The Cocopah (which means “River People”) are fighting to preserve their dying culture against governments that manipulate the tribe’s access to water. These natives farmed and fished for over 500 years in the delta of the lower Colorado River, which lies in Arizona in the US and the states of Baja California and Sonora in Mexico. At one time, this people numbered around 22,000, but now they’ve dwindled to about 1,300. Only 10 native speakers remain. Traditionally, there was no written language.
A tribe of less than 10,000 people from southwestern Ethiopia, the Mursi are known for the lip-plates worn by their women. Lip-plates are a symbol of social adulthood and potential fertility. At 15 or 16 years old, a girl has her lower lip pierced, inserting a wooden plug to hold the cut open until it heals. Over the next several months, the girl will stretch her lip with a series of increasingly larger plugs. The most persistent girls will eventually wear lip-plates of at least 12 centimeters (5 in) in diameter.
Although the Mursi are considered nomads by the Ethiopian government, they’re actually quite settled. Depending on the rainfall, they may move to find a place with water to grow crops like sorghum, beans, and maize. They also need grasslands to feed their cattle—which are not only a food source, but also a currency to trade for grain and to validate social relationships like marriage.
The Tsaatan’s affection for and dependence on their reindeer makes them unique. The reindeer give them milk and cheese as well as transportation across the frigid mountains and taiga (a swampy forest) of their homeland in northern Mongolia.
There are only about 500 Tsaatan left. Disease and problems from inbreeding have caused their reindeer to dwindle, too. So the Tsaatan no longer wear reindeer hides or use animal skins to cover their tepees. They’re nomads, moving every five weeks to find lichen for their beloved animals.
The tribe has an uneasy relationship with tourists. Too many visitors come without an interpreter, litter the environment, and take photos as if the Tsaatan are in a zoo. It’s also important to them that tourists ride horses that won’t hurt the reindeer.
But the Tsaatan’s biggest problem is that their 3,000-year-old culture may not survive past this generation. Without the government assistance that they once relied on, the Tsaatan are struggling. The children turn to computers and other technology to prepare them to live in the modern world. Younger people are leaving the taiga for the cities, and the older Tsaatan are afraid they’ll be left alone.
Imagine the most idyllic culture you can. Patience, tolerance, and honesty are held above all other values. People always help one another, and there’s no money but also no poverty. Lying, stealing, aggression, and arguments are almost unknown. Major crimes simply don’t exist. Everybody is irrepressibly happy. You’re imagining the actual Ladakh culture that existed for centuries before the modern world intruded to destroy it like the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
Of course, life wasn’t really perfect. Set high in the Himalayas in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh is a barren desert in the summer and a frozen moonscape in the winter. With few resources and no modern technology, the Ladakhis established farms, supplemented by herding. Ladakh was almost completely isolated until a road was built in 1962 to connect this area with the rest of India. But modernization didn’t have a major impact on this society until 1975, when tourism slithered in.
Then, like Adam and Eve after eating the fruit, the Ladakhis saw their nakedness (or, in this case, their primitive lifestyle) and became ashamed. They compared themselves to the free-spending tourists and the glamorous people they saw in films and on TV. For the first time, they felt poor and inferior. Their self-sustaining culture and their family structure began to break down as they chased happiness through material wealth.
As they modernize, they’re becoming selfish, competitive, frustrated, and argumentative. They’re becoming intolerant of other religions, dependent on the government, insecure, and alone in a crowded world.
The Huaorani have a long history of using deadly spears and blowguns against everyone else in their Amazon rain forest home in Ecuador. For them, revenge is a lifestyle.
African myths and legends
Africa is the second-largest continent in the world. Among its one billion inhabitants, more than 1,000 languages are spoken, and there is a massive variety of ethnic religions. In most African cultures, history and beliefs have been explained and passed on through oral traditions and storytelling. Many narratives deal with common concepts such as life after death or the birth of the universe, but they also include belief in magic, ancestor spirits, celestial beings, and an assortment of unusual legends that pertain to its animals.
Far from being seen as relics from the past, these stories still form an integral part of many Africans’ daily lives and are a testimony to their principles and beliefs.
We know of the Queen of Sheba from various sources, including the Bible and the Qur’an. Whether she was a queen regent or a queen consort, we do not know. Her full name isn’t ever mentioned, but most scholars believe her kingdom may have been in the region of Ethiopia. The royal family of Ethiopia claims to be direct descendants of the child born to the queen and King Solomon. In their legends, the queen is named Makeda.
According to the Kebra Negast, the story goes that the king invited Makeda to a ceremonial feast where spicy food was deliberately served. Because she was staying the night, the queen asked Solomon to swear he wouldn’t force himself on her. He said he wouldn’t take anything from her if she didn’t take anything from him. Unfortunately, she got thirsty during the night, woke up, and reached for some water that was placed close to her bed. The king appeared, reminding her of her promise, as water was the most esteemed of all earthly possessions. The queen took the water and drank it, so setting the king free of his promise.