Living the Indigenous Life

If you were given the opportunity to go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Most people would say Tokyo or Paris, but no one would list the places that I would like to visit. Which is understandable since they are either in the coldest regions, the hottest regions, or a place that is almost always forgotten about. But despite it all, I still want to visit because of the cuisine, the historical sights, the ceremonies, the adventure, but most importantly the people. Even though their environments are not what I am accustomed to, their culture makes up for it.

The first group of indigenous people that I would like to visit are the Yupik people that live in Alaska. I first heard about the Yupik people when I was in the fifth grade. My teacher was able to teacher their kids in one of the local schools. Everyday he would spend an hour a day to talk about his experience and how he had a special bond with the people. He told us that a lot of people that were not familiar with the Yupik people thought that they lived in igloos since they were considered to be eskimos. Another thing that people said about the Yupik people was that they just sit and fish out of a hole all day. But that is not the case. These are examples of, “single stories,” that many indigenous groups face today. My teacher told us that the Yupik people were not eskimos that lived in igloos and did nothing but fish. They were a great group of people that had a rich culture.

The second group of indigenous people are the Papuans from Papua New Guinea. I’ve first found interest in this group when I was doing a research project about the different forms of tattoos in Oceania. I was surprised when I learned that the Papuan women in the rural villages tattooed their faces as a sign of coming of age. I found this interesting and wanted to learn more about the people from that day on. But just like the Yupik, the Papuans had their share of single stories from people overseas. One of the stereotypes was that the Papuans were cannibals because of the ceremonies that they performed. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I want to learn more about this because cannibalism in Oceania is common. Samoa’s king was once a cannibal, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were, but I want to learn more about it and not make assumptions. Also, people believed that the Papuans were head hunters. I don’t know much about these stereotypes, but I would like to learn more about the Papuans and show that their culture is more interesting than just cannibalism and head hunting.

The last group of indigenous people that I would like to visit are the Samoan people that live in Samoa. I have a lot of background knowledge about these people because I am a Samoan. I was not born in Samoa, but I was raised in the Samoan way which is called, “Fa’asamoa,” in Samoan. I have always wanted to go to Samoa growing up. My parents made a deal with me that if I do well in school and graduate then I would be able to go to Samoa as a graduation gift. Personally, I have dealt with the stereotypes and single stories first hand. Some of those examples are, all Samoans are related, all Samoans are fobs (fresh off the boat), Samoans are only good at sports and Samoans are big. Hearing these things is frustrating, but just like all the different groups that face the same issue, we want to prove them wrong or have them understand.

All three groups are very different in comparison, but that is what makes them so exciting. Learn about a group of people, whether you’re familiar or not, is what makes going to a new place exciting. Hopefully down the road I will be able to visit all three groups and learn more and understand to prove the single stories and stereotypes wrong.

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