Film makers add new dimension on Day of World's Indigenous People

Aug 6, 2010

New York – The year after cinema blockbuster Avatar put the clash between minerals exploration and environmentally conscious lifestyle into three dimensions, the work of film makers from indigenous communities around the world will be highlighted on Monday to mark International Day of the World's Indigenous People.

Four indigenous-made films – by award-winning directors from North and South America, and northern Europe – will show the struggles, traditions and environmental practices of indigenous communities as seen through the eyes and actions of community members themselves. Three of the four films are available online, and will be screened at United Nations headquarters in New York on Monday.

One of the films, ‘Sukumi - On The Ice’, by Director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, tells the story of an Inuit hunter who drives his dog team out on the frozen Arctic in search of seals, but instead becomes a witness to murder. MacLean’s film won the Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Another of the films, ‘Curte-Nillas’, from Sweden, is a short animation on a Sámi superhero’s efforts to protect and defend the rights of the Sami people in a struggle with authorities. ‘Marangmotxingo Mïrang/From The Ikpeng Children To The World’, from Brazil, and ‘Taino Indians Counted Out Of Existence’, from Puerto Rico, explore cultural heritage and revive hidden histories.

This year’s International Day of the World's Indigenous People, on 9 August, aims to spread knowledge on the ways of life of some of the world’s 370 million indigenous people, highlighting the more environmentally conscious lifestyles that are common to many of the groups.

The International Day comes ahead of a ceremony next month in New York where 14 representatives of indigenous communities in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean will receive awards for their efforts to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable livelihoods in equatorial regions.

The representatives, receiving the 2010 Equator Prize, are from among 25 groups announced earlier this month as prizewinners by the UN-led Equator Initiative for their impact; creative partnerships; community empowerment; social inclusion and gender equality. Each group receives a US$5,000 award, while a further five will receive “special recognition” and a total award of US$20,000.

Curte-Nillas:(short) movie, directed by Mr. Per-Josef Idivuoma (Sámi)

“We have much to learn from indigenous people in our efforts to protect the planet’s diverse ecosystems and species on which we all depend,” said Veerle Vandeweerd, Director of UNDP’s Environment and Energy Group. “The indigenous Equator Prize winning projects show the importance of traditional knowledge and how human well-being and development are tightly bound together with the health of our environments.”

Among the prize-winning indigenous projects were an agro-forestry resource centre in Cameroon, a medicinal plant enterprise in Kenya, a marine conservation effort in Yemen, a land-rights protection council in Bolivia and an ecotourism network in Mexico. Other indigenous projects were from Benin, Cambodia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda.

“To be recognized at the world level provides an opportunity to amplify our work,” said Cecilio Solís Librado, president of the Mexican Indigenous Tourism Network, which won a prize for its role in supporting indigenous small enterprises for environmentally sensitive visits across Mexico. “We have the opportunity to send a message to other institutions and to share our culture and territory, our way of life and thinking.”

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People was created by the UN General Assembly in 1994, and is being celebrated every year during a period of two decades ending in 2015.

Speaking in advance of 9 August in a message about the four film makers, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said: “Their work…captures both the daily life and the spirit of indigenous communities. As we celebrate these contributions, I call on Governments and civil society to fulfill their commitment to advancing the status of indigenous peoples everywhere.”

For more information, please visit:

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

UNDP and Indigenous Peoples

Equator Initiative

Contact Information

For media enquiries, please contact:

Sebastian Naidoo
Tel: +1 212 906 6202

Charles Dickson
Tel: +1 212 906 6041

Joseph Corcoran
Tel: +1 212 457 1077

Flim Clips

  1. Marangmotxingo Mïrang/From the Ikpeng Children to the World Directed by Kumaré Txicão (Ikpeng), Karané Txicão (Ikpeng), and Natuyu Yuwipo Txicão (Ikpeng) Available online here
  2. Curte-Nillas:(short) movie Directed by Mr. Per-Josef Idivuoma (Sámi) Not available online
  3. Taino Indians counted out of existence Directed by Mr. Alex Zacarias (Taíno) Available online here
  4. Sikumi (On the ice) Directed by Mr. Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Inupiaq)Available online here

UNDP Around the world