4 Most Endangered Indigenous Cultures

Every culture brings a richness and diversity to our world, and many factors contribute to the death of traditions and a people. Preserving their history and way of life is essential.

Guarani, Brazil

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As an indigenous culture, the Guarani were one of the first people Europeans met after reaching the shores of Central and South America. There are currently just over 50,000 Guarani living across seven different states in Brazil. However, there are countless Guarani living across the region in Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia. As with most indigenous cultures, the Guarani depend on the land to sustain their lifestyle. However, the Brazilian government has never officially ratified the Guarani claim to land, though it signed an agreement with the Guarani people. Marginalized in the face of current Brazilian culture, many Guarani have been forced to abandon the culture of their ancestors and live in significant poverty.

Innu, Canada

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With just over 2,000 people, there are two recognized Innu communities, Sheshatishiu and Natuashish. Both indigenous cultures call Labrador, Newfoundland, home. They have been a recognized indigenous population since the mid-1970s. It’s only been in the last thousand years that the Innu abandoned their nomadic ways. Before that, small bands of Innu families would hunt in small groups. Though they are known to hunt all large game and gather berries and fish, the caribou have significant cultural meaning for the Innu. It wasn’t until very recently that the Innu were able to make everything they needed from the caribou, including shelter and weapons. Because of current shifts in the modern era, it’s becoming more and more difficult for the Innu to maintain their culture. In addition to the shocks any indigenous culture faces when trying to assimilate, much of the land the Innu have used for millennia is currently being given away by the Canadian government for mining and timber.

Siberian Indigenous Groups, Siberia

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For Siberian indigenous peoples, their group is as vast as their land. Though there are over one hundred self-identified indigenous cultures in Russia, the state recognizes only about 40 indigenous cultures located in the snowy tundra. These groups are legally protected from being forced from their land and are free to maintain a “traditional” way of life. What makes these groups unique is that their languages comprise the origins of all modern languages – Uralic, Altaic, and Paleo-Siberian. Because of the vastness of the terrain, it’s difficult to categorize any of the groups in Siberia with similar characteristics. However, all are either semi or entirely nomadic, live off the land in a hunter-gatherer-fisher approach, and herd reindeer. While many of the indigenous populations are protected under Russian law, many parts of the law have not been ratified. This means that there is less than adequate protection for the indigenous populations. There is a push by the government to obtain land that many indigenous cultures call home for farming, timber, and other natural resource rights.

Livonian, Latvia

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As the only indigenous people of Latvia related to the Finno-Urgic ethnic group, this culture is of Estonian ethnicity rather than Baltic Latvians. Most were fishermen who settled on the shores of the Daugava, a large sea in Latvia. Because the indigenous Livonian people were the first point of contact for anyone visiting Latvia, many people called the country Livonia in the early Medieval period. Currently, there are fewer than 200 people who self-identify as Livonian. The last native speaker of Livonian is now dead, but many linguist enthusiasts are taking up the charge and learning Livonian as a second language. The Livonian culture attempts to keep its autonomy within Latvia by maintaining its traditions. In August, Livonians and those who feel akin to their culture gather to celebrate their traditions. In Riga, the first Sunday of each month is dedicated to cultural appreciation of the Livonians. Costumes, dance, and Livonian music are all on display.

As with all indigenous cultures, each of these four is on the brink of complete annihilation. Without the proper respect from the governments where their lands reside, it’s clear to many anthropologists and sociologists that the cultures will soon become extinct.

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