»Events»Founders and Settlers: Unpacking Indigeneity among the Higaunon Lumad in Mindanao
Founders and Settlers: Unpacking Indigeneity among the Higaunon Lumad in Mindanao
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In the Philippines, there is a stark disconnect between the static notion of indigeneity legalised by the state and the emic concepts employed by Indigenous peoples themselves. This talk explores indigeneity as operationalised by the Higaunon of Mindanao, one of the island’s many Lumad or “indigenous” groups. Higaunons conceptualise ‘indigeneity’ as determined by ancestral pedigrees tied strongly to place and geography, and according to the precedence of founding ancestors, whose direct descendants are recognised universally as being “more indigenous” than others. Higaunons must grapple with ‘indigeneity’ as both a modern legal concept with national and global pretensions, and a deeply embedded, pre-existing, highly localised cultural concept that overrides all other considerations. While efforts at Indigenous empowerment and poverty alleviation by the state and NGOs have compelled Higaunons to publicly emphasise ethnic unity, the indigenous/emic notion of indigeneity continues to reassert itself where ancestral precedence is at risk of being superseded by “universal”/etic notions that reinforce Western-influenced romantic stereotypes of “tribal” people. This tension, in turn, profoundly informs how Higaunons manifestpugkahigaunonor “Higaunon-ness” in the context of increasing bureaucratic assimilation, Christian conversion, and other pressures from mainstream Filipino society.