World Indigenous People's Day: Diversity, Hope & Generosity of Spirit

in ecotrain •  2 months ago  (edited)

The United Nations should have been taking notes. Today, a HUGE and DIVERSE number of ethnic, racial and indigenous people groups gathered at Mae Jo University here in Chiang Mai, to simply celebrate life, Tribes, culture and diversity. And they came together within Northern Thailand, which has given shelter and harbour and citizenship to so many of them. Seriously, the world needs to be noticing this Buddhist culture of tolerance!


I met my friend, Mimi Saeju, a young Lisu Tribeswoman and a member of the prestigious YSEALI (Young South East Asian Leaders Initiaitve) - having a multi-lingual VIP escort through the Tribes who traditionally speak neither Thai, nor English, was amazing.

WIPD2.jpgPlease note Mimi's Montana cowboy boots - the girl has her feet in literally dozens of cultures! Did I mention she speaks Dutch?

WIDP4.jpgFood was the first priority of the day.

WIDP6.jpgMimi's 'sister' wearing the traditional Burmese-Lisu costume.

What struck me throughout the day was that no one (and I mean, no one) was talking about the hardships of Thai citizenship, the human cost of civil war, the exhaustion of walking to another country for safety, the language challenges, the lack of employment for untrained nomadic or village people nor the relentless cultural devastation caused by the internet and globalization.

Here and there you saw a sword proudly worn:

and there was lots of laughter about traditional hats, 'farang' head sizes and how darn USEFUL these traditional bamboo hats (hand made in Sing Buri) actually are:


What were people talking about (other than food and the amazing costumes?): the young people and their cultural identity:

WIPD5.jpgYoung Lisu girl.

and extended family:

WIPD7.jpgMimi's uncle, aunt and sister hard at work in the Lisu Kitchen.

As always, despite my heighth and the obvious blonde factor, I was welcomed as one of the global extended family. My visit ended with sensational indigenous dishes...


and a deep feeling of shared humanity over stunning indigenous-ethnic food with new friends.


On a sobering note, the young Karen medics I work with (and whom you have seen in my previous Organic Frontiers natural herbal posts) would NOT have been able to attend today's festival, as they don't yet have the Thai immigration documents to allow them to travel out of Mae Hong Son Province. And there are hundreds of thousands of indigenous people living rough in the Thai-Burmese mountains, or languishing in refugee camps along Thailand's borders, who dream of a blanket, a full belly and a mosquito net and who have never had the privilege of wearing their own Tribe's traditional clothes.

There is still such a long way to go, and yet I am hopeful that the spirit of global community I witnessed, and was a part of, today IS possible to be replicated elsewhere. We DO have more than enough to share with those who have less, and their glorious colour and diversity and traditions only enrich us together.


More indigenous food and culture posts to follow! Promise!! Heading back late morning tomorrow for some more amazing food to and feel more of the awesome global vibe.

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I think that until ALL indigenous people are accepted and recognized internationally, nothing will change.

It is important to note that while the Buddhist culture is accepting, the communist government is not. Alternate cultures breed individualism and those traveling to participate in festivals such as this, in nations with totalitarian governments need to take caution.

Another equally infuriating problem is that lots of indigenous don’t accept other indigenous or acknowledge them for what they are. An example of that is the government recognized Native Americans versus the rest of us that are still here, but not officially recognized and certainly not represented fairly.

My tribe, the Taíno, are a good example. Schools teach that we are extinct, but clearly we are not. And other tribes, outside the Arawak (which we are technically a part of as we are southern Island dwelling Arawak) do not like us nor do they see us as indigenous people.

The term Latino was made to deprive us of our identity...Taíno.

We were made up of over 500 nations, people with different skin tones, complexions, colors and many different languages. Over 50,000 Taíno committed mass suicide to escape the barbaric treatment and genocide of the invading Spanish armies.

Didn’t mean to preach. It’s just important to me.

We should all be recognized. Sadly it is not so.

So tell me about your culture & your tribe in a way that makes me want to engage, celebrate, recognize & enjoy. I'm ready. 😊

We are the tribe of “first contact.” After we met Columbus, we were murdered and ethnically cleansed through rape and turned into the Spanish speaking Caribbean people you see today. We had pyramids, some of which are underwater off the coast of Cuba.

Here’s a map of our former empire and what our homes’ names were.

Search Taino in Facebook and YouTube and you will find us.


Wonderful to see your map, so many islands! But the history is tragic, the European invaders were so unnecessarily brutal. Human nature has degraded in recent millennia. It was more civilized back a few thousand years ago, according to the ancient texts of India.

Indeed. That was before man learned to mass murder for religion.

After so much disconnect and interference by the world powers, much of our culture has been lost. The language, religion, artifacts, it’s almost all gone.

We are rebuilding.

The bright side is that there is a lot of good leadership and we now have representatives in the UN trying to protect us.

My blood carries little of the DNA that is Taíno and after my daughters are gone, I believe that blood will be gone. But, as time evolves all people, I hope the tribe will still be intact and thriving. We may have lost all our ancestral lands and be scattered around the America’s but I think we are here to stay.

@artemislives thank you for your interest. Most people stare at me like I’m an alien or mentally retarded when I tell them about my Taíno roots and how I’m trying to learn what’s left of our language.

My home is slowly filling with Taíno items, they’re next to my Cuban people things.

I don’t believe there is representation of Cuban Taíno yet but technically I am Kuba Taíno as I am a direct descendant.

@mykos is from the West Indies. He is also Taíno.

Some videos to watch, if you’d like.

Thank you for sharing this with us @artemislives, it looks like it was an amazing day and such a wonderful celebration of life and diversity. Yes there is still a long way to go, but what a wonderful start this is.

Indeed. Let there be more gatherings, more colour, more diversity & more tolerance 💚

What a beautiful, photo story. We need moments like this to escape the harsh realities of what many are dealing with daily.

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"Harsh reality" is so often simply a belief & perception. No one does it much more harshly than an indigenous person without an officoal identity, & yet I find & experience such simple joy & generosity here. We western people have so much to learn from these awesome teachers

Hiya, @LivingUKTaiwan here, just swinging by to let you know that this post made into our Top 3 in Daily Travel Digest #594.

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Aaaw - thank YOU! off to check out and upvote the digest! :)

Hello, informative article
I love local events where you can meet old friends and dine with national cuisine, great.

The food was amazing...!

Sounds like a fun day, and those smiles are just gorgeous. Mimi's cowboy boots are awesome!! And her sister looks stunning in her outfit too. Days like this are so heartening and show us that it is possible to come together in celebration of diversity. What a shame that the indigenous folk not so far away could not attend and be similarly heartened. So nice to see your smile too - did you have a personal photographer?

haha... I don't have a personal photographer, but Ms Mimi does! She just snaps her fingers and some younger indigenous 'sisters' oblige every time. :) How can anyone even dream of out-dressing an indigenous friend? go with white, black of grey and enjoy being the backdrop. :) There are literally hundreds of thousands of people along the border with no permission to travel. And a BIG part of the reason I am going up there so often.

It seems like all indegenious tribes around the world need to work so hard to preserve their indentity and culture. We have similar problems here in Taiwan.

Yes, they do. I'm sure Taiwan has many of the ethnic cultures struggling against mainstream Chinese homogenization. I'm sure it's the same in parts of central America and Africa too. Yes, culture and identity matter ever more when you are denied nationality.

Thanks for sharing this story and the wonderful photos. I love the bamboo hats and the food look delicious.

The hats are fun, no? INCREDIBLY practical! They sit up, off your head, with a little bamboo frame so the breeze passes through. Yup - food was AWESOME! Special food post coming - follow me if you don't already. :)

The hats are fun, no? INCREDIBLY practical! They sit up, off your head, with a little bamboo frame so the breeze passes through. Yup - food was AWESOME! Special food post coming - follow me if you don't already. :)

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Congratulations on your win in the Daily Travel Digest! Great to learn about the hardships those people suffer. Great blog and photos too !

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Lovely to be apart of that celebration - a celebration of life, Tribes, culture and diversity - wonderful! You seemed to be enjoying yourself immensely! Thanks for sharing and hopefully more of that culture of tolerance will spread!

Hey there good to see your interaction with the indigenous tribes - dressed up in authentic gear for the festival.