IP under siege | Investigator’s opinion


Creating a whirlwind of controversy on issues such as cultural appropriation and commercialization of traditional indigenous practices, the confrontation between supporters and spokespersons of tattoo artist Kalinga Whang-Od (or Whang-Ud) and Israeli vlogger Nuseir Nas Daily’s Yassin unwittingly became a highlight of last Monday’s celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.

A niece of Whang-Od claimed that deception and exploitation was employed when Nas Daily had “mambabatok,” the traditional term for a traditional tattoo designer, “signing” a contract (with his fingerprint) to make tutorial sessions available on the Internet. . For a fee of P 750 per session, subscribers would be allowed to observe the 104-year-old Living National Treasure at work and presumably discover the art and craft of Kalinga tattooing.

“Learning it through clickable, paid content devalues ​​the batok (as the practice is called) and the people who identify with the practice,” Analyn Salvador Amores, anthropology professor at UP-Baguio, wrote in this article. . Body marks were traditionally intended to “express social status as well as political, religious and social affiliation – a social biography of an individual”. But tattoos have become individualized forms of self-expression since they captured the imaginations of thrill seekers and tattoo enthusiasts alike, so unlike the community art and craft of d origin who were protected by a silent social contract between the Butbut, the tribe to which Whang -Od belongs.


Appropriating an indigenous tradition for profit is just one form of oppression that indigenous peoples (IPs) around the world have had to endure. Even more deadly is the systematic marginalization and exploitation of IPs by parties who scrutinize natural resources on and under unexplored areas that have been proclaimed “ancestral domain”.

On the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the law on the rights of indigenous peoples in October last year, spokeswoman for the Commission on Human Rights, Jacqueline de Guia, called for a review of the law that continues to be raped, often by states parties. De Guia said the CHR has seen “first-hand how IPs still face abuse and other challenges” despite the existence of the law, and how “many IPs are still victims of land harassment, while companies seek to take control of ancestral lands for their own purposes. Worse yet, in some cases “the problems come from the agents of the state themselves.”

The corollary of this harassment is the campaign against organized groups of PAs which are “marked in red” and accused of being members of the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) or as sympathizers if not sympathizers.

As recently as last month, two Aeta men, accused by the military of engaging in a shootout that left a soldier dead, were ordered out of prison. The two, Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, the first to be charged under the anti-terrorism law, said they were tortured by the military. They were released by an Olongapo court on charges of failure to identify the two as the perpetrators.

But this is only one victory in a series of attacks against the AP, which often take place in darkness and isolation.

There was the violent operation of December 30, 2020 which saw members of the army, police and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group swooping down on the villages of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo. When the dust settled, police reported that nine people had died, while 17 were taken into custody. The targets were members of the indigenous Tumandok community who authorities said were suspected of NPA, and those killed had resisted arrest.

But Tumandok supporters, including the local bishop, vehemently denied the accusation. Villagers, they said, were organizing to protest against the construction of a dam that would have destroyed their ancestral lands.

Incidents like this led Amnesty International to sound the alarm bells on what it called a “growing series of attacks” against IPs. The organization called on the government “to end the violence, arrests and harassment against indigenous peoples” and “to take concrete steps to ensure the protection, safety and well-being of all peoples. indigenous peoples, including those who risk their lives to draw attention to human rights violations in their communities and to fight for the rights of indigenous peoples.

IPs are under siege, from those who would exploit their ancestral art and culture for profit, to those who contemplate the gratuitous exploitation of the natural resources that their communities protect, and those who see them as “other” and therefore unworthy of respect. , equality or rights. It is time to give deeper meaning and meaningful action to the work of protecting our indigenous peoples.

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