Johar is a spirit, an attitude, a feeling
and an expression of welcome, of gratitude,
of praise, of togetherness, a salutation...
...It is the word we first use
when we meet one anther for the first time...
...We said Johar to you,
but our song and dance, our language and folklore
have become just pages in books of libraries
where your anthropologists can debate over.
Thus you have distorted our history.
You have misinterpreted our culture,
and made it a commodity to be marketed
at your universities and seminars.
We said Johar to you...´
[From the poem "JOHAR" - Manifesto of the Jharkhandis Organisation for Human Rights.]
This text beautifully and eloquently describes how adivasi, and indigenous land rights movements in general, can and often do become appropriated and distorted by outsiders. From NGOs depoliticising land rights struggles, to anthropologists mis-representing traditions and customs in order to further colonial ideology, indigenous communities have often ended up exploited and taken advantage of by those they have greeted and welcomed.
Indigenous people alone can tell their histories, and this is why at 7 Ahead we avoid speaking for these communities by using their voices and words as much as possible.
Indigenous knowledge is not something which should be perceived as static and in need of preserving, like a museum exhibit, but the fact remains that much knowledge about the global environment has already been lost. As long as existing knowledge remains under threat of eradication, it is important to record it before it is lost forever.
Alongside documenting and publicising indigenous struggles and knowledge, it is important to identify practical action that can be undertaken to support communities under threat. This depends on the individual case, and could range from putting pressure on Western companies involved in the appropriation of indigenous land, to boycotting of NGOs who are complicit in illegal displacement of indigenous communities.