When you travel, especially to destinations known for their long and rich histories, do you take the time to learn about not only the indigenous peoples but the indigenous culture as well?
According to the World Bank, there are ‘approximately 476 million Indigenous Peoples worldwide in over 90 countries’ which represents about 7% of the total global population. Those numbers may surprise you, especially when people tend to think of indigenous peoples as smaller individual groups.
Indigenous persons and cultural connection to the land
Indigenous culture is distinct in that there are long ribbons of historical, familial and tribal connections to the areas in which they live. Due to these connections to the land, there are often struggles with various entities regarding the rights to the land (or usage of) and the necessity for these peoples to be able to continue on the land that they have such strong ties to.
The term ‘cultural tourism’ may or may not be familiar for travellers. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines cultural tourism as ‘a type of tourism activity in which the visitors essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination’.
These two terms can often be in conflict with each other, as traditional forms of tourism tend to clash with the priorities of indigenous peoples in relation to topics such as respect for sacred places and over tourism. This is exactly why it is so important to utilise the services of certified ecotour companies which have put into places initiatives that aim to coexist with indigenous culture. This creates a win-win scenario for both the indigenous peoples as well as those who wish to learn about them in a sustainable and responsible way.
Some examples of ecotours focused on indigenous culture
Perhaps the most famous and well known of indigenous people is that of the Aboriginals. One example of an ecotour which focuses on indigenous culture in Australia is the Mungalla Aboriginal Tours, which have been eco certified by Eco Tourism Australia. This tour company has a sharp focus on introducing travellers to local environmental projects and the need for and importance of land conservation by sharing some of the cultural practices which are so tied to the land. Some of these projects are even regenerative, meaning travellers are able to leave the land better than they found it.
The Mayan culture in communities across Southern Mexico is an important aspect of the overall history and culture of the country. As the Mexican government wanted to create the possibility for tourism in the Maya Zone, this important ecotourism project was launched and in 2014 Mayaka’an was created with the help of MesoAmerican Reef Tourism Initiative (MARTI), the Ministry of Tourism and the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas. The goal is to educate travellers as to the richness of the destination, indigenous culture and to promote the reserve. By doing so, tourism dollars are directed into the local community in order to bring social and economic developments for the indigenous peoples.
In the northern parts of the countries Norway, Sweden, Finland and even a part of northern Russia, the Sámi people are the indigenous culture with a rich history which is much celebrated in these Nordic countries. The indigenous ecotour company Nutti Sámi Siida in Sweden, is a sustainable tour certified by the Swedish Ecotourism Society as well as several additional sustainable and indigenous tourism labels. Their stated initiative is to have a similar ethic in their tours as the Sámi peoples practice in life, which is to show a great respect for nature, animals and the indigenous culture.
Would you like to take an ecotour to visit indigenous peoples and learn about their cultures? Why not take the time to truly learn about the rich history of your destination by immersing yourself in indigenous culture!
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