The Department of Social Work observed the World Indigenous Day on August 9, 2012. As part of this, the students organized various presentations and short movies related to the culture and protection of the indigenous communities in the country.

The students were divided into five groups and the following presentations were made.

1)      The international Day of Worlds Indigenous People.

2)      Indigenous people of India- a sociological profile

3)      Indigenous communities of Kerala.

4)      The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.

5)      Introduction of an NGO – Survival International.

The International Day of Worlds Indigenous People

Indigenous/ native peoples are any ethnic group of people who are considered to fall under one of the internationally recognize definition of indigenous people.Indigenous peoples represent remarkable diversity — 5,000 distinct groups in some 90 countries. They make up more than 5 per cent of the world’s population, some 370 million people. Together, they are the custodians of a valuable and often fast-disappearing cultural heritage. We can see their creativity and innovations in their arts, crafts, folkways, oral histories and the sciences.


The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People was first declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1994, to be celebrated every year during the first International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (1995 – 2004). In 2004, the Assembly proclaimed a Second International Decade, from 2005 – 2015, with the theme of “A Decade for Action and Dignity.”People from different nations are encouraged to participate in observing the day to spread the UN’s message on indigenous peoples. The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is observed on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population.

The focus of this year’s International Day is “Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices.”The theme aims to highlight the importance of indigenous media in challenging stereotypes, forging indigenous peoples’ identities, communicating with the outside world, and influencing the social and political agenda. The use of media by indigenous peoples, in its traditional and new media forms, enables them to promote their cultures and languages, to transmit their knowledge, and to represent their own views that often may differ from mainstream analyses.

Indigenous people of India– sociological profile

The indigenous people still exist in India and they are popularly known as Adivasis. Indian government refers to indigenous peoples as Scheduled Tribes. The majority of the indigenous and tribal peoples live in an almost contiguous belt stretching from Gujarat in the west to the seven states in the north-east, with the highest concentration in the central region, where more than 50% of the tribal people live. The Jarawa is one of the indigenous tribes of the Andaman Islands in India. Their present numbers are estimated at between 250-400 individuals.

A long process of turning forest areas into a source of revenue and timber, and exploitation of the mineral resources, has led to deforestation, loss of livelihood and displacement of indigenous peoples. Even today the Indian indigenous peoples suffer higher rates of poverty, malnutrition, landlessness, and even are the prey of internal displacement than the rest of society, and have lower levels of literacy and less access to health services. Many indigenous peoples are highly dependent on their lands and natural resources and any changes to the ecosystem may impact on their way of life and survival. Indigenous peoples are also severely affected by locally produced environmental contaminants, including from alien settlements, transportation routes, industry, forestry, military activities, prospecting, mining and oil production. Their traditional knowledge, practices and creativity continue to be exploited by others without their consent. Indigenous peoples generally have lower life expectancy, higher rates of maternal and child mortality.The prevalence of communicable diseases, mal-nutrition and anemia is very high among them. Alcoholism is a major problem among them especially among the tribal in Kerala. Unemployment causes them to become the victims of Maoists and other terrorist groups who use them for anti-social activities.

The government has included them in the Scheduled tribes’ category and given special attention. Reservation in government jobs is provided and they have reservation in Railways. They are given freedom in collecting forest products directly and they are purchased by forest ministry. Vocational training is provided and old age pension is given to them.  Assistance for micro enterprises is also provided. Family oriented income generating schemes in the sectors of agriculture, horticulture, minor irrigation, soil conservation, animal husbandry, forest, education, co-operatives fisheries. Health benefits include Diabetics supplies, IUDs, condoms, vitamins tablets, mental health counseling, eye examination, maternity care by doctor, mid wife’s or specialists etc Housing benefits are providing co-operative subsidies for non-profit rending houses, providing loan for disabled people to enhance facilities in their housing etc .Employment benefits include pension plans, employment insurance, workers’ compensation benefits, disability pension, death benefits and old age security programs for eligible seniors with low income.

Indigenous communities of Kerala

Tribals in Kerala (Adivasis of Kerala) are the indigenous population found in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Certain number of communities is now a day’s included in the scheduled tribes. Tribal people groups who are the food gathers (without any habit of agricultural practice), with diminishing population and very low or little literacy rates can be called as primitive tribes It which includes Cholanaikans, Kurumban, Kattunaikans, Paniyas and Kurichiyans.They constitute nearly 5% of the total tribal population. Tribals in Kerala are living on the hill ranges, mainly on the Western Ghats, bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.


  • Most primitive and vanishing tribes as well as one of the oldest native communities of Kerala.
  • Found Nilambur in Malappuram district.
  • Hunter- gatherer tribes.
  • They are said to be warriors, migrated from Mysore of Karnataka along with a king but had to hide into forests more than a century ago due to the war in the region.
  • Cholanaikkans worship ‘ancestral spirits.’ They don’t have any idols or images but usually go behind a big tree and whisper something.
  • They do not intermarry with any other tribes.


  • Kurumban is considered as a ‘ primitive’ tribe in the list of scheduled tribes of Kerala.
  • Their hamlets are found Palakkad district and a hamlet is called Ooru and the head of the ooru is called Oorumooppan who administers the socio-political unit.
  • Most of them are still food gatherers and also do shift cultivation.
  • They are famous for witch-craft, and magical performances, and traditional herbal medicines.
  • Kurumbas worship both their traditional gods and the Hindu deities.


  • Kattunaikan means ‘king of jungle’ and they have very little contact with the main non-tribals.
  • Found in Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram districts.
  • They are good hunters and are skilled gatherers of forest products such as wax and honey. They use to breed pigs, goats and poultry.
  • As interior forest dwellers until recent decades, they did not have access to dress items and used bark of trees for clothing.


  • Paniyas are the largest tribal community.
  • Found in Wayanad, Kannur, Kozhikode, and Malapuram.
  • They had been agricultural laborers and worked as slaves of land lords for several decades.
  • They were believed to be brought to Wayanad by the king of Malabar, centuries ago as slaves for agricultural labor.
  • After the government of Kerala abolished slavery system, they had been rehabilitated in different colonies set up by the government.



  • Found in Wayanad and some parts of Kozhikode districts in Kerala.
  • They were warriors  and had served the king Pazhassi Raja with utmost honesty and courage during his fight against the British.
  • They are considered as the highest tribes among the Adivasis and strictly follow the practice of untouchability (ayitham).

The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.

The tribal communities have been residing in forests for generations but their rights have not been recorded – this has resulted in historical injustice to forest dwellers that have been integral to the survival and sustainability of forest ecosystem.

Objectives of the act: Provides for a framework for recording of forest rights

                          Addresses the insecurity & access rights of forest dwellers.

Necessary to balance forest dwellers’ customary rights with economic & environmental objectives

Maintain ecology and at the same time the livelihood / food security of forest dwellers.

Forest rights: Right to hold and live on forest land.

Use forest land for self-cultivation.

Right of (i) ownership, (ii) access to collect, (iii) use, (iv) disposal of minor forest produces which has been traditionally collected.

Other community rights – fishing, grazing.

Right to protect/regenerate/conserve or manage any community forest resource for sustainable use.

The Act introduces the concept of community conserved forests where a particular forest area is left as it is without any intervention from outside even when the intention of bringing about positive changes.

The Act also discusses the authorities and procedure for vesting of forest rights.


Survival is the only organization working for tribal people’s rights worldwide. It works with hundreds of tribal communitiesand organizations. It did not receive any national government money, because governments are the main violators of tribal peoples’ rights, nor will take money from companies which might be abusing tribal peoples. Instead it is funded by members of the public and some foundations. Their vision is to foster an understanding of, and respect for, tribal peoples and the choices they make about their futures. Survival reveals some of the astonishing skills of the world’s tribal peoples, from the awa archers of the Amazon to the bajau divers of Borneo and the Tarahumara long-distance runners of northwestern Mexico. They investigate the atrocities committed against tribal peoples. They are in direct, personal contact with hundreds of tribal organizations and communities which give information’s and extensive field visits which have continued for over 40 years.

International Office of Survival International

6 Charter house Buildings, london, EC1M7ET

United Kingdom



Report: Sandhya S Mani & Lekshmi Vimala

Photos: Vishnuraj R

Copyleft 2012


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