Tag: <span>Paulo Freire</span>

Indigenous Rapprochement of Cultures.

The Protection of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples

Featured Image: Big Pow-Wow with traditional costumes from East coast First Nations of Canada. By Marc-Lautenbacher, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

While both humanization and dehumanization are real alternatives, only the first is man’s vocation. This vocation is constantly negated. It is thewarted by injustice, exploitation, oppression, and the violence of the oppressors; it is affirmed by the yearning of the oppressed for freedom and justice, and by their struggle to recover their lost humanity.

Paulo Freire.

Photo of Paulo Freire (1977). By Slobodan Dimitrov, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention.

The United Nations General Assembly has set 9 August as the International Day of Indigenous People. However, the term ‘indigenous’ is ambiguous since at some point nearly every group came from somewhere else at an earlier time. Thus when the first UN effort was undertaken in the International Labour Organization in 1957, the ILO Convention (N°107) was called the “Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention”. It is not always possible to say who is ‘indigenous’ but it is usually easy enough to know if a group has a tribal structure.

For many years, indigenous and tribal peoples were the forgotten stepchildren of the intergovernmental organizations dealing with human rights. Yet they needed protection at least as much as those on whom the political limelight had focused.

The world community is filled with many different types of collective actors: clans, tribes, castes, ethnic groups, cities, races, social classes, religious organizations, nation-states, multi-state alliances for military or economic goals, transnational corporations and associations. Each is the creation of individuals who have grouped together – or have been grouped together – to achieve goals considered common to the group’s members. All such collective groups have techniques to socialize new members to share the common values, to accept the ideology and beliefs of the tribe, the nation-state or the association.

This socialization process goes so deeply that a person’s sense of identity becomes associated with these collective identities. The family passes on a sense of belonging to a collective identity, the school, the army, the church, the political process and institutions – each propose a sense of group purpose.

Image by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Tribes and Clans.

Yet none of these groups is static and unchanging. Even clans and tribes whose members often consider that they have a common ancestor do in fact change. Tribes merge and divide; new identities are formed: new ancestors are created to justify the new grouping.

Some types of collective belonging are more easily left than others. One can move relatively easily from a city and take on the character, the values and the goals of a new city. Social mobility can produce changes in social class, and even caste lines become blurred. Persons change nationality or acquire new nationalities as frontiers are modified. Race is less easily changed but definitions of what constitutes a race do change. Ethnic identity is often associated with birth, but parents can belong to different ethnic communities, although the child is usually raised as belonging to the more dominant group. However the socialization process of group identity goes to the level of sub-conscious behaviour and is not easily set aside.

Today, the nation-state claims to be the dominant collective association – setting the boundaries of loyalty and identity. The state claims the right to set out the major collective goals and values. Through laws, the state claims the right to set out the rules by which other collective entities may pursue their goals; through taxation the state draws the resources to further the goals it has set, and the state claims to have the only legitimate use of violence to punish those who break the laws and rules it has set.

There have always been tensions between these collective groups for their spheres of goal-setting and value-setting have overlapped. Thus there have been tensions between religious organizations and the state as to who should set what goals and the means to achieve these goals. There have also been tensions between classes and the state when it was felt that the state was dominated by another economic class who used its power within state institutions not for the good of all but only to advance class interests. The same is true of other collective units – races or ethnic groups – excluded from power within state institutions.

Madhesi Istet Woiche (aka William Hulsey) 1923. By Big Band Hot Spring, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


Today in many parts of the world those most excluded from power within state institutions are people living in alternative structures of authority, goal-setting and rule-making: persons living in tribal societies. Tribal societies predated most of today’s nation-states. A tribal society usually has all the same functions as the nation-state: it sets out membership, loyalties, common goals and rules of behaviour. It has sanctions against those breaking the laws of the tribe and has – or had- the monopoly of the legitimacy of using violence against those breaking the laws. Tribes are, in fact, more realistically “nation-states”
If one defines nation as a common language, a common history and a common will to act together.

Thus because the tribal society is the closest in function to that of the nation-state, it is also the most feared. Tribes are institutions with whom it is difficult to compromise because they have the same presumptions as the state. It is relatively easy for a government to offer higher wages to the industrial worker or higher prices to the farmer as social classes do not claim to carry out in an alternative way the functions of the state. It is more of a challenge to the state’s image of its role to allow tribal societies to set out a land policy or fishing rights or trans-frontier trading rights because these activities conflict directly with the functions that the government has set for itself.

The Reservations.

Thus, there has been a long history of the state destroying alternative institutions of governance on its territory. The nation-states of Europe were built upon the ruins of feudal institutions as much of Asia was built on the destruction of local rulers. We see the pattern today as we watch traditional chiefs in Africa loose their authority to the heads of state and the military. In the Americas, many of the indigenous tribal societies were destroyed. Others were pushed into areas that those who controlled the government did not want – the “reservations” – of Canada and the USA. In Latin America and Asia, there is still active struggle going on between those trying to preserve their tribal institutions and homelands and the state which claims complete authority over all its territory and who often wish to put new settlers on tribal lands.

Three Native American women, standing, full-length, facing front, holding beaded bags, Warm Springs Indian Reservation, Wasco County, Oregon. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The amount of violence and suffering is considerable. Slowly the fate of tribal societies has come to the attention of the United Nations. The UN was set up to facilitate relations between nations-states. However, because wide-spread violations of individual rights had been the consequences of the Second World War, a Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1948. The aim of the Declaration is to stress the rights of the individual – a natural consequence of the philosophy of the drafters. The rights of collective bodies with which the drafters were familiar: trade unions, churches, professional associations are also protected. However, tribal societies were not particularly thought of as one sees by reading the drafting negotiations leading to the 1948 Universal Declaration. Thus, the Universal Declaration protects the rights of all individuals – including, of course, individuals living in tribal societies – but there is no direct recognition of the functions of tribal societies.

It was not until the first World Conference to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, held at the UN in Geneva in August 1978, that certain aspects of discrimination against indigenous populations were included in the Programme of Action. In 1983, the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations started meeting in Geneva which led to the growing attention being given to indigenous and tribal peoples. There is still much work to be done as the process of humanization of those now oppressed and marginalized will come about only through radical changes in the outlook of those now holding power and authority.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

1 2 21
Paulo Freire Book Reviews

Paulo Freire: Popular Participation.

Featured Image: Paulo Freire Panel. CEFORTEPE – Center for Training, Technology and Educational Research Prof. “Milton de Almeida Santos”, SME-Campinas. By Luiz Carlos Cappellano, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By René Wadlow.

In the Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action;  adopted by the 1976 World Employment Conference it is stated,

A basic needs-oriented policy implies the participation of the people in making the decisions which affect them through organizations of their own choice.”

          Marshall Wolfe of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) defines participation as: 

“the organized efforts to increase control over resources and regulative institutions in given social situations, on the part of groups and movements often excluded from such control.”

Paulo Freire

Photo of Paulo Freire (1977). By Slobodan Dimitrov, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Fathers of Popular Participation.

Among the intellectual “fathers” of popular participation is Ivan Illich and the Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire (19 Sep 1921 – 2 May 1997) (l). Illich urged the ‘deprofessionalization’ in all domains of life − schooling, health care, planning − in order to make “ordinary people”  responsible for their own well-being. 

The strongest affirmation of the superior value of participation over elite decision-making comes from Freire;  who held that the touchstone of development is whether people;  who were previously treated as mere objects;  and acted upon can become subjects of their own social destiny. When people are oppressed or reduced to the culture of silence;  they do not participate in their own humanization.

Conversely;  when they participate;  thereby becoming active subjects of action;  they begin to construct their properly human history; and engage in processes of authentic development.  Paulo Freire stresses this inclusion of the marginalized in his discussion of agricultural extension efforts.  The ideal to be sought in agricultural extension is true communication or reciprocal dialogue;  not the mere issuance of information by expert agronomists to peasants or farmers.

Ivan Illich

 Ivan Illich. By Adrift Animal, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.


“Participation”  is a term that is often used in three different ways.  It is sometimes used;  as in much agricultural extension activities;  as induced from above by some authorities;  who usually seek some social control over the process.  Such State-promoted participation usually aims at getting people to produce more effectively.  This is not popular participation in the sense that the Basic Needs Approach uses the term “participation”;   although in practice State cooperation is usually needed.

“Participation”  in the Basic-Needs – inclusion of the marginalized sense – springs from below during a crisis;  and in response to some threat to a community’s values or survival.  Often with no prior plan or precedent;  some hitherto passive group mobilizes itself to protest, to resist, to say “No”.  As the world citizen  Albert Camus wrote:

 “Any oppressed group’s refusal to accept its conditions is always the latent bearer of all affirmations of possible new orders.  To say “no” is to open up possibilities for saying “yes” in a multitude of ways.  Those who begin by saying “No” to their oppressors soon feel the need to utter some “Yes” of their own.”


Albert Camus     Albert Camus, Nobel prize winner, half-length portrait. By Photograph by United Press International, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Basic Needs Approach.

 “Participation”  in the Basic Needs Approach can also be used to define the catalytic action of third party change agents − technicians, community organizers, missionaries or members of a specialized NGO. Most such change agents view self-reliance of the poor and marginalized as a desirable goal.  Accordingly;  they see their own activation of the marginalized as “facilitation”;  destined to disappear after the people awaken to their dormant capacities to decide and act for themselves.

Popular participation usually  follows a sequence of steps:

  • Initial diagnosis of the problem or condition;
  • a listing of possible responses to be taken;
  • selecting one possibility to enact;
  • organizing, or otherwise preparing oneself to implement the course of action chosen;
  • self-correction or evaluation in the course of implementation;
  • debating the merits of future mobilization or organization.

If participation is to influence decision-making at a level;  where it makes a difference in national development; there is a necessary transition from the micro, local area to the macro, national planning dimension. 

A Basic Needs Approach;  provides an opportunity for previously powerless communities to enter into national development thinking.  Participation can fruitfully be understood as a moral incentive; enabling hitherto excluded groups to negotiate new packages of material incentives in areas such as food, housing and access to education.

Participation − an active role by intended beneficiaries − is an indispensable feature of the Basic Needs Approach to Development Planning.

Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire Panel. CEFORTEPE – Center for Training, Technology and Educational Research Prof. “Milton de Almeida Santos”, SME-Campinas. By Luiz Carlos Cappellano, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. For Ivan Illich see: Toward A History of Needs (New York: Pantheon, 1978).
  2. Ivan Illich. Deschooling Society (New York: Harper and Row, 1983).
  3.  For Paulo Freire see: Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970).
  4.  Paulo Freire. Education for Critical Consciousness (New York: Seabury Press, 1973).

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

1 2 21