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Indigenous Storytelling in Latin America: Controlling the Narrative

Modernization has been pushing Latin American indigenous communities into progressively smaller bubbles. This causes many to lose important aspects of their cultures, such as language and tradition. On this same note, many international governments only provide federal funding to indigenous communities if they follow specific guidelines. This statute has made the preservation of indigenous cultures increasingly more difficult as the years pass. For these reasons, indigenous storytelling in Latin America and control of their own narrative is crucial to preserving culture.

Modern Indigenous Struggles

Many indigenous communities are struggling to balance modernization with the preservation of their rich cultural histories. Although the numbers have been improving, indigenous communities in Latin America are still very vulnerable and experience higher rates of poverty than their non-indigenous peers. This has raised the question of what can help fix this problem.

Storytelling as a Possible Solution

Many people want to learn about indigenous communities in Latin America. For this to happen ethically and accurately, indigenous peoples must have an administrative role in the production of any film depicting their culture. This was an important realization that was introduced to the National Film Board in 1968 by the Company of Young Canadians and the National Film Board’s Challenge for Change program. This partnership elevates the voices of marginalized peoples, allowing them to control their narratives.

A New Indigenous Storytelling Platform

August 9th is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and to commemorate the occasion this year, the People’s Planet Program launched a new program called “Tribal Stories.” This platform amplifies the pieces created by indigenous filmmakers in the A’i Cofan community of Ecuador and the Kīsêdjê community of Brazil.

Initially, the founder of the People’s Planet Program, Abdel Mandili, was interviewing indigenous community members to produce his documentaries. Still, he quickly realized the importance of allowing these communities to control their narrative. He then transformed the People’s Planet Program into a nonprofit organization. The organization focuses on providing indigenous communities with the tools to document their story and a platform to promote it.

The People’s Planet Program engages in educational workshops and provides film equipment to these communities. This allows for indigenous communities to practice self-advocacy. For example, many indigenous communities find themselves on the front lines of deforestation, land grabbing and pollution. Indigenous peoples have pivotal insights that many other communities are not aware of. For this reason, indigenous storytelling in Latin America can enlighten parts of the world that are unaware of the many driving forces behind climate change, deforestation and general inequality.

Additionally, the People’s Planet Program helps connect indigenous communities with political activists and legal counsel. These resources can aid them in their fight for equal representation and land rights.

In Conclusion

When engaging in international advocacy, it can be relatively easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your actions always reflect your intentions. While that often is true, a crucial aspect of international advocacy is taking a step back and allowing marginalized groups to speak for themselves. An important part of advocacy is providing people with the tools to better their communities on their own terms, such as allowing indigenous communities to control the storytelling in Latin America.

– Danielle Forrey
Photo: Wikipedia Commons