Sobre os Índios


Time for a quick roundup of responses to Survival’s ‘Most Racist Article of the Year’ award. This year’s worthy recipient was Paraguay’s newspaper La Nacion for an editorial which compared Paraguayan Indians to a ‘dangerous cancer’ and described them as ‘filthy’.

The award triggered a firestorm of commentary at Ultima Hora, Paraguay’s largest daily newspaper website, currently running to six pages of heated discussion (in Spanish, of course).

The Independent’s Pandora noted the occasion

Champagne flows and the awards season continues apace. Yesterday brought the Most Racist Article of the Year presentation. … Step forward (drum roll)… the Paraguayan paper La Nacion! I’d like to thank my parents, my editor…

… the award got an honourable mention at Racism Review, while over at IndyBlogs Jerome Bell cried foul:

Clearly the awards is a bit of a cheeky PR stunt by Survival but what the heck.

Cheeky PR stunts? Us?

Jerome wondered how the arrival of the award certificate would be received at La Nacion:

For their journalistic excellence the editors of La Nacion will be sent a certificate inscribed with a quotation from a Native American author who died in 1939. The inscription reads: “All the years of calling the Indian a savage has never made him one.”

I wish I could be a fly on the wall when the editor of La Nacion opens up that parcel.

Indeed.

And for your viewing pleasure, here’s the certificate that La Nacion will shortly be receiving:

Certificate thumbnail

Our news item is up on Digg and needs a bit of help, so please vote away.

Fonte: Survival

Anúncios

15:00 | El “premio al artículo más racista del año” fue atribuido al diario La Nación, de Paraguay, que comparó a los indígenas de ese país a “un cáncer”, anunció el miércoles en Londres la organización Survival Internacional, que defiende a los pueblos indígenas.

LONDRES, 19 Mar 2008 (AFP)

La organización no gubernamental, que atribuye anualmente este “premio” al artículo “más racista” publicado en la prensa mundial, indicó que el artículo de La Nación describe a los indígenas como “neolíticos”, “sucios” y “que necesitan ser civilizados”.

El “premio” otorgado por esta organización, con sede en Gran Bretaña, coincide con el Día de Naciones Unidas para la Eliminación de la Discriminación Racial, el 21 de marzo.

Survival indicó en un comunicado que el galardonado recibirá un certificado inscrito con una cita de un escritor de la tribu Lacota Sioux, Luther Standing Bear: “Tantos años llamando al indígena salvaje, no lo han convertido en uno”.

TEXTO COMPLETO (PublicadLa toldería de la plaza Uruguaya

En la plaza Uruguaya, bajo la tolerante mirada del gobierno nacional y municipal, se ha instalado una toldería de indígenas que demuestran a los ciudadanos asuncenos cómo se destruye un sitio atractivo y caro, y cómo se vivía en el neolítico.

Según lo dicho la intendenta de Asunción, los indígenas han decidido quedarse donde están, pese a quien pese. Han salido de las catacumbas de la historia, impulsados por las ONG más irresponsables de un país infectado de ONGs irresponsables, para torturar la paciencia de los ciudadanos asuncenos que pagan religiosamente sus impuestos y no quieren vivir como ellos viven, de ninguna manera, aunque haya algunos sacerdotes católicos que consiguen dinero externo precisamente para crear estos focos de absurda presencia, con el cuento de la ayuda.

Una toldería indígena neolítica en el centro de la ciudad es inconcebible y, sin embargo, allí está, como un cáncer expuesto, esparciendo malos olores, destrucción y contaminación ambiental. La ciudad está recibiendo un castigo inmerecido y no tiene por qué financiarlo. Los indígenas tienen que avenirse a vivir como gente, o mandarse a mudar al monte.

Si esto sigue así, y continúa el clima de izquierda que estupidiza a la gente, pronto algún cacique se declarará, con dinero de las ONGs, descendiente directo de Arambaré y se instalará en el Palacio de López, para convertirlo en un chiquero. No es aventurado profetizar eso porque si se apoderan de una plaza que es pública, de todos los asuncenos, que fue trazada y construida y mantenida con el dinero de los asuncenos, pueden hacer cualquier cosa.

Los indígenas tienen que civilizarse, convertirse en paraguayos, terminar con esa estupidez de preservar una cultura retrasada y marchita y vivir como gente pagando sus impuestos, o relegarse a lo profundo del monte a seguir conviviendo con los animales. No hay alternativas y los paraguayos no tenemos por qué pagar impuestos para mantener una civilización caduca, que fue incapaz de mantenerse a sí misma.

No conozco un solo paraguayo que quiera ir a vivir a una toldería, y eso que quedan bastante cerca, ni siquiera para estudiar sus cochinas costumbres. Sí conozco indígenas que quieren vivir en Asunción, educarse y salirse del síndrome de la selva y convertirse en un ser humano con acceso a la civilización.

Creo que es hora de decir basta a todas las estupideces que nos viene de una Europa pletórica, cada día más tilinga, que quiere resucitar a los dinosaurios para ver, y no en el cine, cómo un TRex devora a la gente, y defenderlos porque la gente es su dieta y tiene derecho a devorarla.

Los antropólogos quieren tener a los indígenas cerca para estudiarlos como si fueran bichos -con dinero externo que dedican un poco a la observación y mucho a su enriquecimiento personal-. Es hora de decirle que vayan a desenterrar a los cadáveres de los salvajes vikingos para ver cómo vivían, o a proponerle al rey de Suecia que se instale una tribu de esa gente en la plaza principal de Estocolmo. O a los “sensibles” estadounidenses de izquierda que traigan las tribus sioux, pies negros, pawnees o dakotas a instalarse en el Dupont Circle de Washington, cosa imposible porque los mataron a todos.

¿Por qué tenemos que ser los paraguayos los que debamos sufrir la afrenta de una toldería neolítica en la plaza Uruguaya? Porque somos sudacas y no sabemos defender nuestros derechos y creemos en todas las tonterías imaginables, con tal que vengan encuadernadas en papel europeo o estadounidense.

ODD

o el 13/09/2007)

Comentários AQUI

A group of armed men have walked into an Enawene Nawe fishing camp in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, and threatened the Indians with reprisals unless they leave. When the Indians asked who they were, two said they were policemen. The others identified themselves as landowners from the area.
Lalowalohiene, one of the Enawene Nawe present, said, ‘We heard the sounds of gunshots. They fired lots of shots. I asked, why do you have revolvers? We are not bandits. We Enawene are just fishing on the river for our ritual that’s all.’

As is customary, there were children at the fishing dam, participating in the ritual known as ‘yankwa’ where the Enawene Nawe spend several months in fishing camps trapping and smoking fish before returning to their village.

Kameroseene Enawene Nawe said, ‘How can they show guns to our children? This is very wrong. We are all sad.’

The fishing camp is in an area known as Rio Preto. The Enawene Nawe have been lobbying the Brazilian government to recognize their ownership of this area, which is of huge economic and ritual importance to them because it is rich in fish, nuts and genipapo fruit.

However, a group of landowners, who are progressively invading and logging the area, obtained a court injunction last year preventing the Enawene Nawe from building their fishing camps there. A judge is due to rule on the legality of the injunction.

A group of Enawene Nawe has travelled to the state capital Cuiabá to meet with public prosecutors and the government’s Indian Affairs department, FUNAI, to ask them to take action against the landowners and to uphold their right to fish on the rivers.

Fonte: Survival

BBC Brasil – BBC

 

Tamanho do texto? A A A A

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– A organização não-governamental Survival International lançou nesta quarta-feira uma campanha para proteger tribos isoladas da Amazônia.

De acordo com a ONG, que produziu um filme para a campanha, mais de cem tribos em todo o mundo continuam sem manter contato com a civilização.

“Elas representam os povos mais vulneráveis do mundo, que podem ser exterminados nos próximos 20 anos caso os seus direitos a um território não sejam reconhecidos e defendidos”, afirmou a atriz Julie Christie, estrela do filme Doutor Jivago (1965) e narradora do filme.

A campanha da ONG defende o direito desses índios de viverem isolados e alega que o contato com o “homem branco” trouxe conseqüências negativas a várias tribos.

A organização cita o exemplo dos akuntsu, um povo das florestas de Rondônia. Hoje, há apenas seis sobreviventes dessa tribo.

De acordo com a Survival, quando a Funai tentou entrar em contato com os akuntsu em 1995, descobriu que criadores de gado tinham invadido as terras deles e massacrado quase todos.

Depois da matança, segundo a ONG, os agressores teriam destruído as ocas com tratores para eliminar provas do crime.

“Um dos homens (que sobreviveram ao ataque), Pupak, ainda guarda uma bala de chumbo nas costas e conta que homens armados o perseguiram a cavalo. Eles vivem em um pequeno resto de floresta”, diz o texto da Survival.

Outro exemplo citado pela ONG para justificar a necessidade de isolamento dos índios é o da tribo Awá, um povo de caçadores nômades do leste da Amazônia.

De acordo com a Survival International, hoje os awá estão sob pressão de enormes projetos agroindustriais, criadores de gado e grileiros.

“Estamos sendo encurralados pelos brancos. Eles estão sempre avançando e agora estão quase em cima de nós. Estamos sempre em fuga. Amamos a floresta porque nascemos aqui e sabemos como sobreviver a partir dela. Sem a floresta, vamos sumir, vamos ser extintos”, afirmou um líder indígena dos awá, To”o, à ONG. BBC Brasil – Todos os direitos reservados. É proibido todo tipo de reprodução sem autorização por escrito da BBC.

via Estadão

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.

LARRY ROHTER
IN KYOWA, BRAZIL

AS THE Karitiana Indians remember it, the first researchers to draw their blood came here in the late 1970s, shortly after their Amazon tribe began sustained contact with the outside world. In 1996, another team visited, promising medicine if the Karitiana would give more blood, so they dutifully lined up again.

But those promises were never fulfilled, and since then the world has expanded again for the Karitiana through the arrival of the internet. Now they have been enraged by a simple discovery: their blood and DNA are being sold by a US concern to scientists around the world for $85 a sample.

They want the practice stopped and are demanding compensation for what they describe as the violation of their integrity.

“We were duped, lied to and exploited,” Renato Karitiana, leader of the tribal association, said from the tribe’s reservation in the western Amazon, where 313 Karitiana eke out a living from farming, fishing and hunting.

Antonio Karitiana, the village chief (pictured below) said that health care, sanitation and housing are precarious and transportation deficient. Any money mad from their blood should have been invested “for the benefit of the entire community,” he said.

The Surui people, whose homeland is to the south of the Karitiana, and the Yanomami, who live on the Brazil-Venezuela border, complain of similar experiences.

The indigenous peoples of the Amazon are ideal for certain types of genetic research because they are isolated and close-knit populations, allowing geneticists to construct a more thorough pedigree and to track disease transmission down generations.

But the practice of collecting blood samples has aroused widespread suspicions among Brazilians, who have been zealous about what they call “bio-piracy” ever since rubber seedlings were exported from the Amazon nearly a century ago.

Coriell Cell Repositories, a non-profit entity in New Jersey, stores human genetic material and makes it available for research. It says the samples were obtained legally through a researcher and approved by the National Institutes of Health in the United States.

Joseph Mintzer, executive vice president of the parent organisation, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, said: “We are not trying to profit from or steal from Brazilians. We have an obligation to respect their civilisation, culture and people, which is why we carefully control the distribution of these cell lines.”

Like a similar centre in France that has also obtained blood and DNA samples of the Karitiana and other Amazon tribes, Coriell says it provides specimens only to scientists who agree not to commercialise the results of their research or to transfer the material to third parties.

The core of the debate has to do with the concept of ‘informed consent’. Scientists argue the appropriate protocols were followed, but the Indians say they were deceived.

“This is sort of a balancing act,” said Judith Greenberg, director of genetics and developmental biology at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “We don’t want to do something that makes a whole tribe or people unhappy or angry. On the other hand, the scientific community is using these samples, which were accepted and maintained under perfectly legitimate procedures, for the benefit of mankind.”

But the Indians say that when the first blood samples were drawn, they had little or no understanding of the outside world, let alone the workings of Western medicine and modern capitalist economics.

Francis Black, the first researcher to take samples here, died recently, so it is impossible to obtain his account.

But officials of the National Indian Foundation, the Brazilian government agency that supervises tribal groups, said his presence on the reservation violated procedures specifically designed to protect Indians from outsiders.

in Scotland on Sunday

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