JoGuru Lists Down Few Vanishing Cultures and How We Should Shield It

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Of all things lost to the world – animal species, plant species and more – cultures and languages are the ones that leave us much poorer as a species. JoGuru brings you a list of cultures that are vanishing and what we need to do as humans to protect them.

Maasai Woman

Culture is connected with the World of values. All cultures are irreducibly value-oriented

As Henry R Van Til puts it,"‘Culture is connected with the World of values. All cultures are irreducibly value-oriented."

The sheer diversity of the cultures that existed around the world in the past is mind-boggling, yet as we move forward into the future, assimilation and acculturation have led to many of them being lost. Where once there were thousands of languages flourishing in the world, they are now disappearing at the rate of one language every two weeks!

As we move further towards a world where we all speak the same language and even begin developing similar mind-sets, let us take the time to review some of the cultures that are fast becoming history in front of our very eyes.

1.    The Maasai (Kenya and Tanzania):

The Maasai were at one time one of the most feared warrior tribes of Africa. To be born a Maasai was to be inculcated in one of the oldest warrior tribes alive. The distinctive lion-mane head-dresses and red tribal robes were once worn with pride and dignity in the vast African wilderness, yet now only exist as a pale imitation of its former glories. To be a man and warrior of the Maasai, one had to kill a full-grown lion with a short stabbing spear or Assegai. Is it then so surprising that the color red is so ingrained in the racial memory of lions as signifying danger?

Gone are the days when one could see the celebrated “Adumu” or lion dance performed by a full member of the tribe.

2.    Nenets (Russia)

The Nenets are a nomad, pastoral people who herded reindeer across some of the most inhospitable and cold regions of the world. For more than a thousand years, these people have thrived in temperatures that often fall to -50 with the aid of knowledge gleaned from generations of survivors and fighters. The Ural Mountains on the Arctic coast have seen thousands of migrations of these people with their reindeer. Today there are approximately 10,000 of them remaining, with a domestic herd of approximately 300,000 reindeer.

3.    Mursi (Ethiopia)

The Mursi people once populated the Great Rift Valley of southern-Ethiopia. Primarily herders and cultivators, their numbers have drastically dwindled as drought, the onslaught of civilization, roads, railway lines etc. have cut great swathes through their once ancestral land. A once populous people, they now number less than 4000. Their unique form of face-painting and their use of ivory from wart-hogs etc. as ornaments is an art form being lost to today’s expansion of the world into one cohesive whole, while tribes and their ancient cultures are being ruthlessly stamped out.

4.    Ladakhi (India)

Their name has been borrowed by the Indian state of “Ladakh”. Ladakhi literally means “people of the high passes” and they well deserve it. These people live in the extremely high, extremely cold region between the Himalayas and the Karakoram Range in Northern India. Much of their territory falls into the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Their “gonchas” (traditional cloaks) are often made of heavy Chinese silk, and the well-to-do Ladakhi women are decked up with pearls, turquoise etc. Regional troubles have led to these people living a harsh life in an already harsh zone.

5.    Gauchos (Argentina)

These nomadic people were well-known for their equestrian prowess on the rolling grasslands of Argentina. As early as the late 16thcentury, these people were roaming the cast prairies of the South-American continent. Instrumental in the wars of independence and the civil wars as cavalry, their lot became more difficult at the beginning of the 19th century. As cattle ranching grew more popular and fences were raised to keep the herds within a designated area, the land the Gauchos used to roam slowly but surely decreased in size until they were forced to move off the grasslands and seek gainful employment as ranch-hands or groomsmen to the ranchers. Their distinctive leather “chaps” are still worn today to protect horse-riders from thorn and scrub as they go about their farmland duties.

6.    Lopa (Nepal)

These ancient practitioners of Buddhism derive their name from the ancient kingdom of Lo. Although politically in Nepal (the Mustang region), they share much of their cultural and religious history with near-by Tibet. One could go as far as to say that the ancient culture of Tibet is preserved today only in the Mustang region. Their language is a dialect of Tibetan, and they live in the inhospitable lands of the Mustang region, with the mountains and rivers that flow by the only monument to their ancient traditions and culture.

As the race to the future continues, and life is made easier with a common language, common goals and similar mindsets, perhaps it is time we look back at all that was lost. At the regional versatility and diversity of the people who fought against natures fury and other people to ensure their survival and continuity in a world that gives no thought nor pause for their struggles. Imagine being inculcated into today’s stressed-out, hurried lifestyle when one was raised with tenets and beliefs that seem to have no place in the amoral and harsh social climate of today. Look back, before they are forever gone.

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Praveen Kumar
since: 07/2012
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