Noam Chomsky: Indigenous people are our only hope for survival

According to the legendary scholar Noam Chomsky, the world is “facing potential environmental catastrophe and not in the distant future,” and the only communities standing between humankind and catastrophe is the world’s Indigenous people. Here we present a selection of articles & essays on indigenous people and their fight to defend nature from ‘civilised’ humans.

Telesur TV

Indigenous people across the world are the ones keeping the human race from destroying itself and leading earth to a disaster as they gain voices in countries in Latin America, the United States and Australia, renowned political commentator and academic Noam Chomsky said in a recent interview.

“Indigenous communities have begun to find a voice for the first time in countries with large Indigenous populations like Bolivia (and) Ecuador,” Chomsky said in an interview, according to Alternet.

“That’s a tremendous step forward for the entire world. It’s a kind of incredible irony that all over the world the leading forces in trying to prevent a race to disaster are the Indigenous communities.”

Chomsky said that countries such as the U.S., Canada and Australia are suffering from “self-inflicted wounds” due to their history of oppression against Indigenous people and first nations.

He further stressed that the world is “facing potential environmental catastrophe and not in the distant future,” but the only communities standing between humankind and the realization of such a catastrophe is the world’s Indigenous people.

“All over the world, it’s the Indigenous communities trying to hold us back: First Nations in Canada, Indigenous people in Bolivia, Aborigines in Australia, tribal people in India. It’s phenomenal all over the world that those who we call ‘primitive’ are trying to save those of us who we call ‘enlightened’ from total disaster,” said Chomsky.

Chomsky’s comments come as many Indigenous groups across Latin America are becoming more involved in the continent’s politics while also pushing back against global corporations who for decades have exploited their lands and resources for profit due to Western and U.S. influence in the region.


Adivasi economics may be the only hope for India’s future
Felix Padel
India’s Tribal communities are under extreme pressure, right from big dams and mines to violent insurgencies and militarisation engulfing their lands. In 25 years, will these communities cease to exist? Or, will they represent thriving, revitalised models of egalitarian sustainability that the rest of the world has come to recognise and is learning from?

Video: Aluna – A Warning from the Kogi of Sierra Madre
Charles Eisenstein,
In this film, the colonial gaze is turned back on the colonizers—sternly, imploringly, and with very great love. The Kogi tell us, “You mutilate the world because you don’t remember the Great Mother. If you don’t stop, the world will die.” Please believe us, they say. You must stop doing this. “Do you think we say these words for the sake of talking? We are speaking the truth.”

At the heart of India’s raging tribal insurgency is a simple thing: respect
Madhu Ramnath
Time and again we have heard that the Naxal insurgency is due to “under development” in areas like Bastar. Education is also supposed to deter Naxalism, according to some, but one may ask whose education? Fundamentally it’s about respect, dignity and trust in our behaviour towards others, in this case the Adivasi.

Seeing Wetiko: On capitalism, mind viruses, and antidotes for a world in transition
Kosmos Journal
What if we told you that humanity is being driven to the brink of extinction by an illness? That all the poverty, the climate devastation, the perpetual war, and consumption fetishism all around us have roots in a mass psychological infection? What if this infection is not just highly communicable but also self-replicating?

Indigenous people are fighting to save the earth for all of us
Pamela Leiva Jacquelín, Intercontinental Cry
Representing 5 percent of the world’s population, today many Indigenous Peoples are still excluded from society and deprived of their rights as equal citizens of a state. Living in 70 countries and speaking more than 4,000 native languages, they have gained increasing visibility for raising their voices on aggressive development policies that threaten the world’s remaining ecosystems and the biodiversity that depends on them. As the world moves fast to explore and exploit these ecosystems to meet increasing consumption, Indigenous Peoples are at the top list of those murdered for defending their land.

How to Colonize Your Own Country
Madhusree Mukerjee
Editor’s note: On, we usually carry relatively abstract, ‘big picture’ articles or technical pieces on energy and the related topics of climate change, development and sustainability. In contrast, this hard hitting, extensively researched piece by Madhusree Mukherjee brings out the human cost involved in these issues – and especially for indigenous people, who are victimised the most. It’s essential reading if you want to understand the true extent of the price that is being paid by adivasis – and specifically adivasi women – for what the rest of us call ‘development’.

‘Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of world’s biodiversity’
The Guardian
Tauli-Corpuz, from the Philippines, was Chair of the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues when the Declaration was adopted, and is currently the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this interview, conducted via email, she explains why the Declaration is so important, argues that governments are failing to implement it, and claims that the struggle for indigenous rights “surpasses” other great social movements of the past.

Food sovereignty in rebellion: The Zapatista Solution
Solutions Journal
The stunning manner in which the Zapatistas presented themselves to the Mexican government, as well as the world, saw them descend upon several towns, cities, prisons, and wealthy landowners. During the revolt, guerillas liberated political prisoners, stormed military barracks, occupied government offices, set fire to trumped-up files that unfairly criminalized Indigenous people.

Indigenous Communities Are Leading the Environmental Justice Movement
Today, we are facing a global crisis—climate change. Indigenous People are not only threatened by colonial policies to eradicate our rights, our cultures and identities that are intrinsically linked to our places of origin. We are now threatened by manmade climate change. Coastlines are rising, weather patterns are changing, and we’re experiencing floods, droughts, out-of-control forest fires, and species disappearing. It’s Indigenous Peoples and land-based peoples that feel it first and most adversely.

Our enlightened conception of knowledge has brought us to the brink of extinction (Article available from JSTOR)
Nirmalangshu Mukherji, Economic & Political Weekly
A real solution to the issue of survival requires that humans learn to progressively forget knowledge systems currently advanced in the most dominating centres of learning. If indigenous knowledge systems are our primary route for survival, every bit of knowledge beyond indigenous knowledge must be subjected to serious critique for their relevance.

‘For us, the land is sacred’: on the road with the defenders of the world’s forests
The Guardian
Of the many thousands of participants at the Bonn climate conference which begins on 6 November, there will arguably be none who come with as much hope, courage and anger as the busload of indigenous leaders who have been criss-crossing Europe over the past two weeks, on their way to the former German capital. The 20 activists on the tour represent forest communities that have been marginalised over centuries but are now increasingly recognised as important actors against climate change through their protection of carbon sinks. One of them, Rivas, a quiet young man from Nicaragua, said, “All the death and destruction that came to our country came from Europe,” he said. “I sense people still have a superficial understanding of our message. What we want is to be able to continue our spiritual connection with the forest.”

How modern schooling is aiding the destruction of the biosphere
Suprabha Seshan
Modern education serves a version of Gulag, by forcing our young to suffer unspeakable conditions in their most vulnerable years. It ultimately breaks them, in order to refashion them into a pliable workforce. This psychic predicament goes hand in hand with the destruction of life, with the catastrophic end of the biosphere.


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31 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky: Indigenous people are our only hope for survival

  1. We Europeans have to realise how we have been unethical and exploitative in our past behaviour and to learn to express our regret for what we have been guilty of. We should ask forgiveness from all we have wronged and ask for their help to tackle the problems we have created.

  2. Would be good to add the story of the Amadiba community of Xolobeni who are resisting mining of the Wild Coast of South Africa.

  3. Maybe not all, indigenous people can be the source of hope, for many of them enriched themselves from mining and other environmentally destructive project like hydro power. They receive monthly royalty, free electricity and enjoyed working by cutting trees and submerged vast tracts of land.

  4. In India every at least one indegenious person is losing his/her life for fighting against the greed of Government who thinks that Devlopment only possible by destroying natural resources.

  5. Yes the common people of the world who still work hard to make a living is important and no one seems to care about what they think because they do not have a bunch of degrees from colleges in their society but they have lived so long on common knowledge. Technology used to be the future of this nation we live in but it has made a laughing stock out of America. From guns to test tubes and companies have turned the telephone into a computer and turned America into a nightmare just trying to afford the next new model forced up on society. Computers are constantly changing. Is it for the good no it is for the profit of our all mighty dollar here in America. I remember when my mom and dad had the same phone most of their life. Our government is one lie after another and even the President of this country is told what he can say and what he cannot by this secret society. We have people and animals from other worlds living here on earth for many many years but our government hides them because they think we cannot handle it. Hell we have been through drought, heat waves, rampant sickness, great depressions, world wars and death but our government says we cannot handle other worldly people and things. Hell I myself was in Vietnam 67-68 and I am now 76 years old. I am tired of all the secrets in this society that really aren’t secrets anymore people now are faced with ghosts ha ha but they have been around since mankind first started. Science cannot recognize them nor can our government nor other dimensional’s every day flying around in UFO’s and under water in USO’s. Our government and politics have helped turn us into the most confused, lied to biggest most confused assholes I have seen in my life. I do not know how much time I have left in this life but I will appreciate leaving this one I believe. Our religion is a joke. GOD is our friend not our judge but people are hard to live around. We have turned into a new scam a minute society from all levels of society. No one reads hardly anymore except off the internet and watching TV is the entertainment with games from the internet paying dollars to play their games on the thing. The young here are interested in music groups, computers, telephones and the young and famous. It gives you something to do when you are not at work also and running up the charge accounts. People fear death but it is such a relief after you leave this mess behind and look down at everyone scrambling like ants around in circles wondering what is the next disaster coming but who cares now? We are numb to everything so much happens all the time. Just another new disaster….give me a break GOD.


  7. 1080 is not a Kaitiaki value… Yet nz governments have convinced New Zealanders it’s OK to drop thousands of tons each year of this poison in our waterways, native bush, farmlands, parks and mountain tops since the 1960’s. Greed for profits and ignorance has allowed our creatures, resources and our children to be exposed to this toxic poison, while Governments, councils and their scientist pretend to care for the environment. The cruel, long painful death from this poison alone should make them want to find a better way to control the introduced pests that colonials stupidly thought might makes good sport or that they accidently bought onto our beautiful whenua. Warned by our ancestors, of the environmental hazard these creature would have on our native animal, bird and plant life … Europeans pooh-hooed their knowledge of our lands and waters, chose not to listen… We are now living in an environmental crises.

  8. Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts Indigenous community living in precarious condition is missing. It would be good to add their story!

  9. Chomsky is now joining the bandwagon of praising indigenous people. In 2016, when I was a student at his department and was feeling harassed by white students, I shared an article about this big brother patronizing attitude that the white man has towards indigenous cultures all over the world to raise awareness about my experience. Chomsky pounced on me saying that there is no such problem and everything was perfectly fine. He even went on to say that students from indigenous backgrounds are not good at academics and need help from majority community to document their culture and language. At the end of our email discussion, he had to admit that his stance was patronizing and hierarchical. So much for his anarchist activism.

  10. What? You found Chomsky patronizing? What a surprise! Condescension and patronizing attitude is his go-to approach towards anyone who questions him. Although there may be truth in the things he says, he will win over few who do not already agree with him, because he is so sanctimonious.

  11. The Bedouin trips of Palestine, the indigenous people are under great suffer and they are holding a great deal of knowledge how to take care of the land and the environment. they live in what is called by Israel illegal villages, their homes are destroyed by the Israelis all the time.

  12. Global Ancient indigenous knowledge have the Answers for such Greedy Humans… You Just need to learn from it and action it.

  13. Great article especially when most governments are trying to aliniate and diminish indigenous in most countries.

  14. Regarding indigenous people and the environment.I think you overlooked Aotearoa.New Zealand.Maori are natural.environmentalists and being indigenous to that small country have not been heard until just recently.

  15. Psychology, BUDDHISM AND SEERS have been telling us for centuries that self-inflicted wounds, is how we cause suffering. We are good at it, lots of practice.
    we are capable of learning from it, if we will?

  16. Mel Landers is a other advocating indigenous approaches to food production.
    I like and use holistic approach and management. It’s all about the soil and microlife.

  17. Be sure to see the recent article in The Nation by Four Arrows about how the largest UN Report on Extinction Rates ever published says that the tragedy did not occur or was minimal in areas where Indigenous Worldview prevailed. Published in May. See book also by the author entitled Point of Departure.

  18. I for one agree that we are openly being robbed of our resource that is behind our natured background in Northwest Alaska with the Red Dog mine and its lead and zinc mining. No royalties for our community and NANA and Teck Cominco taking all the profits, thanks to the State of Alaska. And were not even recognized by the State of Alaska government for any revenue created by this mine.

  19. Beware of a lack of egalitarian modes in major conservation groups, also, and how environmentalists have a history of removing Indigenous people from their lands and food sources, essentially sentencing them to destitute poverty and criminalized as poachers and trespassers on ancient lands. It’s all about turning places that the Indigenous have successfully preserved forever into tourism, and in the name of providing employment, essentially turn everyone into servants for the rich. Behavior change techniques are used through the millions collected each day from well meaning but purposefully uninformed people, to turn against the Indigenous by casting all hunting as evil. Evil to us is hunting for fun, without regard for the sacred relationship with other life forms, sentient beings, plant or animal. Remaining hunting societies leave very little carbon footprint, especially in comparison to the ecological destruction caused by much of the agricultural processes of civilized folk, and largely lack of history of causing mass extinctions. That would be foolish, to kill all of your food, your air, your water, no?

  20. I will Google him to find out who he is or better yet I will look out the window to see which way the wind is blowing, oh,there he goes now.

  21. It’s a shame that people didn’t catch onto that a very long time ago, Indigenous people should have been asked so many questions regarding the ecological balance that their forefathers had used over the centuries, ,

  22. As a person who was born in the early 1980 in the Caribbean, I was privileged to be part of the old ways. My childhood was one of eating meat once per week, growing food at home, having wildlife run free range, drying clothes in the sun, and so much more of this lifestyle. Reflecting on this and how much of that lifestyle has disappeared is very saddening and disheartening. I am now trying to return to some of those ways and influence my community because I now understand the importance of that lifestyle. Back to agriculture, rearing our own meat, sun, play and laughter while we enjoy a sweet coconut in 2025, that is my dream.

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