Cultura Indígena

MANAUS – A juíza da Vara Cível da Infância e Juventude, Carla Dias, determinou, ontem (16 de Abril), a permanência da criança da etnia ianomâmi, de um ano, no Hospital Infantil Dr. Fajardo, no Centro de Manaus, segundo informação do jornal Diário do Amazonas.

Para evitar que a família da menina indígena tente invadir a unidade, a magistrada pediu o auxílio da Polícia Militar (PM). A criança apresenta um quadro clínico de hidrocefalia, tuberculose, desnutrição e pneumonia, e está internada desde o dia 13 de março.

A decisão da Justiça contraria a vontade da família da menina, que solicitou a remoção dela para a aldeia Kona, em Santa Isabel do Rio Negro (a 631 quilômetros de Manaus). Segundo Termo de Declaração, traduzido pela Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai), “a mãe, Kamila Ianomâmi, requer que sua filha seja imediatamente liberada do hospital, por quer voltar à aldeia, onde pretende que aconteça seu falecimento.

De acordo com a diretora do Hospital Dr. Fajardo, Glória Chíxaro, o estado da criança é estável e ela não corre risco de morte, se permanecer na unidade. Na sentença, a juíza Carla Dias ressaltou que o hospital deverá informar à Justiça quando a menina se recuperar. “Nós decidiremos se ela volta ou não para a aldeia”.

Fonte: Diário do Amazonas – RC

Cidade da Guatemala, 22 Fev  – As 22 línguas maias, o xinca e o garifuna que se falam na Guatemala estão em risco de desaparecer devido à influência do castelhano e à falta de apoio do Estado, alertaram quinta-feira especialistas.
Segundo um responsável do Programa da Educação da UNESCO, Bienvenido Argueta, 50 por cento das línguas faladas na Guatemala correm o risco de serem extintas num futuro não muito longínquo.
A maioria dos projectos bilingues na Guatemala são financiados pela cooperação internacional, pois falta apoio institucional, sendo necessário que o ensino das línguas maternas seja incorporado no sistema educativo, defendeu Argueta, num seminário organizado a propósito do Dia Internacional da Língua Materna, que hoje se comemorou. Sem apresentar números absolutos, o especialista apontou que apenas 23 por cento dos professores do país são indígenas. Na Guatemala, onde 39 por cento da população é de origem indígena, apenas o espanhol (castelhano) é considerado língua oficial.

Fonte: RTP

Vão até o dia 29 de fevereiro as incrições para o Prêmio Culturas Indígenas 2007. Serão premiadas, com R$ 24 mil, 100 iniciativas de comunidades indígenas que realizem ações e trabalhos de fortalecimento cultural. Podem ser inscritas iniciativas de caráter comunitário e que trabalhem na valorização da cultura indígena, em áreas como música, línguas, história, religião, entre outras. Edital e outras informações:

—By Andy Isaacson
Utne Reader September / October 2007 Issue


At an intertribal gathering of shamans held last spring deep in Amazonia’s northern fringe, a stout elder from Brazil’s Waura tribe offered an impassioned plea. “Please,” he urged fellow healers from Colombia and Suriname, “don’t let the medicine die.”


His appeal did not fall on deaf ears. In Kwamalasamutu, Suriname, where the shamans convened, an innovative model is leading the effort to preserve centuries of indigenous medicine by integrating traditional and Western practices into a thriving community health care system.


The cooperative nature of the effort is evident across the soccer field from where the shamans gathered. In a concrete building, a former missionary organization provides free primary health care, while next door, in a thatched-roof clinic, shamans wield medicines brewed from leaves, vines, and tree barks.


Five mornings a week, villagers trickle into the traditional clinic seeking remedies for a range of common complaints, from yeast infections to diarrhea. The shamans might look at the tendons of patients’ fingers or peer into their eyes before turning to the bottled elixirs they keep in a solar-powered freezer. Or the shamans might refer them to their neighbors for treatment.


So far, three other rural villages in southern Suriname have built similar clinics, replicating a cost-effective model for indigenous health care that’s been hailed by UNESCO and the World Bank and was one of 10 finalists this year for the prestigious Seed Award for innovation in local sustainable development.


The project was conceived by the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), a Virginia-based organization that partners with tribes in Suriname, Colombia, and Brazil to preserve traditional rainforest culture as a means of saving the rainforest itself. In ACT’s view, those fates are intrinsically linked: If the value indigenous cultures place on their ancestral land, culture, and resources erodes, so too might their will to steward the forest.


When ACT’s founder, Mark Plotkin, first visited Kwamalasamutu in the early 1980s, shamanism was in remission. Missionary trailblazers had collectivized several dispersed tribes into one village, under God. Gym shorts replaced breechcloths. American evangelicals’ pills displaced faith in traditional medicine, and many shamans publicly renounced their practices.


Plotkin, then a Harvard researcher studying indigenous healing, spoke with the shamans and explained to the tribes that many of the white man’s medicines were derived from plants within their own forest. (The World Health Organization, or WHO, estimates that one-quarter of modern medicines are made from plants that were first used traditionally.) In 1988, after several visits, Plotkin presented a 300-page manuscript to the villagers’ chief that inscribed, for the first time, generations of medicinal knowledge. Holding the only book to have been written in the Trio language other than a translated Bible, the chief pledged to pass its contents on to future generations.


To institutionalize that effort, Plotkin helped the village create a shamans and apprentices program with stipends from ACT. Today, a hierarchy of senior and junior shamans oversees a handful of younger apprentices who shadow elder healers in the clinic and on trips into the forest to collect plants. Twice a week, schoolchildren gather next door to the clinic for lessons on plants and handicrafts.


The revival of traditional healing practices comes as cutbacks in government subsidies and spiraling costs have limited the reach of primary health care in Suriname’s rural interior. Operating symbiotically, the two clinics have helped to fill the gap. Joint workshops inform the Western-trained caregivers about indigenous concepts of illnesses, and shamans learn about preventive health practices. They often refer patients to each other. For instance, villagers who show up at the Western clinic suffering from the parasitic disease leishmaniasis will be sent next door to the shamans for an ointment that’s more effective than any modern tincture.


“It’s not some mash-up where you’ve got shamans handing out antibiotics,” says Plotkin. “It gives [locals] a lot more free choice than I have with my health plan and has demonstrably reduced the expense for outside medicine by 20 to 50 percent.”


The clinics’ practices are also helping in a larger effort, pushed by the WHO, to develop stronger evidence of traditional medicine’s quality, safety, and efficacy. The clinics in Suriname have begun keeping records, and pharmacists there have introduced shamans to standardized measurement methods for collecting, preparing, and storing their medicines–efforts that will shed light on their efficacy and facilitate the production of medicines. They’re now experimenting with more user-friendly (and potentially marketable) forms, such as a dry tea bag.


Ultimately, though, the broader intention of the program, explains Plotkin, is for tribes to find their own answers to some pressing questions: “How do we interface with Western science? What are we willing to share? . . . And how do we take an approach that benefits our culture, our forests, and, in the end, everybody?”

by Jose Murilo Junior

The Ashaninkas are the largest indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon and differently from the majority of the South American original dwellers, their cultural identity is greatly preserved. Apart from being among the native nations of the continent connected with the traditional use of Ayahuasca, the Ashaninkas are specially known for their use of beautiful cotton robes, or cushmas, which are woven by the Ashaninka women for the men of their tribe. Cushmas are an Ashaninka’s most prized possession and there is a very long tradition of giving and exchanging cushmas and cloth with nyomparis (or trading partners) which linked distant Ashaninka villages into cycles of meetings, collaboration and resource sharing.

Accounts from the beginning of the last century tells about some Ashaninka groups that escaped from the Peruvian “caucheiros” [rubber tappers], and today a few hundred of them live on the Brazilian side of the border. There are stories about the braveness of the skilled warriors who expulsed the wild Amahuakas from the area around the Amonia River in the Upper Juruá. These few groups achieved the ownership of their land in the 90s, after many decades of struggle against the successive waves of colonization, and nowadays they strive to engage in activities that can help them to communicate with the world, and better defend their land and their culture from their current enemies.

It’s been a month since the blog of the Ashaninka Society of the Rio Amônia (Apiwtxa), has been decrying that workers from the Peruvian company Venao Forestal had illegally crossed into Brazil, and were now logging mahogany and cedar there. On a recent expedition to supervise the border, the Brazilian Ashaninkas were received with death threats from a task leader of the Peruvian company, which raised some worries about the possibility of violent clashes in the region. The power of the Internet and the blogs for outreach and networking have recently been discovered by some of the young leaders of these communities, and this fact is surely making a difference in the present struggles faced by their people.

“I have a friend who I see as a kind of Guardian, a Guardian of the border. He lives at the Upper Juruá, in the Apiwtxa community, and he is from the Ashaninka people. His name is Benki Piyãko. Some days ago I received an email from him reporting about a case not detailed, but which has troubled him. To those who are not following the recent events at the Brazilian-Peruvian border, Peruvian logging companies continue to invade our forests. An encirclement is advancing. Benki’s indigenous territory and its people have been victimized for years, and the sad new is that the invasion has reached the Upper Juruá Reserve on its West and South borders (see post “Encirclement on the Border). Well, there was an Ibama’s [Ministry of Environment] action along with the Army on the border, and some persons were imprisoned. All the dirty work from the Peruvian companies involves suspect alliances (on which terms?) with indigenous people living on the region. There are things like logging companies backing handling plans of indigenous communities, who will in the end sell them the wood. One of the Army’s tenants told Benki that a resident from the reserve who had guided that expedition was receiving death threats from “Peruvian Indians”, who might have been looking for him at his house. The case has not unfolded into a more serious situation, but it has alerted the Guardian. “As a leader of the Apiwtxa community, I see it as a dirty strategy of the company Venao to manipulate our indigenous relatives to generate conflict with our Brazilian country, threatening persons and communities”.

Guardião – A Flora

What makes this case notable, however, is that Venao Forestal has been FSC certified by SmartWood, which awarded the certificate in April 2007 after an evaluation in September-October 2006. According to OlyEcology, “Forestal Venao is infamous in Ucayali, Peru for their indifference to laws, indigenous people, and the rainforest environment. They have built an illegal, non-state sanctioned logging road from the banks of the Ucayali to the Juruá basin on the Brazilian border. This is no small skid trail, but a network of roads whose main trunk extends over 120 kilometers”.

The blog from the Ashaninka Society of the Rio Amônia (Apiwtxa) has been the instrument for announcing that the group would “take immediate action to stop the advance of this exploitation”, and the intention to “appeal to international courts to protect Brazilian sovereignty, their territory, the preservation area, and the still existent biodiversity of the region.” It is important to follow what will be done in a certification system which certifies a company deserving the blacklist.

“From our side, we demand to be consulted this time, which is something that did not happen before the SmartWood / Rainforest Alliance certified Forestal Venao in April of this year. We hope that as long as we obtain the confirmation of its illegal activities on Brazilian territory, as well as in Peru, the certification will be immediately canceled, according to a commitment by the Alliance.”

Forestal Venao investigada no Peru e no Brasil – Apiwtxa

The Ashaninka are so intimate with the forest that they see their own clothing as akin to the plants covering of the earth. The young Ashaninka leader Benki Piyãko actively uses the latest Internet tools to reach out to the world, giving a global voice to the forest and the wisdom of his people, as the following eloquent message testifies.

15th-Century Getaway A hand-colored 1911 photograph of Machu Picchu, the wintertime retreat of the Inca ruler Pachacuti Yupanqui. More Photos >

Published: June 24, 2007 in The New York Times

The stones at Machu Picchu seem almost alive. They may be alive, if you credit the religious beliefs of the ruler Pachacuti Yupanqui, whose subjects in the early 15th century constructed the granite Inca complex, high above a curling river and nestled among jagged green peaks. To honor the spirits that take form as mountains, the Inca stoneworkers carved rock outcrops to replicate their shapes. Doorways and windows of sublimely precise masonry frame exquisite views. But this extraordinary marriage of setting and architecture only partly explains the fame of Machu Picchu today. Just as important is the romantic history, both of the people who built it in this remote place and of the explorer who brought it to the attention of the world. The Inca succumbed to Spanish conquest in the 16th century; and the explorer Hiram Bingham III, whose long life lasted almost as many years as the Inca empire, died in 1956. Like the stones of Machu Picchu, however, the voices of the Inca ruler and the American explorer continue to resonate.

Imposingly tall and strong-minded, Bingham was the grandson of a famous missionary who took Christianity to the Hawaiian islanders. In his efforts to locate lost places of legend, the younger Bingham proved to be as resourceful. Bolstered by the fortune of his wife, who was a Tiffany heiress, and a faculty position at Yale University, where he taught South American history, Bingham traveled to Peru in 1911 in hopes of finding Vilcabamba, the redoubt in the Andean highlands where the last Inca resistance forces retreated from the Spanish conquerors. Instead he stumbled upon Machu Picchu. With the joint support of Yale and the National Geographic Society, Bingham returned twice to conduct archeological digs in Peru. In 1912, he and his team excavated Machu Picchu and shipped nearly 5,000 artifacts back to Yale. Two years later, he staged a final expedition to explore sites near Machu Picchu in the Sacred Valley.

If you have visited Machu Picchu, you will probably find Bingham’s excavated artifacts at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven to be a bit of a letdown. Mostly, the pieces are bones, in varying stages of decomposition, or pots, many of them in fragments. Unsurpassed as stonemasons, engineers and architects, the Incas thought more prosaically when it came to ceramics. Leaving aside unfair comparisons to the jaw-dropping Machu Picchu site itself, the pottery of the Inca, even when intact, lacks the drama and artistry of the ceramics of earlier civilizations of Peru like the Moche and Nazca. Everyone agrees that the Machu Picchu artifacts at Yale are modest in appearance. That has not prevented, however, a bare-knuckled disagreement from developing over their rightful ownership. Peru says the Bingham objects were sent to Yale on loan and their return is long overdue. Yale demurs.

In many ways, the dispute between Yale and Peru is unlike the headline-making investigations that have impelled the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to repatriate ancient artifacts to their countries of origin. It does not revolve around criminal allegations of surreptitious tomb-raiding and black-market antiquities deals. But if the circumstances are unique, the background sentiments are not. Other countries as well as Peru are demanding the recovery of cultural treasures removed by more powerful nations many years ago. The Greeks want the Parthenon marbles returned to Athens from the British Museum; the Egyptians want the same museum to surrender the Rosetta Stone and, on top of that, seek to spirit away the bust of Nefertiti from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Where might it all end? One clue comes in a sweeping request from China. As a way of combating plunder of the present as well as the past, the Chinese government has asked the United States to ban the import of all Chinese art objects made before 1911. The State Department has been reviewing the Chinese request for more than two years.

The movement for the repatriation of “cultural patrimony” by nations whose ancient past is typically more glorious than their recent history provides the framework for the dispute between Peru and Yale. To the scholars and administrators of Yale, the bones, ceramics and metalwork are best conserved at the university, where ongoing research is gleaning new knowledge of the civilization at Machu Picchu under the Inca. Outside Yale, most everyone I talked to wants the collection to go back to Peru, but many of them are far from disinterested arbiters. In the end, if the case winds up in the United States courts, its disposition may be determined by narrowly legalistic interpretations of specific Peruvian laws and proclamations. Yet the passions that ignite it are part of a broad global phenomenon. “My opinion reflects the opinion of most Peruvians,” Hilda Vidal, a curator at the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru in Lima, told me. “In general, anything that is patrimony of the cultures of the world, whether in museums in Asia or Europe or the United States, came to be there during the times when our governments were weak and the laws were weak, or during the Roman conquest or our conquest by the Spanish. Now that the world is more civilized, these countries should reflect on this issue. It saddens us Peruvians to go to museums abroad and see a Paracas textile. I am hopeful that in the future all the cultural patrimony of the world will return to its country of origin.” Behind her words, I could imagine a gigantic sucking whoosh, as the display cases in the British Museum, the Smithsonian, the Louvre and the other great universal museums of the world were cleansed of their contents, leaving behind the clattering of a few Wedgwood bowls and Sèvres teacups.

Richard Burger’s office at Yale is dowdily decorated with modern Peruvian handicrafts, sculptures and fabrics. Although Burger, a professor of anthropology, has devoted his professional career to Peruvian archaeology, everything he excavates remains in Peru, as required by law. With his wife, Lucy Salazar, a native of Lima whom he met while she was studying archaeology at San Marcos University there, Burger organized an exhibition, “Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas,” which, in 2003 and 2004, toured the United States and displayed many of the objects that Bingham sent back to Yale.

When Burger and Salazar came to Yale in 1981, most of the Inca artifacts were in storage. “We didn’t know if the collection would support an exhibition,” Burger told me. “It was scattered in different rooms of the Peabody. There had been fires and floods. Some of it desperately needed conservation work — it was deteriorating because it wasn’t climate-controlled.” Their notion was to create an exhibition in cooperation with the government of Peru, a prospect that the Peruvian tourist authority greeted with enthusiasm but no financing. Since Yale would provide only seed money, they had to come up with financing — slightly more than $1 million — to conserve the objects and bankroll the exhibition.

Never relinquishing hope that Peru might be a sponsor of the show, they were encouraged by a change of administration. The authoritarian Alberto Fujimori regime fell in a human rights and corruption scandal in 2000; following a brief transitional government, Alejandro Toledo was elected in 2001 as the first ethnically indigenous president of the country. Toledo has an inspiring personal story. Growing up as an impoverished shoeshine boy in a small town, he caught the eye of a Peace Corps volunteer, who arranged to have him study in California at the University of San Francisco. Toledo went on to do graduate work at Stanford University, where he met his future wife: Eliane Karp, a French-born student of anthropology and linguistics who was preparing a Ph.D. dissertation on the Latin American indigenous-culture movement and its relationship to Europe in the early 20th century. A gifted linguist, she speaks the native Andean language of Quechua. (Her husband does not.) At the suggestion of a friend who was advising the Toledo campaign, Burger and Salazar met with Karp-Toledo in her temporary office in August 2001, just after the new administration took power. The meeting went well. “We were very optimistic,” Burger told me. “This is a guy with a degree from Stanford, and his wife speaks Quechua and is interested in anthropology. We thought maybe Yale and Peru could have an educational initiative together.” Karp-Toledo told them she would like to learn more.

“She said, ‘Send me a proposal, not to my office but to my house, and I’ll show it to my husband,’ ” Salazar recalled.

“So we wrote up a proposal that involved an educational mission,” Burger said. “We sent it to them. When we went to Peru the following year, they said, ‘Why don’t we meet in the palace?’ ”

continua AQUI

Rainforests are very rich in natural resources, but they are also very fragile. For this reason, rainforest peoples have become instinctive conservationists. For them, conservation is literally a way of life. If they were to take too much food in one year, the forest would not be able to produce enough new food for them to be able to survive in the next year. Many rainforest tribes gather their food from small garden plots, which are shifted every few years. This method is less productive than western agriculture, but is also much less harmful to the rainforest environment. As they cannot produce food in large quantities, most tribes are forced to limit their numbers so their gardens and the products of hunting expeditions are able to feed them, and all tribes have a great respect for their forest and for the animals and plants they share it with.

The rainforest lifestyle may sound like a kind of paradise, a Garden of Eden for the lucky few who live there. It certainly has its advantages. There is little stress, little mental illness and little high blood pressure among rainforest dwellers. Physical fitness is generally good, and few people need to work for more than four hours a day to provide themselves and their families with adequate food and other necessities. However, life is far from perfect. One in every two children born in the rainforest dies before their second birthday, and if they make it to forty years of age they are considered tribal elders. Most rain forest dwellers who make it through childhood tend to die from a disease trivial to western medicine.

Sacrifice for Survival

Competition for good hunting grounds is fierce, and there is often warfare between neighbouring groups when disputes over territorial rights break out. New-born babies are often killed by their mothers in order to prevent a group from growing too large to be supported by its territory.

This is a major problem, as territories can be very large indeed.. It has been


estimated that a group of eighty-four people needs a minimum territory of 640 square kilometres in order to be fully self-sufficient. Female babies are killed more often than males. There are a number of reasons for this: men are the hunters, so by having more males a group is able to send out more hunters in order to produce more food; men are also warriors, so the more adult males there are in a group, the better protected against enemies it will be; as men are warriors, many of them are killed in battles with neighbouring groups; by limiting the number of women in a group, the group’s ability to reproduce is naturally restricted. Although these measures may seem harsh to us, they are perfectly logical and an essential feature of life in the rain forest. A group which becomes too large will starve, so selective killing of infants ensures the group’s survival.


Endangered Species

This way of life has gone on uninterrupted for centuries, but is now under threat because of the invasion of the rain forest by outsiders – logging companies, mining operations and ranchers looking to make a quick profit by exploiting the natural resources to be found in the rain forests around the world. When you think of endangered species, you tend to think of animals or plants.


It would be fair however to describe rainforest peoples as endangered species. Each tribe is unique, has its own culture, mythology, religious beliefs, art and ritual. There may be a great deal we can learn from them. We know already that there are a vast number of as yet undiscovered plants and animals in the rain forest. Tribal medicine men may hold in their heads the key to curing many of the world’s as yet incurable diseases by using undocumented chemical compounds found in species of rain forest plants.

At the moment, despite the efforts of pressure groups, little concern is being shown either for the welfare of the rain forest or of its inhabitants – animal or vegetable – by the governments in control of the vast, but shrinking, areas of rain forest still in existence.

Even more frustrating is the knowledge that rain forest soil is very poor for growing c rops and turns to virtual desert within five years of losing its protective canopy of trees. Governments know this, yet still allow logging and ranching to continue on a huge scale. It is true that in the short term, huge amounts of money can be made from exploiting the rain forest in this way. But in the longer term, and here I mean no more than ten to fifteen years, there will simply be vast areas of desert where once there was rain forest.

But I digress. Let us turn now to the fortunes of possibly the most famous of all the tribes of the rainforest, the Yanomami Indians of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela. I hope that by looking at this one example in detail it will be possible to examine the problems which face rainforest peoples all over the world.


Protected Species

As Amazonian Indian tribes go, the Yanomami have been lucky. Their traditional homelands were in the mountainous highlands of Brazil and Venezuela, away from the big rivers and relatively inaccessible. For this reason they were spared the ravaging effects of the previously unknown diseases brought by the Spanish conquistadors to South America during the seventeenth century, which wiped out many of the riverine tribes completely. Since then their territories have expanded into the lower valleys, but despite this, until recent times the only contact the Yanomami have had with whites had been through the occasional visits of scientists or missionaries.

In 1985, however, a gold-rush on Yanomami lands in Brazil led to the influx of tens of thousands of miners and prospectors, overwhelming the small populations of local people. So far the Yanomami have been able to maintain their traditional customs, despite outside influences. After world-wide protest at the harsh treatment of the Yanomami, the Brazilian government was forced to grant the Yanomami 94,000 square kilometres of territory, an area larger than Scotland, in 1991. As has been noted above, even small groups need very large areas of territory in order to provide for themselves. The Yanomami know that if their population density increases, they will start to overuse their resources. Villages tend to fragment naturally through political rivalry and discontent as they become larger. This means that the average village population is kept down to between 50 and 70.

Despite having the supposed protection of the Brazilian government, garimpeiros – illegal gold miners – continue to prospect on Yanomami lands. They have brought with them diseases that are either lethal or very difficult to control among the Yanomami. In 1991, a survey showed that half of all Brazil’s Yanomami suffered from malaria, a disease previously unknown to them. Other diseases like tuberculosis and hepatitis are killing large numbers of Indians, and the Brazilian national health service is not providing medicines in sufficient quantity to control the problem. It has also been found that people living downstream from the gold mines have unacceptably high levels of mercury in their bodies.


And in Venezuela

In Venezuela the Yanomami live in a biosphere reserve which is 83,000 square kilometres in area. The biosphere reserve was set up not only to protect the 11,000 or so Yanomami who live there, sharing the territory with the Yekuana tribe, but also to protect the rich rainforests of the region.

For the Venezuelan Yanomami, it would seem that their biggest problem is the army, which has been moved into their lands in order to protect them from the Brazilian garimpeiros (see above). The morale of the officers and men alike is poor, and they take out their frustration on the Yanomami, through abuse, including rape.

Further problems are caused by the frequent “scientific” expeditions into their lands. The Yanomami say that they learn nothing from the expeditions and that they do not believe that some of the visitors are scientists anyway. Eco-tourists are becoming more common intruders on rainforest people’s lands.

They should be reminded that in looking for that “unique jungle experience” they may bring with them diseases new to the tribes they encounter while having their “experience”. It should be remembered that medical care for the Yanomami seems to be as inadequate in Venezuela as it is in Brazil.

Left: The unique jungle experience.


Rainforest Peoples – The Future

In the case of the Yanomami, there is at least some cause for optimism. They now live on reserves approved by governments and seem to be maintaining their traditions. Clearly there is a need for better health care and for more sympathetic policing of their lands by the military. They are perhaps the most famous of all rain forest tribes, and are therefore protected to some extent by public opinion. There would be world-wide outcry if Yanomami lands were threatened by development or mining again.

But how many other tribes are struggling for survival in the rainforests of the world? How many people have heard of the Kayapo, the Yekuana, the Iban, the Mehinacu or the Xikru? How much popular support could be rallied in their defence?

Clearly, rain forest tribes throughout the world are in need of protection. This protection should be granted as soon as possible by the governments of their nation states, but is bound to take time. Most rain forest tribes live in poor countries. The forests are rich in natural resources and can make huge sums of money for a few years, thus making the countries involved richer. But after those few years all that remains is desert. Most former rain forest which has been exploited for other purposes will either take many years to recover, or will never recover at all. The only way to stop the destruction of the rain forests, of the animals and plants, and of the tribes which live in them is through greater public awareness of the problems we are creating for ourselves. By this I mean a world-wide realization of the importance of the rain forest and its inhabitants, and of the need for proper protection against its permanent destruction. The possibility of imposing trade sanctions upon countries which continue to destroy their rain forests is at time of writing a subject of debate at a meeting of worldwide conservation groups. Perhaps this is a hopeful sign for the future of the rain forest…


Useful Reading

1. The Law of the Mother
Elizabeth Kemf (Ed), Sierra Club Books (1993).
– Details of the problems facing tribal peoples all over the world, including the Yanomami.

2. The Last Rainforests
Dr Mark Collins (Ed), Guild Publishing (1990).
– This is a general reference book about rain forests, which also has some information on tribes living in them.

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