National Indigenous Peoples month in October is a Philippine observance that aims to support and raise awareness of indigenous cultural communities. It is hoped that more Filipinos will be aware of the numerous contributions of National Indigenous Peoples Month. Indigenous peoples make up at least 10% of the total population in developing countries such as Southeast Asia. The Philippines alone has over 50 distinct indigenous cultural communities that inhabit the archipelago’s lands. These Indigenous peoples are well known for their rich artistic and cultural heritage, expertise in specific occupations, and mastery of the land that has sustained them for centuries.
Indigenous people are traditional communities that have continuously occupied the land they live on and whose histories predate the arrival of the Spaniards in 1521. The Moro people of Mindanao, the Lumad people, the Kalinga people, Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Igorot, Bikolons, Aetas, and Agta are among these communities. Before becoming fishermen and rice farmers, their forefathers were hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists.
The indigenous cultural communities of the Philippines have a long history of struggle for their rights, ancestral domains, and autonomy. The indigenous people of the Philippines have responded to outside oppression with a variety of movements and responses over the last 100 years. This period culminated in Spanish “civilizing” missions that attempted to destroy or eliminate local cultures through forced conversions, assimilation, and transformation.
The initial reaction was one of defiance. Indigenous peoples fought alongside Filipinos of Spanish descent in the Philippine revolution against Spain. However, following independence from Spain in 1898, the Filipino upper class excluded indigenous people from its definition of “Filipino people.” Instead, they only considered Filipinos of Spanish ancestry and culture. As a result, indigenous peoples are still subjected to oppression and discrimination.
In recent years, some indigenous groups have reawakened the need to reclaim their birth rights and autonomy as distinct peoples within the Philippine nation-state. Indigenous Peoples’ Movements: Past and Present provide a historical overview of these struggles to reestablish indigenous identity and autonomy throughout history.