Nomads and tribals in a stereotyped world
Was talking with someone about the problems wildlife sanctuaries face with local populations. On one end, there is the need to conserve the wildlife, to ensure that natural life survives in an increasingly crowded world.
On the other hand, what happens to all those people who live in close proximity to nature?
Over the years, in my life as a wanderer, I have lived the life of a nomadic Khampa horsewoman in the Himalaya, been in close touch with other nomads – Gaddi (shepherds), Gujjars (buffaloherds), etc. This has made me sensitive to the “people of the land”. I can’t see a rich, luscious lawn without feeling a sense of well being, even though I don’t own livestock anymore. I can’t see barren land without wondering where the nearest greenery is. It is a part of me.
I see nature in a continuing cycle, but I see humans as a part of it, not just the protectors of something different from them. In a way, perhaps, I see cities as the anthills of humans.
We are different, yes. We are perhaps the only animal on earth to own the very land they live on. Not just territorial within our species, but with other species as well – We kill pests in our home, we don’t want pigeons or stray dogs inside, etc.
On the other hand, in my life as a nomad, my horses were family, and there was a deep sense of nurturance for all life no matter who owned it or if it was wild.
Today, as we “protect” our natural life, we isolate it and frame it and put it on display as something “other”. Sanctuaries showcase “wildlife” and restrict tribals from using natural resources in it.
Some of it is essential – poaching, hunting endanger animals and need to be protected from. Yet, how does a nomadic shepherd deal with not being able to wander grasslands at will? Already, Himalayan shepherds face problems in the winter months with reduced grazing in low altitudes with increase in population and development. If they are also restricted in their summer months, soon we are going to lose an entire part of our living history, because of our inability to understand that not all lives can be slotted and allotted only specific amounts of land.