The U.N. has designated Aug. 9 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. According to Dictionary.com, indigenous means “originating in and characteristic of a particular region or country.” In simple terms, an indigenous person is one whose ancestry is based in the country and region in which they are born.
According to the U.N., there are an estimated 370 million indigenous people living in 90 countries across the world. With that kind of diversity, the experiences of one indigenous group might vary greatly from the experiences of another. There are some common experiences, however, such as maintaining strong connections to tradition and community, and facing the challenges of discrimination and lack of opportunity. How these experiences develop depend on the country, region and even sometimes the gender of an indigenous person.
At Unbound, we focus on the individual to understand their distinct needs and goals. To gain a better understanding of what it’s like growing up as an indigenous person, we interviewed Selica Piloy, a former sponsored member from Guatemala who’s attending college in the United States and just finished a summer internship at Unbound’s international headquarters in Kansas City. Selica, 21, is getting ready to start her sophomore year at Cottey College in southern Missouri, where she’s pursuing a degree in international studies.
Selica is part of the Kaqchikel Mayan community in Guatemala. She’s passionate, bright and articulate in describing her experience as an indigenous woman.