Human Journey

Tribal Festivals

As global monoculture erodes cultural diversity, the diversity of tribal festivals and rituals is a reminder that humans have different insights, different priorities, and choose other – successful – ways of living.

For many tribes, life is lived through ritual.

Rituals are held in honor of the lands that sustain tribal peoples and the spirits that watch over them. They mark the passing of seasons, the fertility of crops and the cycles of human life. They are used to purify the earth, set the sun on its seasonal course, encourage the melting snows to irrigate crops and bring success to an Amazonian hunt.

When tribal peoples lose their lands, as they have done for centuries, they lose their livelihoods. But they also lose the bedrock of their identity as a people, and the inspiration for their festivals.

When tribal peoples are torn away from the lands that inspire their songs, dances, myths and memories, deep depression often follows. These are the creative touchstones by which they know themselves; the rituals represent a myriad imaginative ways of interpreting life. Without their homelands, the fabric of their identity collapses.

When the Bushmen dance to the rhythmic beat of the trance dance, when the Hopi sing for snow and the Enawene Nawe take up their flutes at dawn, they are celebrating their connections to each other, and to the Earth. Separation from their lands is catastrophic, but the solution to their problems – the recognition of land rights – is simple.

Joanna Eede was an editorial consultant to Survival International with a particular interest in the relationship between man and nature and tribal peoples. She has created and edited three environmental books, including Portrait of England (Think Publishing, 2006) and We are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples (Quadrille, 2009). Joanna writes for newspapers and magazines on subjects such as the repatriation of wild Przewalski horses to Mongolia, the whales of the Alboran sea, the chimpanzees of the Mahale rainforest, uncontacted tribes of the Amazon rainforest and the Hadza hunter gatherer people of Tanzania. Future ideas include a book about Tibet’s nomads.

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