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Indigenous People


3. February 2014

More and more tourists are looking for authenticity during their holidays. All travel guides are full of photos of people wearing traditional robes, such as the Maasai in Kenya and the Himba in Namibia. These images sell. Who are these people? We are talking about indigenous peoples, which include about 400 million people. These peoples often live close to nature, as they have done for centuries. The way of life is also centuries old, such as the language, traditions and rituals. They are the original inhabitants of an area, but in today’s times they are often in the minority. As a result, they have a marginal position in society. A number of well-known indigenous peoples are the Maasai, the Indians, the Aborigines and the Maoris. There are hundreds more, all with their own unique way of life. The peoples have been visited for centuries by outsiders, formerly by missionaries and anthropologists, now increasingly by tourists.

The relationship between indigenous peoples and tourism has positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, tourism brings in money and employment and interest from tourists can strengthen the culture of the indigenous peoples. If tourists show that they find the culture and way of life special, this can lead to pride among the indigenous peoples. On the other hand, tourism can lead to exploitation of the indigenous peoples, especially if the tourists only come to take some pictures and get out quickly. This is more of a form of monkey watching, where there is no contact between “host” and “guest” at all. This is the case, for example, in northern Thailand, where tourists can visit the Kayan women, also called “long-necks” for the gold rings around their necks. Click here for more information about the project that Fair Tourism has set up in collaboration with Changemaker to introduce community-based tourism in the Kayan villages in Thailand.

It is also common for indigenous peoples having to leave their land for the construction of tourist facilities. The struggle for land rights for indigenous peoples is difficult in many parts of the world.

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