Today is UNESCO’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. This is an annual event, and it’s also a mouthful, so I’ve taken the liberty of making it a handy acronym. Happy IDWIP, everyone!
The theme of this year’s IDWIP is “Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices.” The indigenous people of the world speak in millions of voices – UNESCO puts the estimate at 370-500 million – and in thousands of different languages. Over the past several years many communities and organizations have embraced the power of grassroots media to discuss indigenous issues, to speak out for indigenous rights, and, of course, to preserve and promote their heritage tongues.
And even mainstream media is starting to take notice. The New York Times ran an article last week on the talking dictionary of the Siletz language of Oregon. National Geographic has created the Enduring Voices Project to promote indigenous language preservation, and published a major article about endangered languages last month (which I found very inspirational). And Al-Jazeera English produced the fantastic “Living the Language” mini-series. One of their episodes focuses specifically on the use of modern media to promote ancestral languages:
I hope you take a look at the UNESCO page dedicated to this day and read about some of the projects in indigenous media that they support. You can also click around at some resources they’ve developed, including this “Environmental wiki” on the reef and rainforest of the Solomon Islands – in an indigenous language of the Solomon Islands!