Indigenous Cultures and Globalization
This page was originally authored by Ken Heales (2008).
This page has been added to and edited by Jason Lui (January 2009).
This page has been added to and edited by Kris Hancock and Emily Jarvis (March 2010).
This page has been added to and edited by Catherine Larmand (February 2013).
Globalization can be described as the increasing interplay of cultures  as the world is brought closer both physically (ease of travel, for example) and virtually (through development of the internet). The impact of globalization on indigenouscultures can be viewed as both positive and negative with varying consequence between the two extremes. While the growth of globalization has brought new opportunities to indigenous people of the world, it has also impeded their ability to retain their cultural practices and indigenous knowledge.
Indigenous culture, in many cases, has been supplanted by the overriding western view of the world through increasing access to digital media, satellite communication, and increased interaction with peoples of different cultures through tourism and trade. The exploitation of large parts of the world previously untouched by western culture has resulted in indigenous groups being exploited for the benefit of global entities.
Not everything has been negative, though. With the emerging connectivity provided by technology and technology-based services, there is now better and more extensive access to programs and services that may have been unavailable before due to isolation or low populace. There are examples where globalization has created employment in previously economically-challenged regions. The internet has opened up new possibilities for indigenous groups to preserve and share their cultural heritage as well as their traditional languages. In some cases, indigenous groups have found new venues to share culturally significant stories and practices with the non-indigenous world and with each other.
Globalization brings unavoidable change and "indigenous groups, perhaps more than anyone, have realized there is no going back" (Marker, 2010, para 7).
Contact and Change
With improved technology comes the notion of the global village, and as such there are few regions that can still be considered inaccessible or untraverseable. Greater contact means ongoing interactions and changes impacting indigenous cultures. Globalization "constitutes an unprecedented threat to the autonomy of Indigenous cultures", but also offers "an unprecedented opportunity for Indigenous empowerment" (Smith, Burke & Ward, 2000, p. 21).
Colonization Then and Now
Colonization is the establishment of external political control and economic disposition with the creation of ideas around race and skin color that position colonizers at a higher evolution than the colonized whereas neo-colonization refers to more subtle but continued and current forms of control over populations such as that today with the Aboriginal populations (Kelm 1998). The history of colonization has strongly influenced Aboriginal cultures in Canada and beyond.
Historically, the changes invoked by colonization in Canada has had devastating effects on Aboriginal populations, to such an extent that the Prime Minister of Canada has issued a formal apology to Aboriginal peoples of Canada for the trauma suffered as a result of residential schools. In addition, there are ongoing financial settlements occurring as an extension of this attempt at retribution. The remnants of this period in history are still evident in Aboriginal communities, with ongoing attempts at healing for individuals, families and communities affected by residential schooling, and ongoing challenges faced by Aboriginal students within the contemporary school system.
Teaching About the Residential School Experience
Aboriginal history is Canadian history, not an optional subsection of it. In order to move forward, every Canadian needs to know both sides of the residential school experience. Emotionally charged material such as the residential school issue should not be tacked on the end of an already overfull curriculum, a single presentation that may or may not make it to the classroom floor. Instead, it needs to be a built in theme with established protocols supporting students, teachers, and communities, particularly with a difficult subject so long avoided (McGregor, H.E., 2012) . The intent cannot be to sensationalize or shame, but to honour the stories, both good and bad, and to encourage students to think critically on the lessons of history so they may make changes for their future (McGregor, C., 2012).
A new course has been designed along these lines. Arising in part from recommendations made by Canada's Truth and Reconciliation committee, the course entitled The Residential School System in Canada: Understanding the Past - Seeking Reconciliation - Building Hope for Tomorrow (Nunavut Department of Education & Northwest Territories Department of Education, Culture and Employment, 2012) has been accepted into the schools of Canada's north.
The Department of Education in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut made the 12 module social studies course mandatory for all its grade 10 students in 2012 (McGregor, H.E., 2012) . A majority of the course materials are available in both Inuktitut and English languages. The course begins with a description of education as it was in the days before residential schools in order that students may compare and contrast. Then, as students begin to understand the assimilative policies that were at play, they begin to appreciate why parents and grandparents might act the way they do and why multi-generational effects linger (McGregor, C., 2012) .
The course is taught from the unique perspective of the north. According to an interview presented to an ETEC 521 class on November 3, 2012 with H.E. McGregor, one of the course designers, assimilation policies arrived later to the north than to the south but they affected that unfortunate northern generation with a greater intensity; every single child was taken and every adult was faced with sudden and total government intervention in every aspect of a previously independent Inuit life.
The participation of parents and the community in the formation of the course was noteworthy and welcomed, according to McGregor. Tools and support for teachers are included in both the kit of resources and the fully laid out program of activities (McGregor, H.E., 2012). Although in-service training is challenging to arrange for Canada's remote northern regions, particular effort was made for the inaugural session so teachers could forge connections and networks before teaching this difficult subject. There is additional support at the Legacy of Hope website  and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation website .
Cultural Homogeneity Amongst Youth
Access to the predominant western consumeristic ideal is becoming increasingly available worldwide through such things as the internet, satellite television, and international trade. The group most susceptible to these influences are the younger generations who are exposed to a growing variety of entertainment, consumer products, and lifestyle ideals, more than their parents had previously. The far reaching arms of consumerism have wrapped up most of the world with little hope of them letting go (Adams, 2007). The widespread appeal of western music like rap and hip-hop speaks to the indoctrination of world youth to the cultural influence of the western world.
This homogenization of world youth is the result of exposure to these cultural ideals through the new media (Grixti, 2006). There is a greater range of choice for the youth of the world today when it comes to how they wish to represent themselves. In some cases, the influence of western culture is incorporated into their local identity to create a hybrid version of two cultures. This acquisition of culture often pushes tradition to the background. Increasingly, these youth are choosing what they see in the mass media instead of looking to their cultures and traditions (Grixti, 2006).
But not every interaction with the web leads to homogeneity amongst youth as the March Point movie demonstrates. Encouraged by Longhouse Media , an organization providing opportunity for indigenous youth to tell their stories in the new digital media, three First Nations youth were challenged to make a video on their tribe and the refinery located next door. They credit the process of making this 2008 award winning short film with reigniting their connections to their people and their land.
Indigenous Culture as a Marketable Item
As technology improves, the world becomes smaller and travelers seek out previously inaccessible regions with greater ease. These travelers often originate from the dominant, western culture (Dransart, 2000). Their quest to accumulate novel experiences often includes aboriginal sightseeing and culture sampling (Dyson & Underwood, 2006). Globalization in the form of travel has lead to an increase in the cultural interaction between indigenous and western cultures causing alterations, both positive and negative, to the indigenous cultures.
A good example of indigenous peoples as tourist attractions are the Maasai people of Africa. The growth of tourism in their area has brought in much needed tourist dollars but there has been a price paid for this increased economic activity. The Maasai live in an area rich in African wildlife. As a result, there are limitations placed on them by the government as to what they can hunt so that they can appear to be conservationist in their policies and thus appease the western ideals of conservation of wildlife (Azarya, 2004). The desire by the government to appeal to western sensibilities severely impacts the traditional lifestyle of the Maasai people. The creation of national parks in traditional Maasai territory also limited their traditional activities as they could no longer hunt as they always had and, in some cases, were forced out (Azarya, 2004).
On the other hand, the growth in tourism in the area has resulted in an increase in the economic opportunities for the Maasai people. With tourism comes the need for guides and labourers. As well, the culture of the Maasai themselves becomes a tourist attraction that can be paraded out for the benefit of the tourists and a fee extracted. Local cultural items can be produced for the tourists to buy and take home as a record of their African expedition (Azarya, 2004). Cultural performances for the benefit of tourists raise the question of authenticity. The argument could be made that there is a loss of cultural significance when rituals are performed for entertainment purposes.
Global Forces on Indigenous Land
With globalization comes a greater exploitation of the world's resources by multinational corporations. This impact has severe implications for many of the world's indigenous peoples who traditionally farm the land to survive. A good example of global forces moving into a traditional environment can be found at the Amazon Rainforest.
The Brazilian government  actively encouraged large scale projects such as cattle ranching, mining, and timber extraction - practices which are in direct conflict with the traditional harvesting practices of local indigenous peoples such as the Yanomami. Local governments, however, gave their blessing to the Yanomami efforts against these multinational corporations exploiting traditional lands for economic benefit (Todd, 2003). The Yanomami were also able to utilize global media to promote their struggle through contacts with international organizations and environmental groups sympathetic to their cause (Todd, 2003). The support of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) give indigenous groups who often lack the funding or the organization an opportunity to fully express their concerns to the global audience (Todd, 2003). Because of the support of NGOs, indigenous peoples of the Amazon Rainforest have been able to further their cause to to the global village. The Yanomami 2012 website reflects pride in a twenty year effort  to maintain their indigenous lifestyle.
Indigenous Cultures Regaining Control
Self-determination and Preservation of Language and Culture
Dyson and Underwood state "the multimedia nature of the Web is proving ideal for cultures which are oral and pictorial rather than written" (2006, p.70) to account for the multitude of aboriginal websites representing the varied interests of aboriginal communities and their own distinctive concerns; the following list of aboriginal websites (p. 69) is far from complete:
- for the maintenance and revitalization of their cultures (including language revitalization)
- to promote native title claims and political activism
- to promote intercultural dialogue with the mainstream community
- for community rebuilding and social welfare
Many Aboriginal communities are exploring ways of preserving the knowledge and culture of their ancestry, elders, and history in a digital format. Some have taken the approach of making their cultural stories easily accessible with the provision of open access to audio files in both English and their original language (Beaton and Fiddler (2002) cited in Dyson & Underwood, 2006, p. 70). In Western Australia, the Wangka Maya Pilbara Language Centre provides access to their history via the Internet:
- "The Wangka Maya collection is a living, growing one based on new recordings, videos, photography, music, and language materials as well as repatriated digitized copies of old recordings, photographs and documents that were taken by anthropologists in the past and are now held in museums, art galleries, libraries and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies" (Injie and Haintz (2004) cited by Dyson & Underwood, 2006, p. 70).
Despite the desire to record their endangered history and languages, some Aboriginal communities balk at exposing their culture to the "overseeing gaze" (Prins, 2002, p. 71) because of their previous, hurtful experience with colonizers. The Plains Apache struggled with this issue when they decided to make a film about their endangered ancestral heritage, a subject normally reserved for the initiated. They finally decided to proceed with the film because they wanted to present their story from their point of view for once but certain details were withheld even so.
The more Indigenous culture is shared, the more is the concern for content theft and dilution. Guileless non-natives, sometimes referred to as 'wannabees' by Indigenous website monitors, will create their own websites with a mish-mash of aboriginal content seemingly plucked at random, reinforcing unfortunate stereotypes and dispensing inauthentic and disrespectful misinformation (Zimmerman, Zimmerman, & Bruguier, 2000). Protecting Indigenous cultural rights from online plundering will be extremely difficult until internet copyright laws are settled and the issue of Indigenous rights to cultural property are determined which is why due consideration must be given before posting any tribal or cultural information to the web (Zimmerman et al., 2000).
Different goals call for different measures of control. Sharing indigenous culture between tribal members (i.e. urban aboriginal students) allows for celebrating, protecting, and developing of the culture. Sharing indigenous information beyond members (i.e., intercultural) creates a different goal, one of being understood, creating dialogues, and sharing strengths so a respectful space can be created for the Indigenous culture (ETEC 521, discussion thread October 14, 2012). Granting website access via password is one way to maintain control and protect website information.
Many projects around the world are determined to maintain Aboriginal languages against the harsh possibility of extinction. One of these projects is the Dena'ina Language Archive. Funded by the United States National Science Foundation and located in the State of Alaska (Holton, Berez, and Williams, 2006), the archive "brings together a wide range of audio recordings, texts, grammars, word lists and field notes, most of which were previously in accessible to the Dena'ina community. These have been digitized, stored at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Centre to ensure permanent preservation and then made available via the Dena'ina Qenaga portal" (Dyson & Underwood, 2006, p. 70). Archiving a language is one thing, having a community use it is another.
Aboriginal people have also developed and established websites "to support political activism in their attempts to succeed in self-determination, the regaining of land, and in several cases, the achievement of self-government" (Dyson & Underwood, 2006, p.70). For example, the Inuit people of Nunavut, Canada established a website as a channel of communication for various topics such as government tenders and media events, employment and taxes. The Nunavut website (http://www.gov.nu.ca/english/) is significant in offering a general but clear picture of Nunavut culture and the issues which impact on them historically and presently.
Indigenous Cultures Speaking Out
Many indigenous cultures are taking advantage of globalization and technology in order to promote and share their culture with the rest of the world. A good example of this in Canada is the foundation of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). Established in 1999, APTN is a television station run by First Nations people with a focus on indigenous content and artists. The channel is now available nationwide. One of the mandates of the station is to create cross-cultural bridges with other members of society while still promoting an indigenous identity (Baltruschat, 2004). The establishment of APTN has given indigenous peoples in Canada a voice through modern technology. APTN sees themselves as a a voice for indigenous groups outside of Canada as well. They will often carry programming with an aboriginal focus from places such as Australia and New Zealand as well.
An interesting dichotomy with APTN is that, even though they are presenting an indigenous voice to be heard by the public, much of their operations have to occur in the modern, technological age. Ultimately, the station has to operate in the global economy and is susceptible to the same pressures and forces as mainstream television (Baltruschat, 2004). This creates somewhat of a contradiction as the traditions and cultures that APTN is trying to present to the public are couched in the technology of the modern world.
Technology and Change
Distributed Access to Services and Communities
Information communicative technologies (e.g. Internet) ease communication between different Aboriginal communities and groups. These technologies have also helped in "rebuilding community in cases where colonization practices and forced re-locations have created diaspora, or where people have moved away looking for work" (Dyson & Underwood, 2006, p. 71). For example, following the collapse in 1996 of the Koror-Babeldaob Bridge in the Pacific nation of Palau, the established website for that community area provided an email list where expatriate Palauans were kept up to date and in contact with the community back home (Kitalong and Kitalong, 2000).
Aboriginal communities are frequently marginalized, and as such have poor access to services regarding medicine, youth, employment, and/or disability. Aboriginal organizations have been taking the initiative in attempting to address this disadvantage and are using the Internet as a platform to battle against this issue. For example, the Keewaytinook Okimakanak First Nation in Northern Ontario, Canada, established a telehealth program in 1999, starting with weekly videoconferenced sessions from psychiatry hospital in Winnepeg (OECD, 2001). Following vast local support and extensive local consultation, mental health services were targeted because of the lack of qualified professionals in the area. Since then these services have extended to 14 telehealth centres with a complete range of medical specialists (Dyson & Underwood, 2006). This telehealth program is supported by K-Net, a website maintained by the Government of Canada and its technology network (accessed 2008).
Several online resources in the world support the aspirations and achievements of Aboriginal sportsmen and women according to Dyson & Underwood(2006), for example, Aboriginal Sports Circle in Canada, the Native American Sports Council in the USA , and the National Aboriginal Sports Corporation in Australia . These sites give visitors sports news, access to apply for awards and special programs, testimonies of sporting role models, and other services (e.g. links to coaching material and drills). Generally, all these online sites are under the control of Aboriginal people and are "well funded, kept consistently current, and are well designed" (Dyson & Underwood, 2006, p. 72).
Aboriginal Peoples' Access to Educational Technology in Canada
Aboriginal populations in Canada face a number of ongoing challenges with access to educational technology in relation to their marginalized social positioning in society. The root of the problem however is complex and must be contextualized within its correct historical/political/economic framework. Colonization and neo-colonization have had a number of devastating affects, one being that of poverty. Aboriginal people in Canada continue to bear a disproportionate burden of poverty and economic marginalization as compared to the non-Aboriginal population. It is this burden of poverty and economic marginalization that contribute to the challenges of keeping up with computers and technology - which usually come at a high price. At the same time, Aboriginal populations face other challenges in the area of digital divide. For the middle to upper-class Canadian population, the usage of and access to educational technology has become an essential and integral part of mainstream educational process. Of course, Aboriginal people wish to achieve the same level of education and digital attainment as other non-Aboriginal Canadians, however they face a number of challenges in doing so.
In an effort to counter this disparity, provincial governments have introduced programs aimed at improving access to computers, internet, and technology-based services and educational programs both on and off reserve. With improved access to internet, through programs such as CommunityNet in Saskatchewan, and SuperNet in Alberta, along with federal government sponsored delivery of infrastructure, the access issue is beginning to be addressed (Bale, 2005). As access improves, the door to educational technology solutions opens.
The market for influx of educational technologies and distance education solutions that are culturally-appropriate and responsive is growing in remote and Aboriginal communities. Some examples of distance education programs targeting Aboriginal students in Canada include Saskatchewan-based Masinahikana School and Alberta-based Sunchild Cyberschool. In the United States, a large-scale project that has focused on culturally-responsive learning is the Alaskan Native Knowledge Network. Smaller communities face unique challenges associated with a low and diverse student population, ranging in age, ability level and need. In the past (and still today, in some cases) students would be forced to leave their community to gain access to higher levels of education (most notably leading to the Residential School issues), but with emerging access to e-learning models of course delivery, this need will likely disappear.
The University of British Columbia's Faculty of Education declared 2013 as The Year of Indigenous Education . The aim to to discuss what works in Indigenous education and what does not, in distance programs to early education, graduate studies to literacy programs, all focused on making Indigenous education better. Many different organizations will join the Faculty of Education in this year of dialogue.
Cultural Considerations in the Design of e-learning
Every culture has its own value set and worldview, and Aboriginal populations are no exception. Aboriginal people in Canada have traditional and cultural beliefs that guide their day to day experiences and interactions. Traditional stories, rituals and wisdom greatly influence the worldview of Aboriginal Canadians. The beliefs of all Aboriginal Canadians are different; however several common views about the nature of the worlds and its inhabitants are shared. Some of the common beliefs include:
- everything in the world, both living and non living, is connected
- unseen spiritual powers exist and affect all things
- everything in the world constantly changes in recurring cycles
- humans need to be in harmony with each other and nature
In Aboriginal worldview, humans are not separate from the world, and do not have a special or dominate place in it. Therefore, humans have a responsibility to preserve the world for all its current and future inhabitants. Many Aboriginal creation stories reflect on the relationship of humans and the natural world. In many of these stories, animals cooperate in the creation of the world, and the first human inhabitants.
In Aboriginal worldview, everything in the world changes in recurring cycles. The seasons change several times a year, and animals and plants have yearly cycles of migration and birth. Human life also follows a cycle; we are born, grow up, become old, die, and pass onto the spiritual world. The circle is also an extremely important metaphor in Aboriginal worldview, as it represents many things such as the interconnectedness of all things in the world.
According to the Sacred Teachings of the Midewinwini Spiritual Way, the Ojibwa should practice the Seven Gifts of the Grandfathers. These gifts quoted by James Dumont in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1993) describe the basic values of the Ojibwa people:
- To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom
- To know love is to know peace
- To honor all of creation is to have respect
- Bravery is to face the foe with integrity
- Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave
- Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of creation
- Truth is to know all these things
Aboriginal worldview and culture are greatly valued and respected today. Government officials must consult with Aboriginal leaders when decisions are made regarding resource development and wildlife management. The beliefs and worldviews of Aboriginal Canadians strongly oppose any development that will have adverse impacts on the environment. Countless environmental groups and supporters have worked with and learned a great deal from the worldview of Aboriginal Canadians. The Canadian educational system greatly promotes Aboriginal worldview and culture in both the k-12 system, and the post-secondary system. People of various cultures and worldviews from all over Canada and the rest of the world have learned a great deal from Aboriginal worldview and have incorporated it into their beliefs and cultures.
Incorporating worldview and culture into elearning design
The Australian Flexible Learning Framework has published a checklist(pdf) that can be used in the design of e-learning environments for specific Indigenous cultural groups. They stress that the diversity of Indigenous groups cannot be under-emphasized, and that learning activities and environments be developed in consultation with, and in the context of, local communities. Their checklist is divided into categories for consideration that include:
- cultural protocols
- Indigenous partnerships
- cultural inclusivity
Yet, while Indigenous courses can be designed in keeping with their worldview, graduating students must still be prepared for the rigours of professional life. Indigenous content can be the "hook" to engage students, but it "shouldn't equate to replacing the core curriculum areas that are designed to actually prepare students for their future and for the professions" (Trounson, 2011, para 13) according to Professor Martin Nakata, chairman of the University of New South Wales' Australian Indigenous Education. Nakata maintains that Indigenous students will do well as long as they are generously supported, not just the Indigenous students on the brink of failure as is currently the case. It may be that the "government has set the agenda to increase the number of graduates but I would like to see more emphasis on the resources that help deliver the quality of the graduate," Nakata adds (Trounson, 2011, para 7). As Nakata points out, professions need the unique perspective Indigenous graduates can offer.
The Canadian Council on Learning (2007) has proposed that there needs to be a re-evaluation in the way that learning by Aboriginal people is measured and defined. To this end, several options  have been proposed to explore ways in which to envision and structure learning activities for Aboriginal learners of diverse backgrounds (First Nations, Inuit and Metis).
First Nations have a deep bond with their land and online courses do not represent this connection. To overcome this dislocation, blended courses with face to face interaction could anchor local information to the online portion of the course.
Globalization certainly has had an impact on indigenous cultures around the world. In some cases, it has compromised their traditional lifestyles and cultures. In others, it has afforded them a venue to express their culture or promote their interests to a wider audience with the capability to institute change. Ultimately, it will be difficult for indigenous cultures to exist in a vacuum without being affected by globalization. Indigenous cultures will need to adapt and evolve to incorporate these new influences into their individual realities. Those indigenous groups that will be able to successfully survive globalization's influence will ultimately take ownership of their cultural evolution.
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