any other celestial object that did that. They have now concluded that the object was very bright, had a strong magnetic field, and was around 4000 light years away from Earth. However, I’m still not completely convinced. Coincidence, I think NOT 🤣!
Entertainment quotient for the week:
-Walking the Himalayas
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