We often use “traditional” (such as “traditional farming practices” and “”traditional textiles”) as if everyone agrees on what we’re talking about. Two years ago, I tried to understand if there was some sort of agreed-upon definition of a “traditional Peruvian textile” by surveying a range of textile experts (weavers, merchants, academics, etc.). I asked them to rank in order of importance essential components of a traditional Peruvian textile. Results indicated that many felt the use of Peruvian iconography was the most important while shearing ones own animal was the least important. One respondent refused to answer, saying that all were “equally important” to making some textile “traditional”.

So, no, there is no strict agreement, but there’s some sort of fuzzy definition. Regardless, we along with countless other organizations and people, use the term continually. We’re almost left with no choice.

The Peruvian government is currently going through a similar conundrum, but on a massive scale that may have enormous consequences. In 2011, a law was signed that requires any business or organization to consult with an indigenous community if parts of its territory were going to be affected by the business/organization’s actions. How wonderful, right? Well, easier said than done. They have compiled a list of communities that have made it onto the “indigenous community” list, but the government refuses to release it just yet. You can read more about this here: http://tinyurl.com/ch5r5ps

I pose the question to you – what makes a community indigenous? Where do you draw the line upon communities that aren’t “indigenous” enough, and who decides on the indigenous aspects? ~Cheryl

For previous posts in the Textiles Series, take a look at the links below:

Artistic Expressions in Time

Quechua Colors

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