Publication Date

1999

Abstract

Indigenous peoples throughout the world have been and continue to be marginalized, persecuted, and oppressed by dominant societies who strip them of their ability to peacefully co-exist with "the other" while maintaining their rights as sovereign, autonomous, sociopolitical communities. For many indigenous societies that have been oppressed through the proliferation of Western imperialist and colonialist activity, the birth of foreign-sponsored community development programs has marked the onset of a more subtle, yet pervasive neo-colonialist period in their histories. Heightened awareness within the international community of the struggle for survival that so many indigenous peoples face today has been coupled with growing concern over and support in favor of measures through which oppressed communities might re-establish their cultural and political independence. As development theory and its practical applications in the field have evolved over time to espouse the integration and incorporation of culturally specific, participatory themes, some indigenous peoples have been able to harness this phenomenon (the community development project) as a tool with which they themselves might ensure their own cultural and political sovereignty. Most often, however, indigenous peoples attempting to restore and empower their communities must do so within the defined parameters of the dominant system under which they have been historically subordinated. This paper builds upon current development theory to present the author's belief that projects initiated, designed, and implemented by indigenous communities exist as the next logical step in the evolution of community development strategies. Further, the author also suggests that any self-directed initiatives undertaken by local indigenous groups inherently promote and contribute to their empowerment, and that this empowerment, in and of itself, is representative of the community development process. The practical applications of this theoretical backdrop are then examined within the context of the Louden Tribe's ongoing project initiatives in the area of health care. Primary research findings demonstrate the potential ability of indigenous groups to restore various aspects of their own cultural and political sovereignty while remaining within the established frameworks of the dominant cultures by which they are surrounded.

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