Habitat Pro Association and SMPLCT Lab partnered for a special event during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 2016 – 15th Session. WISH 2016, which stands for Wisdom of Indigenous & Human Survival, was a side event that took place on may 17th and gathered indigenous and non-indigenous people to discuss indigenous issues in regards to culture, youth and technology.

WISH as a side event superpassed expectations because it had successful panelists with different perspectives. Educators like Moroni Benally, Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Diné College; film-makers like Kalvin Hartwig, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, producer of indigenous movie This Is Who I Am, self-started entrepreneurs like Ruth DeGolia from Mercado Global, Jessica Minhas from I’ll Go First; environmentalist activist Summer Rayne Oakes, international non-profits professionals like Polina Kovaleva, Head of New York Office of Habitat Pro – all had a chance to discuss challenges that face indigenous peoples in 21st century.

The session opened with Ruth DeGolia who emphasized the work ethics that entails working with indigenous communities in Guatemala, and how well it integrates with the product cycle to reduce poverty in the Mayan communities. Ruth believes “Every culture, every tribe, region is different, but a lot of things that are working in one can really help a way of reinventing the others.”

The event followed by a set of questions concerning the meaning of culture and the use of technology to preserve indigenous heritage, among others.“In my culture there isn’t a word for culture, but we have a word that means “good trail” which is the good way of living that sets the values that wisdom came from traditional stories,” expressed Kalvin Hartwig.

Moroni Benally pinpointed an example on how youth from his community mixes their native words with English when texting their friends. Many participants and panelists agreed that in a way it helps to evolve and, likewise, preserve the language. Also, he shared a story how a dating experience of one of his students led to an idea to create an application to determined the roots of a person in order to avoid dating someone related.

Polina Kovaleva expressed “In regards to our today’s event and the Forum itself, definition of cultural rights is more important. The enjoyment of culture in condition of equality and no discrimination, that’s what is important, and I believe that we should all work toward that”. She also explained Habitat Pro’s initiative #GiveUsVoice that gives indigenous peopes an opporunity to speak up about issues in their communities and proposed solutions through series of video clips.

The session concluded with a kind remark from a prominent Peruvian activist Tarcila Rivera.

“I think we are facing very big challenges from the indigenous perspective and not only. The biggest one is related to the cultural expresions of indigenous treated as subculture.”

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