Sacred Natural Sites and Indigenous Oral Traditions at WCC 5

Terralingua was a co-presenter in Conservation Campus session “Learning from the Guardians of Sacred Natural Sites – Dialogue and Exchange” at the 5th World Conservation Congress organized by the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative . This conservation campus was one of a series of events organized together with Gaia Foundation, United Nations University Traditional Knowledge Initiative and the Sacred Land Film Project.  SNSI is an outcome of the work of IUCN’s Specialist Group on the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas. According to SNSI, “Sacred Natural Sites are being increasingly recognized as a resilient conservation network harboring biological and cultural diversity. Their contribution to biodiversity conservation is significant but… legal protection and related policies are often insufficient.” Therefore, this session aimed to bring policy makers, representatives of international organizations, conservationists, and civil society leaders together with custodians of Sacred Natural Sites, to “evaluate the options for international and national policy and practice in order to better legally recognize, safeguard and conserve Sacred Natural Sites”.

In one segment of this day-long session, devoted to “Custodian voices: Oral history and community film”, Terralingua and SNSI shared lessons learned from a recent collaboration on two participatory community videos focusing on Sacred Natural Sites in Zanzibar, Tanzania. The purpose of this collaboration was to give voice to Sacred Natural Sites custodians and other knowledgeable elders, and to highlight the relevance of preserving oral traditions relevant to the conservation of these sites. One of the two Zanzibar videos was shown at the session.

In their remarks throughout the session, custodians from a number of indigenous communities worldwide stressed the vital importance of their languages and oral traditions for preserving the cultural and spiritual values of Sacred Natural Sites. This highlights the need for more work linking the conservation of these sites with the documentation and revitalization of the related oral traditions. In response to this need, we aim to expand this aspect of our work under the umbrella of our Voices of the Earth project.

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