From: Dr Eric Miller (PhD in Folklore)

Director, World Storytelling Institute

98403 94282 (Chennai)


Date: 19 May 2013




"Ways Tribal People Could Develop their Cultures"



Tribal people are living-links with the past.  For examples: often their histories are related to ancient kings, and their dialects contain elements of ancient language.


It is now widely-accepted that Biological diversity is healthy for the environment.  For examples: diversified plant-life cleans the air, keeps moisture in the area, and keeps ground soil in place.  Biological, Linguistic, and Cultural diversity are intertwined and are mutually supportive: tribal people have been living sustainably in nature for tens of thousands of years.  Over this time, they have developed a great deal of knowledge about nature, including about medicinal uses of plants and flowers.


Thus, it may be beneficial to all of the people of India -- and of the entire world -- for tribal people who live in forest areas to remain in place and to continue developing their nature-related cultures.



Ways for tribal people to contribute to the larger society include:



Storytelling Festivals

Including stories relating to nature (Animal fables, Raja-Rani stories, Grandmother stories, Local legends, etc).  These stories could entertain the public, and could also educate the public about aspects of the forest.  Translation could be provided, including typed-translation (in English and other languages) projected onto screens. 



Living Museums

In such museums, the objects on display are still in everyday use, and members of the community could act as guides, explaining about the objects.  Tribal arts and crafts could be displayed.  Many tribal crafts involve the use of plant materials: bark, wood, leaves, vines, etc.   



Storytelling Tour-Guides

Community members could be trained in storytelling in relation to the objects in the Living Museum, and the history of the people and the land.  Storytelling tour-guides could tell stories about plants kept in pots, and could also lead "Nature Walks" in parks and other publicly-accessible places.  Such activities could be parts of community-based Eco-Tourism.



Ways for tribal people to develop their cultures internally include:



Annual Visits to Forest Locations

Young members of tribal communities could be taken on annual visits to the forest.  In these camps, tribal elders could teach the youngsters about traditional nature-related knowledge.



After-School Programs

Young members of tribal communities could be taught about the traditional culture, at times in the tribal dialect, in after-school programs, with Government support (use of school facilities, etc).



People tend to abandon a culture if the culture does not bring them any income, or help them with their livelihood.  Thus, if tribal cultures are to survive, ways need to be found by which these cultures could generate some income for members of the community.


Many of the above-mentioned ideas are already being implemented by tribal organisations.  One such organisation in India, Acoustic Traditional, produces an annual Festival of Indigenous Storytellers, along with other projects.