United Nations General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák opened the 2018 UN Forum on Indigenous Rights by stating, “We are all descendants of Mother Earth, so we are all brothers and sisters . . . The United Nations is here for people. And that includes indigenous people. But we cannot yet say that this organization has opened its doors wide enough, and so we need to be more ambitious.”
Mr. Lajčák, of Slovakia, painted a grim picture of the situation facing indigenous people today, pointing out that while they make up only five percent of the world’s population, they comprise fifteen percent of the world’s poorest people.
The indigenous people of Nicaragua are no different. The indigenous populations of Nicaragua live mainly in communities in the autonomies along the Caribbean coast. These groups are primarily Miskitu, Rama, and Mayagna with a few other smaller groups.
The Miskitu are the largest and arguably the most historically influential of Nicaragua's indigenous groups. Most Miskitus today make a living through horticulture and fishing and are involved in the hazardous occupation of scuba diving for shellfish. Miskitu have their own language, which like the population itself has drawn from many separate cultural sources during its evolution.
The Rama population has shrunk considerably and is centered mostly on Rama Cay, which is a small, densely populated island in the Bay of Bluefields. Another very small group of Rama live in communities spread along the coast of the RACCS.
The Mayagna (also referred to as Sumu) is traditionally applied to a number of separate but linguistically related Caribbean coast indigenous groups who refused to be absorbed into the Miskito tribe. The Mayagna people consists of three separate groups, each with a distinct identity: the Twahka, the Panamaka, and the Ulwa, all of whom still speak related dialects of a common Mayagna language and mainly live in villages along the rivers of the RACCN.
One thing that is very apparent and of grave concern to all tribal leaders is the trend of indigenous youth leaving to find jobs. The youth do not return, and the heritage is then lost or diluted.
A goal of our projects is to develop the jobs, training, and path for indigenous youths to stay in the communities to work and raise families. We can help support the creation of and the sustainability of pride in their heritage.