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Indigenising Development


  • Alcida Rita Ramos

    () (University of Brasilia)

  • Rafael Guerreiro Osorio

    () (International Poverty Centre)

  • José Pimenta

    () (University of Brasilia)


Among the many social groups that have been historically excluded, indigenous people comprise one that offers great challenges to development. Although their assimilation has been a goal of the national societies that engulfed them, it is disputable whether indigenous people desire the type of social inclusion that development, in its many forms, can produce. At the same time, development seems irreversible, and resistance to it might have consequences far more adverse than those brought by acceptance. The best way to overcome the challenges seems to be to indigenise development: to put it to work on behalf of indigenous people instead of putting them to work for a model of development that is not only alien to them but that frequently does violence to their culture. With this in mind: Alcida Rita Ramos, Rafael Guerreiro Osorio and José Pimenta introduce the theme and the challenges to indigenising development, considering points raised by the other contributors. Gersem Baniwa writes about the dilemmas that development poses to indigenous people in Brazil, who simultaneously want to enjoy its benefits, particularly the material and technological resources of the modern world, and to also keep their traditions. Myrna Cunningham and Dennis Mairena explain that the very concept of development is inimical to some core values of many indigenous cultures of Nicaragua, such as collective labour and property, egalitarian distribution, and holistic world views. Jaime Urrutia Cerutti presents his thoughts on why in Peru, unlike Bolivia and Ecuador, there is no massive and strong social movement of indigenous people. The indigenous population comprises the majority in these three Andean countries, and is already integrated into their modern national societies. Stuart Kirsch departs from the concept of human development to show how a mining project in Suriname might enhance the economic freedom of some indigenous groups at the expense of some other important freedoms associated with being indigenous. José Pimenta tells the success story of an Ashaninka group in Brazil who became an archetype of the ecological indian, running sustainable development projects, and managing and protecting the environment. This success was context-specific, however, and was not without cost to their way of life. Charles R. Hale recalls the dramatic impacts of the civil war on the indigenous people of Guatemala. Caught between the state and the guerrillas, they have been through genocide, and modest advancements achieved earlier were reversed. A re-emerging Maya social movement now faces the resistance of the country?s elite. Bruce Grant takes us back to the Soviet Union and pinpoints some of the differences of socialist development, showing how it affected indigenous peoples in Siberia who were paradoxically seen as both a model of primitive communism and of backwardness. It was a dear goal of Soviet planners to make them leap forward as an example of the benefits of socialism. David G. Anderson considers how the dismantling of the Soviet Union affected indigenous peoples in Siberia. Current Russian models of indigenous development are worth considering because they are not purely capitalist: private corporations that take over projects assume many of the roles of the former socialist state in welfare provision, and the overall repercussions are both favourable and otherwise. Bernard Saladin d?Anglure and Françoise Morin discuss the impact of the colonisation and development of the Arctic on the Inuit. Charged by the Soviet Union for neglecting the human development of the Inuit, Canada devised a policy that succeeded in raising their material standards of living while culturally impoverishing them. Carolina Sánchez, José del Val, and Carlos Zolla emphasise the importance of monitoring the welfare and development of indigenous people by devising culturally adequate information systems. They summarise the state-of-the-art proposals, outline the main demands of indigenous leaders and experts as regards such systems, and present the successful experience of their programme in Guerrero, Mexico. We hope that the articles in this issue of Poverty in Focus help raise awareness in the development community about problems that do not have immediate and easy solutions, but that are crucial to shaping the present and future of indigenous people.

Suggested Citation

  • Alcida Rita Ramos & Rafael Guerreiro Osorio & José Pimenta, 2009. "Indigenising Development," Poverty In Focus 17, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.
  • Handle: RePEc:ipc:ifocus:17

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    Cited by:

    1. Gazie S. Okpara, 2011. "Poverty Reduction in West Africa: An Ex-Ante Impact Analysis of the Cotonou Agreement," International Journal of Asian Social Science, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 1(4), pages 72-80, November.
    2. Tanya Wragg-Morris, 2012. "Dams, Development and Displacement: Towards More Inclusive and Social Futures," Policy Research Brief 35, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.

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