International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: Learn the stories

Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.”
2013 theme, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

FRIDAY, AUGUST 9: Promote equal rights and unheard voices in your community and across the globe, for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. First proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1994, this annual UN day will wrap up its second themed decade next year.

This year on August 9, hundreds of rowers are anticipated at Pier 96 in Manhattan, to honor the 400th anniversary of the first treaty, “Two Row Wampum,” drawn between Dutch immigrants and the Haudenosaunee confederacy in 1613. Attendees have traveled by river and horseback to gather at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza for today’s significant anniversary, which reflects the 2013 theme that highlights arrangements with indigenous peoples for land rights, economic development and principles for peace. (Like this day? Show your support on its Facebook page.)


Of the estimated 370 million indigenous persons worldwide, a majority continues to fight against poverty, loss of history and culture, and for equality in education and jobs. To assist in raising awareness, UNESCO has funded nearly 30 media projects since 2000 with the International Programme for the Development of Communication, helping marginalized people to understand how to produce programs, participate in interviews and gain greater access to information. Indigenous people have much to contribute in improving our world overall, argues the UN. In fact, many believe indigenous people are at the forefront of environmental protection, with specific ideas on how to implement climate change. (UNESCO reported last year.) UNESCO recently created Climate Frontlines, an online forum that reaches more than 50,000 people and facilitates dialogue, documentations and shared Indigenous knowledge of the environment.


A forerunner in the recognition of its indigenous people, Australia has invested $10 million in its platform to raise public awareness and support of Indigenous Australians, with organizations receiving funding for local events and non-Indigenous Australians better understanding the needs and desires of these communities. (Find more at The country at large has issued the National Apology, and proposals are in place to recognize indigenous people in that nation’s constitution. (Get details at


August 9 also marks the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki—which, for Indigenous people, is a painful reminder that nuclear testing has had a shattering effect on many of their communities. Wikipedia has an overview of the August 6 and 9 bombings in 1945. Since those two explosions, more than 2,000 nuclear tests have taken place in isolated regions across the globe—isolated from major population centers, perhaps, but not uninhabited. Countless indigenous communities were effected by having their native lands completely destroyed, and it’s these voices that fight to be heard in telling the history and truth in nuclear testing.

Want more on the tragic relationship between nuclear testing and local communities? Read The Spirit recommends the Oscar-nominated documentary, Radio Bikini, released in 1988 and still a gripping film to watch. While DVDs of the film are no longer being produced for sale, the documentary is available on a number of video subscription and streaming services.

Looking for more? The special event at UN Headquarters, in New York, will be broadcast live starting at 3 p.m. at