“150 million tribal people live in more than 60 countries across the world. Although their land ownership rights are recognized in international law, they are not properly respected anywhere.”
– Survival International, The Movement for Tribal Peoples
There are many ideals and campaigns in this world and as many charities, organisations and societies that fight for them, but the reasons why people put there names towards such ideals are even more varied and numerous. These are mine.
My professional and academic background is in archaeology and specifically palaeolithic archaeology (location dependent but from about 2.5 million years to 10,000 years ago). You don’t study this subject without reading about ethnography and becoming aware of the number and great variety of tribal peoples that exist today. This led me to an awareness of the difficulties put upon them by the “outside” world. This can take the form of enforced changes to hunting practices such as with Arctic and sub-Arctic peoples who are now heavily monitored as to the number of whales and bears they may hunt; a case of them having to pay a heavier price to their lifestyle than the rest for the detrimental changes we have wrought on the global climate (yes, I believe in human accelerated climate change). Or it can take the form of blatant disregard of tribal lands and rights by national governments who are pursuing financial gains; the construction of mines or dams in the countries along the African Rift Valley provide such examples.
Tribal peoples are part of the modern global world (and to call them primitive or uncivilised or relics is erroneous) and many understand that things change, but to deny them a voice or act without their consideration or consent is wrong. To me it comes down to fairness; no one life is more important than another. The life of an individual living in the high Arctic or the Rift Valley is just as important as mine.
I realise that I have been born into relative privilege compared to the rest of the world (highly-educated, middle-class, UK citizen) and I believe it brings with it a degree of responsibility. Put one way, if something is wrong those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action. Therefore, I would consider it a failure if I did not try and aid others in whatever ways I can. So I have decided to help Survival International, and help them through the medium of fund-raising from my running.
Running (like an ideal) is many things to many people. Part of it for me is that I feel it is a return to lifeways and patterns of behaviour that the mind is comfortable and derives pleasure from because we have evolved over millennia to run. Indeed, one hypothesis of human evolution postulates that long-distance running played a major role in the development of our species – we are persistent pursuit predators! In present tribal cultures running is a major part of life (the Tarahumara being the most well known) and globally millions of people run recreationally.
As well as trying to raise money I am also looking to educate. To this end you will find me or my cohorts at various running events around the North of England looking to talk about tribal issues. So if you see a guy with rings in his nose and big holes in his ears (all makes sense now – the archaeology, the liberal attitude, the piercings) come over a find out a little more.