Webinar 'Indigenous People in COVID Era' Marks Celebration of '2020 International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples'

RCE East Kalimantan and RCE Srinagar co-hosted a webinar 'Indigenous People in COVID Era' celebrating 'International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples' on 10 August 2020. Over 200 participants, including 37 RCEs within the Asia-Pacific Region, attended the webinar. As a region that is inhabited by many Indigenous peoples, the webinar threw light on how Indigenous people in the Asia-Pacific have been coping with the pandemic utilising their local wisdom.

Presentations were made by RCE Srinagar, RCE East Arunachal Pradesh, RCE Delhi, RCE Kuching, RCE Greater Gombak, RCE Bohol, RCE Waikato, RCE Sundarbans, RCE Kyrgyzstan, RCE Sakon Nakhon, RCE Yogyakarta, RCE East Kalimantan and RCE East Java (Candidate).

In attendance was the Indonesian Minister of Social Affairs, His Excellency Juliari Batubara, who delivered a keynote address, speaking about his Government's efforts in empowering Indigenous people who mainly live in remote areas. Prof. Mario Tabucanon presented a roadmap for RCEs of the Asia-Pacific Region to solve issues Indigenous peoples are faced with.

Throughout the webinar participants were able to exchange ideas and experiences regarding the handling of COVID-19 in their country, especially with respect to Indigenous peoples. Concern was raised that governments should reach out to Indigenous peoples who live in remote areas in their efforts to combat the pandemic. The webinar helped in spreading awareness about the Indigenous communities and in raising the issues and challenges they are faced with.

Betsan Martin and Makarena Phillips (a native Maori tribe), RCE Waikato observed how the local wisdom of the Indigenous 'Maori' people of New Zealand have helped them survive the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a tradition in the Maori community, whereby youth over the age of 18 years should assist others especially the elderly. Maori youth became volunteers, helping other residents by providing food and other assistance during the pandemic.

Martinus Nanang, RCE East Kalimantan observed that amongst a population of 1,426 they found only one COVID-19 positive case in the ‘Dayak’ community in Mahakam Ulu, East Kalimantan. The tribal community practiced strict isolation by neither moving out themselves nor allowing anyone from outside to visit them, effectively sealing their villages.

Apart from facing the health impacts, Indigenous people have also experienced economic hardships, as stated by Anchasa Pramuanjaroenkij, RCE Sakon-Nakhon hosted by Kasetsart University. Anchasa examined how six Indigenous tribes in Sakon Nakhon Province, Thailand are living. "We are doing economic empowerment by encouraging Indigenous people to make masks from the cloth they weave with organic indigo blue dye," she commented.

(Photo credit: RCE East Kalimantan)