Indigenous religions exist in every climate around the world and exhibit a wide range of differences in their stories, language, customs, and views of the afterlife. Within indigenous communities, religion, social behavior, art, and music are so intertwined that their religion is a significant part of their culture and virtually inseparable from it. These religions originally developed and thrived in isolation from one another and are some of the earliest examples of religious practice and belief. The modern world; however, has taken its toll on these groups and many of their stories, customs, and beliefs have been lost to, or replaced by, those brought in as a result of popular culture and the missionary work of Christians and Muslims.
The survival of indigenous religions has been faced with many challenges. In addition to the rapid spread and Christianity and Islam, a number of other factors affect their survival, including struggles associated with the “maintaining of local indigenous worldviews, languages, and environments” (McKinley, Elizabeth).
The spread of popular culture from increased travel, television, radio, and the internet is a source of threat to the cultural views of indigenous people and their religious practices. Traditional indigenous clothing is being replaced with business suits and baseball caps and traditional styles of building are being replaced with the “international style” of architecture (Molloy, Michael). Science and technology is providing explanations for naturally occurring events that indigenous people have historically related to the will of the gods and indigenous artifacts originally of religious nature are being downplayed simply as indigenous works of art.
For indigenous cultures whose religious stories, traditions, customs, and belief systems were passed down orally, maintaining their native language is essential to the culture’s identity. For those languages which have no written form, when the language dies off, so does the accumulated knowledge and history of the culture. Sadly, indigenous languages around the world are dying off at an alarming rate. It is estimated that nearly half of the languages spoken today are likely to die off within the next century if steps are not taken to preserve those which still exist.
Recently, researchers working on a project geared toward the cataloging of basic word lists of the endangered aboriginal tongues in Australia, “met the sole living speaker of Amurdag, a language in the Northern Territory that has already been declared extinct” (Wilford, John Noble). It is doubtful that the language can be brought back, as the speaker “strained to recall words he had last heard from his late father” (Wilford, John Noble) but researchers were at least able to make a record of it.
In addition to the loss of culture and language for indigenous people, they are also experiencing the loss of their traditional lands and native environment. For indigenous...