June 09, 2011

"Barefoot college" for Venezuela Indians

Barefoot college helps Venezuela Indians fight back

By Frank Jack DanielOn a campus that sprawls from grassland into thick jungle, 100 students drawn from many of the country's 44 recognized tribes are trying to fight back at the university, which teaches ancient customs alongside modern law and technology.

"This university is the best hope for saving our cultures," said Najiru, working on a plan for a forest farming thesis on a laptop in a dirt-floor hut.

The goal is to create leaders who can defend land rights and prevent a headlong rush into modernity from destroying thousands of years of knowledge about forest and river life.

Students and teachers are also racing to put into writing the wisdom of elders that is not being handed down orally as in previous generations and may soon vanish.
Comment:  Needless to say, this story crushes the stereotype of today's Amazon Indians as half-naked savages: impaling and torturing people, boiling and eating them, shrinking their heads, etc. The ratio of modern to "primitive" Amazon Indians is probably something like 50 or 100 to one. But movies, TV shows, and comic books inevitably feature barbaric spearchuckers unchanged from their pre-Columbian ancestors.

For more on Amazon Indians, see Amazon Indians Petition Brazilian Government and No Indians in Off the Map.


Anonymous said...

so their pre-Columbian ancestors were barbaric savages?

Anonymous said...

Also, "spearchucker" is racist against black people. At least learn the terminology.

More to the point, what I've seen is a mixture. Amazonian Indians are willing to use modern technology, but they're less likely to wear things like jeans because, hello, they live in one of the hottest, most humid places on Earth. The most sensible clothing in such a place is...not.