Why should we care about the indigenous people? Why is it important to keep their voice alive? The indigenous people have wisdom and knowledge collected over thousands of years that can benefit all of mankind. For example, indigenous people know cures for many illnesses using local plants they have discovered. Many of our modern medicines have come from this indigenous knowledge. Much of this untapped knowledge only exists in their spoken language that is passed down from generation to generation. It is predicted by the academic community that if nothing is done, within ten years, half of the thousands of indigenous languages will disappear, along with much of their knowledge. Who knows what medical miracles and cultural treasures mankind will miss out on if we do not keep this voice alive?
With so many indigenous cultures in so many countries that have limited resources and unstable political situations, many indigenous cultures may soon be lost forever. Americans are blessed to have more resources than people of any other country. It is our privilege to share our blessings to make a difference in the world anywhere we can.
There are at least 5,000 indigenous groups made up of 300 million people that live in more than 70 countries on five continents. They represent approximately 4% of the world's population.
This year, to celebrate the conclusion of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, ATAYAL has created the 2004 Indigenous Heritage Festival. This event will provide an international stage for indigenous self-expression and give tribal people a united voice for their survival.
In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. The assembly of nations did this to strengthen international cooperation in solving the problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, the environment, development, education and health. The United Nations has taken actions and encourages everyone to take up the cause for indigenous people, who are considered among the world's most disadvantaged groups. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established on July 28, 2000 by the Economic and Social Council, on the recommendation of the Commission on Human Rights. This Forum meets annually to discuss indigenous issues.
The founder of ATAYAL, Tony Coolidge, attended the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations from May 17-19, 2004. He proudly stated, "I was honored to represent the indigenous people of Taiwan as well as my homeland in a place where the world is listening. I feel like I was able to provide a voice that was heard. I plan to return each year and work hard to add the voice of my people to the collective world voice of indigenous peoples. And with the Indigenous Heritage Festival we will make a difference for these people by providing opportunities for expression and prosperity, and ultimately... SURVIVAL."