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Report No 15
The MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP is an international research
and information unit registered in Britain as an educational
trust under the Charities Act of 1960. Its principal aims are -
To secure justice for minority or majority groups suffering discrimination, by
investigating their situation and publicising the facts as widely as possible, to
educate and alert public opinion throughout the world.
To help prevent, through publicity about violations of human rights, such problems
from developing into dangerous and destructive conflicts which, when polarised, are
very difficult to resolve; and
To foster, by its research findings, international understanding of the factors
which create prejudiced treatment and group tensions, thus helping to promote
the growth of a world conscience regarding human rights.
The Minority Rights Group urgently needs further funds for its work. Please contribute
what you can. MRG is eligible to receive a covenant if you prefer.
SPONSORS Lady Butler
Erwin D. Canham
Dr Robert Gardiner
Dr Joseph Needham
COUNCI L Rt Hon Jo Grimond, MP Chairman
Professor Sir Robert Birley
George W. Cadbury
Professor Roland Oliver
Rev Michael Scott
Professor Hugh Tinker
Canon M.A.C. Warren
DIRECTOR Ben Whitaker
OFFICE Benjamin Franklin House
36 Craven Street
London WC2N 5NG
The report that follows has been commissioned, and is published, by the Minority Rights Group as a
contribution to public understanding of the problem which forms its subject. It does not necessarily
represent, in every detail and in all its aspects, the collective view of the Group.
For details of the other reports published by the
Minority Rights Group, please see the back cover.
WHAT FUTURE FOR THE
By Hugh O'Shaughnessy
Maps of Amerindians in S. America
Part One: Introduction
Part Two: The Dimensions of the
Part Three: Church, Army & State
Part Four: Future Policy
The Declaration of Barbados
From the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights,
adopted by the General Assembly
of the United Nations
on 10th December 1948:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act
towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in
this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race,
colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion.
national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the
political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or
territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent.
trust, non-self governing or under any other limitation of
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing
by an independent ana impartial tribunal, in the determination
of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
this right includes freedom to hold opinions without inter-
ference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas
through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Hans Namuth/Camera Press
II II .I11 1 1 .... .. .
This map shows the location of the largest 'tribal' groupings within South America (their numbers ranging from about 6,000 to about
50,000). Most of these groups can be sub-divided into smaller divisions so that the names given in the key may not be strictly acceptable
by all the sub-divisions; within the larger groupings, however, there is a certain amount of linguistic, cultural or social affiliation which
enables them to be grouped roughly in this way.
It should be noted that a large amount of territory in the Amazon basin and central Brazil is occupied by Amerindians and does not
contain any of these larger groups. The tribes in those areas usually have very small populations (often no more than 100), are usually
less acculturated than the large groups and are, therefore, much more vulnerable both physically and culturally.
(With acknowledgements to Stephen Corry.)
PART ONE: INTRODUCTION
Accounts of massacres, rumours of slavery, reports of exploitation and the fashionable preoccupation
with ecology have all combined to create a conscience about the Amerindian peoples of South America.
There now seems to be a generalized feeling in Western Europe and elsewhere that something ought to
be done about these peoples.
The purpose of this report is to give a brief summary of the conditions of the various peoples, to
sketch out what policies if any the governments of the various republics in which they live are
adopting towards them, and to suggest ways in which their lot might be improved. The situation of the
Indians in the Altiplano of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and of the Mapuche in Chile and Argentina differs
in character from that of South America's other autochthonous people. I have limited myself to con-
sidering the jungle and plain dwellers of the Amazon basin and adjacent lowlands, excluding the
Guyanas and Argentina in detail, and I have not attempted to cover Central America or the more
advanced Quechua, Aymara and other peoples of the Andean regions.
Given the heated controversies which rage between and among governments and ethnologists about
policy towards these 'primitive' peoples I feel it necessary, before I start, to make my own position
clear. I am a journalist interested in Latin America and after my journeys round South America in
1972 I do not claim to have completed any new scientific field work. I seek here to present only a
broad view of the Indian situation in the area. Faced with the problems arising from the present clash
between the advancing Western civilizations of the South American countries and the primitive cultures
of the Amerindian peoples I reject the view of some of the more nationalist elements in the South
American countries that these primitives must be absorbed and transformed into ordinary citizens of
their respective republics as quickly as possible with little or no regard for the preservation of their
languages and traditions. This policy seems unjustified on moral and cultural grounds and likely to
cause anguish to those on whom it is put into practice.
The indigenous peoples have a knowledge of and relationship with nature from which we ourselves
in modern Western societies could learn. (Conrad Gorinsky, for example, has pointed to the value of
their knowledge of medicinal plants). Their disappearance would be our loss.
At the same time I am also opposed to those who might be called extreme conservationists, anxious
to maintain such tribal peoples in their pristine state like so many flies in amber. I feel it is unrealistic
and indeed unfair to the people concerned to attempt to do this. For good or ill they and we live on
the same planet where communications and contact among peoples are constantly increasing. And
while they should be protected against any frontal assault on their civilization they ought also to be
given the opportunity to benefit from the positive aspects of Latin American civilization be these
in the realms of medicine, agriculture or other fields. I largely subscribe to the Act of Barbados, signed
by a number of distinguished ethnologists after a conference held in 1971 under the auspices of the
World Council of Churches and reproduced as an appendix at the end of this report.
Lastly I would like to emphasize that I see no justice or purpose in people in Europe or other rich
areas working themselves into a state of high moral indignation over the lack of attention with which
some Latin American governments have treated their indigenous peoples. With the exception of the
Venezuelan government these governments are poor and the North Atlantic world and Japan are doing
much to keep them poor. The fact that, for instance, the secretary of the Paraguayan Department of
Indigenous Affairs has no typewriter and has to write her memoranda with a pencil owes something
to the distasteful and unjust order of priorities established by the Stroessner dictatorship. But at the
same time it reflects the general poverty of a country which the present ordering of international
economic relations is doing little to improve.
Harald Schultz/Camera Press
PART TWO: THE DIMENSIONS OF THE PROBLEM
The Amerindians of South America are a tiny minority of the population of that continent who over
the centuries since the coming of the Europeans have suffered massacre, slavery, eviction and
exploitation. Despite this and despite the more alarmist reports coming from the area there is good
reason to think that they will survive and, given a modicum of good treatment, attain a degree of
greater dignity and prosperity.
Since the arrival of the Spaniards and the Portuguese at the beginning of the sixteenth century the
response of the aborigine to European encroachment has primarily been one of helpless passivity.
Slaughtered gratuitously by conquerors, killed off slowly by slave labour, or ravaged by new diseases
imported from Europe, the original inhabitants of both the advanced civilizations such as the Aztec
and Inca empires and the more primitive societies which are the subject of this study saw their
populations fall drastically. Darcy Ribeiro in his book, The Americas and Civilization, (Allen & Unwin,
1971) quotes figures to indicate that the original population of the more advanced civilization fell
from something between 70 million and 88 million at the time of Columbus to around 3/2 million by
the middle of the seventeenth century. It is possible that the less sophisticated cultures, with no great
city to tempt the European to plunder and destruction, suffered a less steep decline in their numbers
during these first 150 years of European occupation and may have been able to survive less unsuccess-
fully in the forests. But even though many aboriginals escaped the direct domination of the European,
only the most isolated and remote groups could escape the measles, influenza, smallpox, malaria and
yellow fever brought from the Old World and against which they had no defence. (Today, the common
cold, and the TB which frequently follows, is probably their worst health hazard).
For instance in Colombia the population of the region of Pamplona fell from more than 30,000 at
the time of the Spanish Conquest to less than 3,000 at the end of the 18th Century. At V61ez, also in
Colombia, the number of indigenes fell from 12,000 at the conquest to 2,000 by 1645.
In Chile the Mapuches, the Araucanian peoples, numbered about 1 million at the time of the
conquest. The Chilean census of 1907 revealed that their numbers had dropped to 101,000.
The Amerindian was not, however, totally defenceless or wholly passive. His main tactic was retreat
into those areas distant from the coast which the European conqueror was uninterested in or incapable
of exploring and which were usually only penetrated by the missionary. From his remote fastnesses
the Amerindian could defend himself with elusiveness and with his weapons. In those areas which the
European was intent on dominating, the aborigine had little defence and in the ninteenth century the
European pressed farther and farther into those areas which has previously been the territory of the
Indian. Much of what is now southern Argentina was conquered by General Rosas from 1830 onwards.
In Chile the Araucanians who had held out against the Spanish empire for 250 years were finally
conquered by the forces of the republic in the second half of the nineteenth Century.
The biggest push into Amazonia, the greatest area of refuge for the Amerindian, came about 1880
when the area became the world's largest producer of rubber which grew increasingly into demand
as the automobile developed. In the three decades that followed, large parts of Brazil, Ecuador, Peru
and Bolivia were invaded by companies and individual entrepreneurs who killed off the natives who
opposed them, took their traditional lands and made many of the survivors work for them in
conditions approaching slavery.
With the rise of rubber plantations in the Far East, the rubber boom collapsed in 1914 and
Brazilian Amazonia has to this day never regained the economic importance that it had in those
years. But at the same time the collapse of the boom gave a breathing space to the Amerindians who
have recovered some of the lands which were once theirs and who have had the economic pressure
taken off them.
Another major intrusion into the redoubts of the Indians came in the 1940's when the Shell oil
company spent millions of pounds prospecting in the Ecuadorean jungle, an operation which was
carried out with little regard for the needs of the native and which resulted in scores, and perhaps
hundreds, of aboriginal deaths and the disruption of their traditional forms of life. Here, as in Brazil
with the rubber boom, economic failure produced a retreat by modern civilization and when the
oil company failed in its attempts to find oil the Europeans disappeared and the old patterns of
life were re-established. (A second successful attempt has been made in recent years to find oil in
the Amazon basin in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru).
The second and less effective means of resistance to the European was armed counter-attack.
The first colonists, bringing with them an efficient administration and armed with horses and firearms,
were able to overcome even the warlike Aztec civilizations. In some places such as southern Chile and
southern Argentina the indigenes' ferocity combined with a lack of European interest in acquiring their
lands to keep the Spaniards at bay. But even among those people who were effectively subjugated by
the Europeans there were armed revolts. In a series of uprisings in the 1770's and 1780's there was an
effort to restore the Inca empire when the mestizo magistrate J6se Gabriel Condorcanqui put himself
forward as the successor to the Inca rulers under the name Tupac Amaru the name of his ancestor,
the last Inca ruler, killed by the Spaniards in 1572. La Paz was at one stage besieged by rebels and the
revolt was only put down with the loss of much Spanish and Inca blood. The significance of this
episode was not only that natives took up arms against their oppressors but also that they did so in
the name of a civilization that had disappeared 240 years before when the Spaniards murdered the last
Inca emperor Atahualpa. It was obvious that many subjects of the king of Spain remained intensely
faithful to the old traditions.
The more primitive and dispersed peoples of the continent who are the subject of this report were
of course unable to mount anything like the revolt which Tupac Amaru did, but his spirit was mirrored
in the untold numbers of skirmishes which took place and still take place between groups of forest
Indians and marauding outsiders.
The phenomenon of unexpected survivals of racial feeling beneath a Hispanic facade has been well
documented elsewhere. In Colombia Victor Daniel Bonilla in conversations with the author reported
the survival of tribal councils among various Andean groups up to the present day, a century and a half
after they had been thought to have died out.
Last year the Comit6 de Defensa del Indio in Bogota published En Defensa de mi Raza by Manuel
Quintin Lame. Lame, who was born in the Cauca valley in 1883 of a fairly rich indigenous family with
a long and noble lineage, devoted much of his life to political action among the indigenous peoples
from the moment in 1910 when he was elected (on his own evidence) 'Chief, Representative and
General Defender of the indigenous councils of Pitayo, Jambalo, Toribio, Purace, Poblazon, Cajibio
and Pandiguando. He died in 1967 and his book, written in self-taught Spanish, is clear indication of
the sense of racial pride still in the indigenous peoples of the Colombian Andes. Lame suffered more
than three years in prison as a result of his agitation but was able to sustain a racial pride that had
survived several centuries of foreign domination.
His labours, combined with those of Bonilla, Reichel-Dolmatoff and others, succeeded in changing
the climate of opinion in Colombia in favour of more humane attitudes towards the Indians, so that
in 1972 for the first time in Colombian history a group of white farmers at Villavicencio were
put on trial for the murder of a number of aborigines. They were acquitted, on the grounds that they
did not know they were doing wrong because they thought Indians were not human. But a retrial has
There is no doubt that this sense of separateness from the European persists very strongly among
many indigenous peoples, however swamped their cultures may be. Darcy Ribeiro, the distinguished
Brazilian ethnologist, in his recent book Os Indios e a CivilizaZio (Rio, 1970) commented on the
results of a study of Brazilian national life and the disappearance of tribal feeling. "Our investigation
ended by proving exactly the contrary with respect to the period under examination, viz. the 20th
century. In fact of all the indigenous groups about whom we obtained reliable information we can say
that they were not assimilated into Brazilian society as an indistinguishable part of it. Against expecta-
tion the majority of them were exterminated and those who survive continue to be indigene: no longer
in their habits and customs but in their self-identification as peoples different from the Brazilian people
and victims of their oppression. Thus the study that we carried out for UNESCO about a supposed
clear-cut case of the assimilation of indigenous populations in Brazil led to the conclusion that the
effects of the impact of civilization on tribal groups brings about an ethnic transformation and not full
The work of Darcy Ribeiro has shown that racial consciousness among the indigenes is not quite the
delicate and easily crushed flower that it might appear to be to the outsider. At the same time his
findings do not give any reason for complacency to those who wish to preserve and protect Indian
Today there remain perhaps 800,000 Indians in the Amazon basin and adjoining lowlands. Any
accurate estimate of numbers is made very difficult by two factors. First, whom does one consider as
aboriginies where these people live in widely differing degree of relationship with Latin civilization,
ranging from almost total isolation, as in the case of some of the forest tribes, to a high degree of absorp-
tion? Secondly, what degree of credence can one put in the often highly defective census results of the
different republics? With these caveats, country-by-country estimates follow.
The Divisi6n de Comunidades Nativas de la Selva of the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture puts the
total of indigenes under its protection at a quarter of a million in 64 different reserves.
The Brazilian indigenes could number up to 177,000. According to Darcy Ribeiro in his Fronteras
ind'genas de la civilizacion the number is somewhere between a minimum of 68,100 and a maximum
of 99,700. Of these a majority are tribes with a Tupf language (10,450 to 14,350), an Arawak language
(11,500 to 16,150) or a Carib language (10,250 to 14,150). But the 1972 Aborigines Protection Society
mission found some 77,000 Indians under the protection of FUNAI, with another possible 100,000
1In Colombia three different sets of figures point to a total of around 150,000. A booklet published
in October 1971 by the Colombian official statistical department (DANE) quotes Gerardo Reichel-
Dolmatoff, a leading Colombian ethonologist, with a figure of 157,791 extracted from the 1951
national census; the Pontifical Missionary Organization with a figure of 150,280 (1971); and the
Summer Institute of Linguistics (the Protestant Missionary Organization) with a figure of 163,000.
(As if to underline the two points made at the beginning of this section DANE reports that the
Colombian National Planning Commission puts the figure at 280,000, the Ministry of Government at
297,000, and the Agrarian Reform Institute at 344,000).
In Paraguay the Department of Indigenous Affairs, an arm of the Ministry of Defence, estimates the
total of tribal indigenes at 58,877 in 6 linguistic families and 198 tribes; but one must also point out
that three-quarters of Paraguay's population of nearly 21/2 million is of predominantly Guarani descent
and that Guarani is the lingua franca over much of the country.
In Bolivia the Summer Institute of Linguistics, under contract to the Ministry of Peasant Affairs, has
estimated the number of indigenes at around 83,000 grouped into tribes ranging down from the
20,000 Chiquitanos to the seven remaining members of the Jora group.
l Venezuela contains some 100,000 indigenes, according to an article in the June 1969 issue of the
Paraguayan Suplemento Antropolo gico by Dr. Angelina Pollak-Eltz: the largest number of whom
(40,000) are Goajiros living in the Maracaibo region, with a further 12,000 in the Orinoco delta.
In Ecuador reliable statistics are particularly difficult to establish but a rough approximation would
be between 25,000 and 50,000.
IIn Guyana there are an estimated 33,000 Amerindians; while in northern Argentina along the border
with Paraguay there are perhaps 50,000 more.
All these statistics exclude the Aymaras and Quechuas of the Andes who total 2,000,000 in Bolivia
alone and who are also the most important ethnic factor in Peru and Ecuador.
The indigenous peoples continue today to defend themselves from the outsider with the same
methods they have used since the arrival of the Spaniards: isolation and armed retaliation when they
see no alternative.
As recently as December 20, 1971, Reuter reported from Rio de Janeiro, "The threat of bloody
fighting between thousands of Indian tribesmen and white settlers and prospectors in western Brazil
(Rondonia) is worrying Indian experts. The experts consider a major clash almost inevitable following
an attack by a 200-strong Indian war party on a jungle outpost of the National Indian Foundation
(FUNAI) near the Brazilian border with Bolivia". The Cintas Largas burned down a FUNAI outpost
on the Roosevelt River killing the three occupants. On December 6, 20 Indians nearby attacked a
FUNAI party. FUNAI blamed the incidents on the actions of tin and diamond prospectors and
squatters and Reuter quoted the Jornal do Brasil as saying there were 10,000 armed prospectors
working in the jungles of northern Brazil.
Similar occurences have taken place sporadically throughout the region in recent years. Two tribes
in particular have gained a name in modern times for ferocity. In the jungles of the Oriente of Ecuador
where the international oil companies have recently discovered vast quantities of oil the Aucas have
done their best to keep strangers at bay. In 1956 they killed five missionaries on the River Curaray,
continuing the tradition of hostility to strangers which the European world saw demonstrated against
the Shell company in 1940. The victims are either speared to death or sometimes buried alive. The
Aucas can also be cannibalistic.
In Venezuela, west of Lake Maracaibo, the Bari or Motilones have only been pacified in very recent
times by Capuchin missionaries. As little as ten years ago the Bari were still fighting a running war with
the land owners round them and a precarious peace is now observed mainly because measures have
been taken to reserve their land to them.
The future of these forms of resistance are however nowadays obviously increasingly limited. As
roads are built more and more extensively throughout the region, often under military management
and for 'strategic' reasons, the Indians' capacity to defend themselves from the foreigner with either
remoteness or bows and arrows decreases. To an increasing extent now their fate is bound up with
the decisions of the central governments of the republics in which, whether they know it or not, they
Darcy Ribeiro's remarks do not mean that the physical survival of the Indian languages and cultures
are out of danger. The 1970 report of the Medical Mission of the International Committee of the Red
Cross on the physical conditions of life-of the Brazilian Indians painted a very gloomy picture indeed.
The official National Indian Foundation had scant resources with which to counter the depredations
of disease, and in the words of the Red Cross "With no, insufficient or misdirected assistance, there
will shortly be no Indian problem to solve".
In an analysis of the fate of Brazilian Indian groups between 1900 and 1957 Darcy Ribeiro found
that, of 230 groups extant at the beginning of the century, only 143 still survived 57 years later; that
of the 105 groups living in isolation in 1900 only 33 survived in isolation in 1957; and that a further
38 of the original 230 groups had been integrated into Brazilian life to the point where they often had
forgotten their language and culture and to the outsiders were all but indistinguishable from other
Brazilians. The situation in the rest of the South America is hardly any better than in Brazil.
In only one republic of South America has an indigenous culture achieved a permanent and apparently
unshakeable cultural position for itself: in Paraguay, where the Guarani presence is strong. Bartolomeu
Melia, a Jesuit ethnologist, reports that Spanish takes a distinctly second place to Guaranf as the
language habitually spoken at home in every area of Paraguay except Asuncion the capital. In that
city only 8.72 per cent of households use pure Guarani against 41.15 per cent who for preference
speak Spanish. But even in Asuncion, which contains 450,000 of Paraguay's 2m. inhabitants,
48.55 per cent of homes are reported to use a mixture of Guarani and Spanish. The indigenous
language has survived in Paraguay for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that outside
Asuncion Spanish colonization was sparse in a country which offered little prospect of easy wealth
from minerals, and that Guarani was fostered by the Jesuits in their reductions (virtually autonomous
theocracies) in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Even after the expulsion of the Jesuits, the breakup of the reductions and Paraguayan independence
from the Spanish empire in the early 19th century, successive dictators seized on Guarani as a means
of fostering the intense, xenophobic nationalism and isolationism that several of them imposed. In
the past century and a half of Paraguay's often extremely bellicose and aggressive history including
the war with Bolivia in 1932 Guarani has had its uses in encouraging patriotism. In the war with
Bolivia it was useful for military radio communication: Paraguayan army messages in Guaranf, for
instance, usually remained secure even when intercepted by the Bolivian enemy.
But though Guarani has in Paraguay a position attained by no other indigenous language in South
America it has not got parity of esteem with Spanish. Meli5 in an article in the September 1971 issue
of his magazine Accion comments, "The use of Spanish and of Guarani is ruled in Paraguay by social
and regional factors because each is fundamentally divided into two semantic fields which are difficult
to combine. But let us be more exact: the Spanish of the middle- and upper-class covers almost every
field of expression, technical, administrative or colloquial ... on the other hand Guarani cannot enter
certain semantic fields, those of science and technology". It is even the case that the person who says
he is and believes himself to be bilingual will never touch certain topics in the indigenous language;
simply because he cannot, because social custom does not allow him to. Other indigenous languages
other than Guaranf in Paraguay have disappeared as they have in Brazil and elsewhere. Though Guarani
does suffer severe disabilities in Paraguay it has at least achieved a place in Paraguayan life unequalled
by any indigenous language in any other South American country. It is clear everything should be done
to encourage the Paraguayan Government to consolidate and strengthen this unique position of a
native culture in which Paraguay with justification does take a good deal of pride.
In this brief diagnosis of the position of the indigene up to the present day, it must be
stressed that there is an urgent need for action throughout South America to provide adequate medical,
sanitary and hygenic facilities in order to ensure the survival of communities especially the smaller
communities who are in danger of being wiped out by disease, and in particular by imported and
Perhaps more important is the fact that urgent steps must also be taken to ensure the cultural
survival of indigenous communities. In the first instance this means the conversion of most of the
individual governments to the realization that their indigenous communities are a unique enrichment
of their nationhood, something they should be proud of rather than viewing them as a mere drain on
their exchequers or a barrier in the way of the physical development of their outlying territories. From
this realization should then flow a determination to ensure the inviolability of indigenous lands, if not
in their original broad extension at least in sufficient areas to enable communities to maintain their
traditional modes of life. In conjunction with this, governments must make an effort to secure the
indigenes from economic depredation from neighboring European landowners, extractive industries
and trading interests, and also do their best to ensure that indigenes can maintain and protect them-
selves economically whenever they come into contact with the modern money economies.
PART THREE: CHURCH, ARMY & STATE
The survival of indigenous cultures has in recent years been helped markedly by the swiftly changing
attitudes of the Roman Catholic Church. The effect of the Church's mission work in the past has in
general been to aid in the obliteration of the Indian cultures, as until very recently virtually every
missionary conceived of his or her job as converting the indigene to Westernized life-styles. Exception
must be made to such great figures as Fray Bartolomo de las Casas and Fray Antonio de Montesinos,
who interceded with the Spanish king and the conquistadores against the slavery and slaughter being
carried out against the indigenes who, they pointed out, far from being subhuman, were people of
'excellent, most subtle and natural intelligence'. The indigenous peoples of Paraguay and northern
Argentina also owe much to the Jesuits who codified a form of the Guarani language and until their
expulsion in 1767 maintained autonomous societies in 'reductions' which, whatever their failings, did
at least ensure their inhabitants against massacre and land theft.
The two early Dominicans and the Jesuits of the reductions were exceptional people, but the
majority of their colleagues lacked their breadth of vision and humanity. Victor Daniel Bonilla, the
Colombian ethnologist, has compiled an account of the activities of the Catalan Capuchin mission at
Sibundoy near the frontier with Ecuador which illustrates that until recently the fathers in that mission
were battening on the indigene, enriching their organization with virtual forced labour by Indians on
land seized from the latter. He was able to illustrate his work Siervos de Dios y Amos de Indios (1969,
Bogota, published by the author), with a picture of a friar being carried along in 1965 on the back of
an Indian in a chair fixed by a band to the Indian's forehead, and another of 1940 of an Indian held
in the stocks. Much of the missionary effort of the Catholic church has unfortunately been closer to
that of the Sibundoy Capuchins than to that of Montesinos or las Casas.
Now however following the Second Vatican Council and the disappearance of much triumphalism
in the Church together with many of the presumptions of the superiority of North Atlantic and Latin
cultures the old religious patterns are changing. In Brazil and Paraguay, for instance, the Church is
at present the only effective opposition to the tyrannical regimes and this is becoming the case in
Bolivia. Slowly but steadily Church leaders in these and other Latin American countries are assuming
more modern and more compassionate ideas which include a humbler attitude towards the indigenes.
Gustavo Perez Ramirez, a radical Colombian priest who has been active on the Indians' behalf quotes
in his book Planas, las Contradicciones del Capitalismo (Bogota, 1971, Ediciones Tercer Mundo) quotes
a colleague of the Divine Word Missionary Society, "A missionary whose mind is obsessed by the
'falseness' of 'pagan' culture, 'immorality', 'darkness', 'depravity' and 'blindness', who sees nothing
among his people but 'spiritual poverty', 'sin' and 'the dark night of paganism' should examine the eyes
of his own faith".
Writing in the November 1970 number of the Asunci6n Catholic monthly Acci6n, Bartolomeu Melia,
who is the advisor to the Archbishop of Asuncion on Indian matters, wrote: "The 'civilized man' was
able to create problems for the Indians but he probably will not be able to find solutions ... The
problem of the indigenes has become difficult because we find it inconceivable to leave the Indians
alone: to leave them alone on their lands, to leave them alone with their social and political customs,
to leave them alone to decide for themselves what cultural traits should be preserved and which changed,
to leave them alone so they can go on being different.
"This does not mean passivity in the face of the problem of the indigenes but firm action to protect
the Indians from ourselves, from the ranch owners, from the store keepers and perhaps from the
The tone of Perez Ramirez and of Melia and they are not alone is much changed from that of
the early friars whose early Christianity went hand in hand with the Spanish Inquisition. It offers some
hope for the future as far as the preservation of indigenous cultures is concerned.
The Catholic Church, though the largest and longest established Christian missionary organization
in the region, has during the last century been coming under increasing competition from Protestant
groups, particularly from the US. It is difficult to generalize about the efforts of these groups but it
would be fair to say that they tend to be fundamentalist in their theological approach and conservative
in their politics. They are often endowed with considerable finance which enables them to operate freely,
but at the same time the presence of US citizens among their number excites suspicion among the local
authorities. Many of them are conscious of this and, not wishing to run the risk of expulsion, make
sure they do not give offense to the governments who have the power to order their swift departure.
The result is that they chose, or are forced, to preach conformity. They tend to reject the politics of
'conscientization' which many native-born Catholic missionaries are able to preach with the active
or passive support of their bishops. The Protestants, many of whom come from the Southern or
Mid-Western parts of the US, tend to be a brake on any movement which seeks radical new solutions
to the problems of the indigenes.
Lest a too gloomy picture is given of the workings of the Protestant missionaries one must add a
word about the Summer Institute of Linguistics. This organization, though for understandable political
reasons it tends to play down its fundamentalist evangelistic role in favour of its academic aims, is
basically dedicated to the translation of the Bible into as many native languages as possible and the
promotion of literacy among the indigenes so that they can both read it and teach it to others. The
founder of the SIL, Dr. William C. Townsend, was a missionary in the 1930's among the Cakchiquel
Indians in Guatemala who, finding himself frustrated by the lack of the Bible in the local vernacular,
built up an institute of indigenous linguistics which is now a part of the University of Oklahoma. This
is associated with a group known as Wycliffe Bible Translators. The SIL has signed a number of
agreements with governments in the region which allows it to persue its ends unmolested and to import
duty free the radio and other equipment necessary for its activities. The objectives of the SIL as set
out in its agreement with the Colombian government are:
"a) the profound study of each language, with the adequate analysis of its phonetic and morpho-
logical system and a comprehensive and useful collation of its vocabulary;
b) a study of the aboriginal languages comparing them with each other and with the other
languages of the world so that they may be duly classified;
c) the recording of tapes of each language or dialect copies of which will be given to the
(government) Division of Native affairs;
d) the gathering of all types of cultural anthological data and the preparation of photographic
documents on the racial aspects, the dress, dwellings, utensils, furniture, instruments, industries and
other features of indigenous life, which will be directed to the practical end of the better understanding
of each culture and the preparation of the campaigns needed for the general bettering of each group
studied and its graduation to higher and more useful standards of living."
The 1969-70 annual report of the SIL in Bolivia showed that it, for instance, operated two light
aircraft in the country for a total of 66 hours a month, maintained 19 radio stations and was working
on translations of the Bible into Aymara, ChAcobo, Chiquitano, Chipaya, Eseejja, Guarayu, Guarani,
Ignaciano, Quechua, Sirion6 and Tacana. The SIL computer in Mexico produces instantaneous
translation and the computer tape can provide immediate photocopies of proofs. This well endowed
unit is doing valuable work in creating a permanent record of disappearing native tongues and cultures -
whatever one may think of the prime objective of the missionaries.
At least as important as the changing role of the Church in South America is the increasingly
important role of the army. With the civil power and the Church, the army has traditionally been
one of the three pillars on which South American civilization is founded. Military influence is on the
increase. Throughout most of the area we are considering the army is formally or effectively in control
of the government in Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador while in Paraguay the army
is a close auxiliary in the rule of the president, General Stroessner. In every capital the word of the
military carries great weight.
However even if political power were to return to civilian hands everywhere the armed forces are in
control of central government, the role of the armed forces would continue to be crucial to the
development of the indigenous population. In many areas of the Amazon basin the presence of army
personnel is the only token of central government sovereignty. The river craft, aircraft and telecom-
munications of the armed forces are often the best and often the only links between areas of
indigenous occupation and the rest of the country. Often too, as in Ecuador, Paraguay, Brazil and
Colombia the air forces run civil airlines which are the only scheduled services for passengers and freight.
In many cases the local army commander has jurisdiction over indigenous areas, but even where he has
not, his conduct and the example he sets in his dealings with the indigenes are of enormous importance.
With the interior of South America offering greater and greater promise of mineral wealth and oil
in Columbian. Ecuadorean, Bolivian and Peruvian Amazonia, the military presence in indigenous
areas are likely to increase as the task of patrolling and effectively occupying areas of economic
importance is taken more seriously. For instance, the trans-Amazonian highway south of the Amazon
and the new road to be built north of the Amazon (the most ambitious development projects to have
been mounted in the region) are coming about at least as much because of 'geopolitical' and strategic
arguments from the Brazilian army as from any cold calculations by the government's civilian economic
It is now necessary to examine the different governmental attitudes to the indigenous communities.
For convenience the countries may be divided into three groups: those who have effectively no policy
(Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Venezuela); those whose policy is in course of formation or major
change (Colombia and Peru); and those where there is a policy which is firmly established (Brazil).
There is no effective policy or action by the Bolivian government towards its indigenous communities
who live in the forests. Though there is a Ministry of Peasant Affairs this concerns itself principally
with the Quechua and Aymara peoples who since the revolution of 1952 have been increasingly
politicized and through their leaders at times been able to influence the course of national politics.
These peoples have therefore claimed the lion's share of the human and financial resources of the
ministry, which in any case were and are chronically inadequate for the task of promoting the welfare
of the two peoples of the Andean altiplano. Even if this were not the case with a per capital national
income in Bolivia of 65 a year, the country as a whole is clearly unable to afford any adequate Indian
protection programme. In addition Bolivia suffers from constant chronic political instability with
frequent changes of government which make the persuance of any coherent long term policy difficult.
As if this were not enough, historically the central government has found great difficulty in making
its writ run in the sparsely populated eastern areas, some of which over the past century have simply
been annexed by Brazil. Travel between La Paz and outlying jungle centres of population like Cobija
or Riberalta is today done by often unreliable air service: the alternative is days of uncomfortable
road and river travel.
Since the guerrilla campaign of Che Guevara in 1966-67 the armed forces and especially the
Ranger batalions under expert US tuition are now more at home than they ever were in the jungles.
They are therefore likely to become an increasingly important factor in the approach to the indigenes.
The indigenes in Bolivia are consequently under the effective control of the few settlers in their
lands who are able to treat them as badly or as well virtually as they choose. The other main influence
on them is the missionaries the Catholics and the ubiquitous Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Similar conditions to those obtaining in Bolivia could until recently have been said to have obtained
in Ecuador. The country is poor with per capital annual gross national product of less than 100, and
the funds available to government are very scanty. Ecuador still mirrors Bolivia in its political instability
and insofar as the authorities concerned themselves with indigenous affairs the attention was
monopolized by the Andean Indians.
As in Bolivia the armed forces have come to play a major role in Amazonian jungles. Though since
the tailing off of the rubber boom already referred to the Oriente had until recently been of little
economic interest, the central government was obliged to make its presence felt in the jungle areas.
Ecuador has seen its jungle territories progressively lopped off by its two more powerful neighbours,
Colombia and Peru. It is not satisfied with the present demarcation line and must maintain an official
presence so that in any future flare-up of the territorial question the Quito government will at least
be able to claim effective occupation of the area currently assigned to it.
The situation of the indigenes in the Oriente has in recent years been immeasurably complicated by
the discovery of very large quantities of petroleum in the Ecuadorean Amazonian jungle. The finds
have been large enough to make feasible the construction of a trans-Andean pipeline which was
inaugurated in mid-1972. Eventually Ecuador will become the second largest Latin American oil
producer after Venezuela.
This has produced a greater collision between the indigenous civilization and a modern incursion than
Ecuador has previously seen. According to a report published in 1969 on the Auca tribe on the
River Napo, the arrival of the oil companies has resulted in the Aucas losing all their land, despite a
promise by the then President Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra in 1960 that the tribe would be assured of
title to the bulk of their territory. The re-establishment of the oil companies on land that Shell had
vacated in the 1949's has not passed without a struggle and at time prospecting camps have been set
upon by bands of indigenes.
In its understandable haste to get the oil flowing from the Oriente fields and the consequent benefits
from the royalties and taxes, the government has done little or nothing to protect the living condition
of the aboriginal peoples.
The discovery of the oil has brought with it an increase in the already established drift of settlers
from the crowded Andean areas of Central Ecuador. The government, through its agrarian reform
IERAC, is facilitating this movement by providing basic services in townships for the settlers. Summing
up the authorities' attitude to the indigenes around Lago Agrio, the principal new petroleum centre,
the leading Quito daily El Comercio of 17 November, 1971 reports: "In the zone in which the settle-
ments are being installed there probably lived tribes which moved on after harvest seasons. IERAC
has planned a sector as reservation for the Alamas. It is called Alama Reservation. The Cofanes are
also located and will be respected. There is a possibility that they will join the co-operative movement.
"As for the Aucas it is felt that there is a group which has been integrated to society and has links
with the evangelical missions. It seems that there is a small rebel group which has drawn back into the
zone of Curaray. They constitute no obstacle to the settlement programme". (my italics).
The School of Sociology of the Central University of Ecuador in a study of the Quichuas of the
Coca and Napo region found that in one typical canton, Aguarico, 36 per cent of children died before
reaching the age of 5, and that 70 to 80 per cent of the population were suffering from malnutrition
and anemia. The Capuchin mission hospital of Coca and Rocafuerte reported it has treated no less
than 496 out of a total population of the two places of 499, 18 per cent of those treated having
bronchial or lung infections, 17 per cent anemia and a further 17 per cent intestinal parasites. The
communities, the University report said, were well on the way to extinction.
As we have already seen, Paraguay is very much a special case among the South American republics in
that an indigenous language and therefore some indigenous culture survives vigorously alongside a
This does not however alter the fact that the Paraguayan government has not yet formulated an
effective policy to ensure the survival of rural indigenous tribal groups. Even if it had one it is difficult
to see where, given the present poverty of the country and the low level of administrative honesty in
handling the funds of the public sector, much money would come from to implement it.
Melia writing in November 1970 to a number of Acci6n commented, "In the mind of every govern-
ment that Paraguay has had, Indian land has meant no one's land: thus the State sells it or gives it
away to whoever wants it; and thus it is that forest product companies have been set up or colonies of
foreign immigrants, or centres for Paraguayan settlers or ranches. In all these cases the only one who
has not had any rights has been the person who has inhabited them for centuries". (See, for example,
the horrifying report including allegations of genocide and slavery about the Ache Indians by
Mark Miinzel, published by IWGIA in Copenhagen in January 1973). "They are expelled from their
lands their forefathers occupied for centuries and go and occupy others whence they are again expelled
by the legal owners and become veritable pariahs," said Brigadier-General Ram6n Cesar Bejarano some
The choice of quotation is important. Bejarano was responsible for the development of the
Department of Indigenous Affairs that was established in 1958 as part of the Ministry of National
Defence and which is now the principal arm of the government charged with responsibility for the
indigenes. It is now headed by Colonel C. C. Infanz6n. Bejarano was one of a number of army officers
who took, and still take, an interest in the welfare of the indigenes.
In Paraguay as in Bolivia and Ecuador the army is directly responsible for the administration of
territory. The majority of the centres of population of the Chaco, the home of numbers of indigenes,
are the army forts established there after the Chaco War with Bolivia in 1929-35.
Paraguay differs from Bolivia and Ecuador in having an informed and influential group of intellectuals
in Asunci6n; ethnologists, such as Leon Cadogan, Miguel Chase Sardi and other who run the distinguished
Anthrological Supplement to the Revista del Ateneo Paraguayo, missionaries like Meli6 and Josd
Seelwische O.M.I., as well as the soldiers who represent a body of informed, humanistic opinion on
Like its neighbour Colombia, Venezuela was for long content to leave the fate of its Indians to the
missionaries, most of whom were Catholic. The machinery of the state consists of a National
Commission for the Indigenes, a honorary consultative body of ten experts to advise the government.
This commission has an executive arm, the OCAI or Central Office for Indigene Affairs. Through lack
of resources and expertise this seems to have accomplished little since it was set up in 1952.
The greatest concentration of executive power over the living conditions of the indigenes appears
to lie in the state Commission for the Development of the South (or CODESUR), which is charged
with bringing economic development to much of the area south of the Orinoco River that has generally
not been touched by the oil wealth upon which Venezuela's economy is now based.
Walter Coppens in a document published in 1972 by the International Work Group for Indigenous
Affairs of Copenhagen chronicles a case of invasion of the lands of the Yekuana people in Venezuelan
Amazonas territory which illustrates the extreme slowness of the official bodies to oblige the
intruders to surrender Indian territory they had appropriated.
Professor Esteban Mosonyi of the Central University of Venezuela in his contribution to the World
Council of Churches publication The Situation of the Indian in South America (Geneva, 1972) is
reasonably hopeful about the future. He writes, "Finally there is a fact of fundamental significance
which permits us to entertain reasonable hopes that Venezuelan policy regarding the Indians will be
recast on lines of self-management and interculturation. Contrary to what is happening in other
countries, the Venezuelan Indian does not find himself subjected to the pressure of great economic
and political interests. The anti-Indian elements in this country only represent small and medium
scale vested interests; the recalcitrant small stock-breeder, the missionary with the pretension of a
big landowner, the common soldier who wants to own land, adverturers of dubious antecedents, miners
at the bottom of the social scale. For the moment this picture shows no sign of changing, because
the country is oriented towards large-scale oil production and mining, which only tangentially affect
the aboriginal population. Moreover, the great currents of internal migration, far from moving towards
the Indian periphery, tend to concentrate on existing urban centres".
Peru has since 1968 been ruled by a military government that, sweeping away half-hearted civilian
opposition movements, has engaged on a series of drastic measures which if and when they take full
effect will transform Peruvian society. This government is currently implementing a comprehensive new
measure to regulate the relationship between the indigenous communities of the lowlands and the
rest of society. One of its principal architects was Stefano Varese, a signatory to the Barbados
Declaration, who from 1970 to 1972 was head of the Native Forest Communities Division of the
Ministry of Agriculture. The fact that Varese was able to keep his official job after having signed a
document that would have frightened some governments give some indication that the Peruvian
government is willing to tolerate and perhaps implement new ideas.
In a recent pamphlet published by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs in Copen-
hagen, Varese comments thus on the government's legislative plans. These bills (on land reform in
the jungle, and another on native forest communities) are complementary with respect to the tribal
groups; they establish the legal existence and recognize the juridical personality of these societies
(which were not recognized by previous legislation), and guarantee their territorial rights, protecting
common and collective property and assuring technical assistance and credits from the State. This
legislation extends to those tribal groups which reside in the highland forest but are not included
within the jurisdiction of the Agrarian Reform Law.
"The Forest Native Communities Bill is basically a legal instrument which attempts to make the
rights of the native minorities compatible with the general needs of the country through support of
their local organizations, or communities, by means of their representative institutionalization in the
eyes of the State. To this effect the Bill provides for the organization of tribal groups into federative
unities with stable economic and social bases to be attained through state assistance in the form of
credits and technical and administrative aid for the attainment of their rights.
"Inasmuch as, according to the government itself, 'the nature of the Agrarian Reform does not
consist in a simple distribution of land, but rather in a transfer of economic, social and political power
from the hands of a restricted group to the mass of the peasantry (Avance 1970:1). the measures taken
with respect to the tribal communicities cannot be limited to empty words about their rights. There
is the clear realization that the objective ought to be the radical restructuring of the economic and
power system and that to attain this goal not only an economic and social transformation, but also a
profound cultural transformation, is necessary. To attain these ends, however, it is necessary for the
State to assume effective control of the system of socio-economic relations which we have sketched
above. Obviously this is no easy task, if one considers problems such as the effective and administrative
distance of the areas of tribal occupation, the economic limitation of the State in implementing a
policy of action embracing all the areas, and the slight motivations of local officials to modify their
attitudes and detach themselves from the sources of local power'."
In short the government is in process of adopting sound, far reaching ideas. The question is whether
it can put them fully into practice before many of the tribal groups disappear. In Peruvian Amazonia,
just as in Bolivian Amazonia, oil has been found in large quantities and this could cause the same degree
of dislocation in Peru as it has in its neighbour.
Historically the government of Colombia has left the care of its indigenes to Catholic missionaries and,
to a lesser extent, to the Protestants. In fact nearly three-quarters of the area of the country is still
mission land where Catholic missions, under an agreement signed in January 1953 with the Vatican
which supersedes others signed in 1902 and 1928, are given many legal rights and privileges as well as
subsidies. These subsidies are set at 30,000 pesos for each of the 16 vicariates and apostolic prefectures
together with a further lump sum of 360,000 pesos.
An agreement between the government and the SIL in 1962 obliges the government to give the
latter a furnished office in Bogota, free fuel for its aeroplanes, free landing rights and duty free import
privileges. It also pledges the government to buy back from the SIL anything useful they leave behind
in Colombia if the agreement ever lapses.
After long years of leaving the indigenes to the Catholic missionaries, the government in 1960
founded the Divisi6n de Asuntos Indigenos (DAI) as a dependency of the Ministry of Government,
taking over the functions of a body which had existed for two years as a dependency of the Ministry
of Agriculture. DAI was given the task of putting into effect the pious hopes of a law of 1890 which
sought to safeguard the well-being of the indigenous peoples and bring them into contact with
Since its foundation it has done some useful work, particularly in conjunction with INCORA, the
agrarian reform institute. But it lacks funds and, more importantly, it lacks a full government
commitment to enforce safeguards against abusive practices against indigenes by local landowners and
At the moment there is a full scale reassessment of policy towards the indigenous communities going
on, a process that has been hastened by the propagating work of Bonilla and other ethnologists on
their own account and within a pressure group called the Comite de Defensa del Indio. In November
1971 President Pastrana set up a Consejo Nacional de Politica Indigenista (National Council on Policy
towards the Indian) with a very wide brief to recommend future policy on the question.
Again in Colombia as in other countries the armed forces play an important role in contacts between
the indigenes and outside civilization. Training in anti-guerrilla techniques and the pursuit of rural
guerrilla groups have given the army a familiarity with the outlying parts of Colombia that they never
had before. This conduct in one specific instance, and by implication in many other places, has been
the subject of bitter criticism by Gustavo Perez Ramirez, a Jesuit who directed ICODES, a sociological
institute in Bogota. In his account of the Planas affaire he accuses the army of taking part in 'unjust
persecution, death, tortures and subhuman conditions of imprisonment' directed against the Guahibo
Indians on the River Planas in 1970.
The governmental policies of Brazil have been the subject of more controversy than those of any other
South American state despite the fact that the country has fewer Indians than, say. Peru. The
concentration by international public opinion on Brazil has resulted in the impression gaining
currency that the fate of the indigines in South America is coterminous with the fate of the
indigenes in that country. This, as we have already seen, is not the case.
In the beginning of this century Brazil produced an organization second to none in South America
for the protection of the well-being of the Indians. The Servico de Protecgo aos Indios was founded
by a soldier and explorer of Indian blood, Marshal CAndido Rondon, and for many years fulfilled a
mission of gentle and understanding contact with the primitive peoples. This mission was carried on
jointly with a process of linking the lands of the far west of Brazil to the metropolitan region along
the Atlantic coast.
The spirit of Rondon did not however long survive his death and by the 1950's and early 1960's the
SPI, riddled with corruption and double dealing, had become an international scandal, despite the
efforts of a number of devoted men within its ranks. *
In 1967 the SPI was abolished and replaced with a new Fundagco Nacional do Indio, a department
of the Ministry of the Interior. FUNAI is presently under the control of General Oscar Jeronymo
Bandeira de Mello. Before assuming his post in June 1970 he had been director of Security and
Information of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Mines and Energy. He had also been
chief of the general staff of the First Military Region.
In a booklet distributed by FUNAI within Brazil, it exhorts Brazilians not to regard Indians as
undersirables. It adds, "Rather we must accept them as different peoples, put in front of us by a quirk
of history and who must continue their march alongside ours until we can together go forward on
the same path, thus avoiding the possibility of creating ethnic castes completely alien to the cultural
tradition of our country."
The key to the proper treatment of the indigenes was seen by General Bandeira de Mello in an
interview in the magazine Realidades (of October 1971) as being the reserves. "It is only within the
reserves that the Indians can have the guarantee of a process of voluntary, gradual and guided
integration" he stated.
In the same issue of Realidades Professor Paulo Nogueira Neto, of the University of Sao Paulo,
claimed too that the creation of many more 'parques indigenas' on the pattern of the Xingu
National Park founded by the brothers Orlando and Claudio Villas Boas was the principal solution
to the problems of the indigenes. This would prevent the robbery and extermination of Indians by
the whites which are continuing even today. But in February 1973, a few days after they had
achieved their ambition of contacting the Krenakores tribe, the Villas Boas brothers announced their
intention of abandoning their work.t
Extremely sensitive to at times exaggerated European accusations of genocide and ethnocide, the
Brazilian government has lately undertaken a wide ranging public relations campaign, which culminated
at the end of 1972 with an invitation to the Aborigines Protection Society of London to send an
investigating mission to report on present conditions. Its members were Dr. Edwin Brooks, Rene
* Late in 1967, the Brazilian Government issued a report which caused international concern and shock: it disclosed
that its own Indian Protection Service (SPI) had been directly and indirectly involved in the widespread destruction
of the native Brazilian Indians with whose welfare it had been entrusted. 134 functionaries, including officers at
high government levels, were charged with over 1000 crimes, ranging from murder, torture ("from tearing out
Indians' fingernails to allowing them to die without assistance") and theft of Indian land. The Attorney-General
at the time "estimated that property worth S62 million had been stolen from the Indians in the past 10 years."
t They then stated: "We are leaving the life of backwoodsmen because we are convinced that every time we contact
a tribe we are contributing to the destruction of the purest things that tribe possesses...
"We never truly reached our objectives. All the 'pacified' Indians slowly lose their characteristics and authenticity
and their culture is corrupted through contact with civilized outsides. Once pacified, they stopped being free and
they interrupted the continuation of their culture. Even if they remain in their natural habitat they are subject to
the pressures of civilization. It is a shame. In Brazil there still is no Indian policy which can both pacify the Indian
and keep him isolated from contact with the white man. That results in the corruption of his customs and the
devaluation of his race. But we could do nothing to avoid this. It is true that sooner or later the Indians will be
absorbed by our society. But the longer we delay this integration, the greater our chance to save the Indians as a people.
"An Indian is not an animal to be chased and hunted. He is a human being and the principal difference between
him and the civilized peoples is that the Indian has not been corrupted.
"The Indians are not a primitive people, they are peoples with a parallel culture. That means it makes no sense to
talk in terms of'pacification.' "
Fuerst, John Hemming and Francis Huxley. The mission in its report expressed among its conclusions
the conviction that "the very real and pressing dangers facing the Indians of Brazil stem neither from
malevolence nor from deliberate cruelty. They are due to ignorance and prejudice which readily ally
themselves with the ruthlessness of interests whose cupidity is content to see pledges broken and
even the small Indian reserves violated rather than lose a chance of gain. This ruthlessness cannot be
continued without a matching determination on the part of the government. Incidents, such as the
re-routing of the BR80 highway, and subsequent dismembering of the Xingu Park, the planning of a
highway through Tumucumaque and the retreat of the Aripuana Park to make room for a colonising
settlement, all show that once development interests are involved Indian Reserves are hardly worth
the maps they are drawn on."
"Although... it is not easy to strike the right balance between protection and paternalism ... we
forsee the more primitive or recently contacted groups needing protection for a long time to come.
For more acculturated groups we see a need for better education and practical training ... In any
event it is imperative that the Indians themselves set the rate for change which should come only at
a speed they can accept. This means that each Indian nation should be treated as a separate case .. ."
The Mission also recommends that ". the career structure of FUNAI be fashioned to ensure that
the growing experience of the field workers is properly utilised and rewarded".
"The great new roads being driven across the Brazilian interior are a symbol of the country's
extraordinary economic growth but at the same time they menace the cultural and physical survival
of the tribal minorities along their routes". The Mission recommends that "some of the budget for
each new road should be specifically allocated to the continuous protection, medical and social, of
those suddenly threatened by it".
The Mission's final comment is that ". .. the real predators of the Indian may well be in New York,
London or Frankfurt... Denunciations of the Brazilian authorities for condoning ... genocide should
instead be directed at an insatiable economic system which is about to wreak great damage on the
fragile ecosystem we call the Amazon rain-forest. We believe that, far from participating in genocide,
FUNAI is struggling to help the Indians entrusted to it... it is far better to offer constructive suggestions
than to show patronising disdain".
The APS mission, which found evidence that the Brazilian Indians' population has increased during
the last six years, saw the question of the guaranteeing of land for the Indians as 'the crucial test' of
the government's attitude. The inference in the report was that the effectiveness of government plans
was yet to be proved, particularly as in another part of the report the authors say that it was even
difficult to get reliable maps of some of the areas reserved for Indians.
The importance of securing a territorial base for the indigenes had been emphasised in 1971 by
Robin Hanbury-Tenison who on behalf of the Primitive Peoples Fund (now Survival International)
conducted an investigation in Amazonia with the assistance of the Brazilian authorities. The Hanbury-
Tenison mission itself came hard on the heels of an investigation by the International Committee of the
Red Cross which had gathered evidence of extremely poor health conditions among the indigenes.
The Red Cross commented "It seems however that at the present time the resources of the FUNAI
are inadequate to cope with this vast problem of the integration of the Brazilian Indians in ways that
are acceptable from the humanitarian and cultural points of view".
An even less tolerant view of the activities of FUNAI was expressed in 1971 in a manifesto signed by
more than 80 Brazilian experts who said that its policy of removing indigenous groups away from the
areas of pioneer occupation "contradicts its specific function which is to protect the Indians and
create conditions for their close association with Brazilian society".
1973 should see the promulgation of a new Statute of the Indian aimed at regulating definitively
Brazil's policy towards indigenes.* The government's draft bill has however been under fire from the
Catholic Church which considers it insufficiently rigorous. The Church authorities have drawn up
their own code and it will be interesting to see whether the final bill will lean towards the interests of
the Indians or the interests of developers.
* The Statute of the Indian, first proposed in 1970 and temporarily shelved due to pressures brought on by publicity,
is now again being considered for passage into law. It would permit the legal removal of Indians from their territories
by the Brazilian government if this is seen to be in the best interest of "national development or national security."
The Statute states that until he has become 'civilized' or assimilated into the national community, the Indian
remains a ward of the government without inherent rights. Two provisions, which would prove extremely detrimental,
would allow that Indian people have the use but not ownership of traditional territories; also, mineral wealth and
forest resources on these lands are to be excluded from Indian control. The "Indigenous Income" obtained from
the leasing of Indian lands to lumber, mining, and other firms, and the direct profits from the sale of mineral,
forest, and other products on Indian land would go not to the Indian themselves but to the government agencies
administering Indian affairs.
.1.-. rcl:L- .--
v~ti~i~: ~ "'~c., .r ~ ~~ej
Xingu National Park, Brazil. Robin Hanbury-Tenison
PART FOUR: FUTURE POLICY
It is now time to turn from a summary of the present situation to suggesting some ways forward. In
the last few years the denunciations of ethnologists, humanitarian societies, churchmen and other
interested parties have done much to bring the plight of the indigenes before world opinion. Within
South America the various governments are more on their guard about this issue and are recognizing
that their treatment of their indigenous populations is a topic they must handle carefully if they are
not, at the least, to lose points in the game of international diplomacy.
After this 'softening up period' the time is now ripe for some more concerted action by international
organizations concerning the problems of the indigenes. The internationalization of the question would
have a number of advantages. Firstly, an international body would be able to pool the most expert
available ethnological, agricultural, medical and economic resources in a concerted effort to formulate
and execute a rescue plan for the indigenous peoples. The world's best expertise could, on an inter-
disciplinary basis, be concentrated on the task: and since these people are part of mankind's heritage,
the funds for the work should receive international contributions. (Both European and South American
countries have acquired large profits from the colonizations which destroyed the Indians' culture).
Secondly, it could ensure the harmonization and co-ordination of national policies towards indigenous
groups who happened to bestride an international frontier. Venezuela and Colombia are two South
American countries which have officially committed themselves to co-operation on indigenous questions,
but international rivalries and sheer administrative apathy have prevented the idea being generally
Thirdly, it could facilitate the delicate process of persuasion and diplomacy with the various sovereign
governments whose action and co-operation is required.
The problems are obvious: there is likely to be local resentment at any special help for the Indians
unless help is also given to the peasantry. And there are several different opinions amongst anthro-
pologists about the desirability of various policies of integration. For the moment individual South
American governments are justifiably slow to accept or act on criticism especially from the rich
North Atlantic countries whose governments and bankers have in the recent past shown such sublime
disregard for the financial and developmental difficulties of Latin America, or from individual foreign
critics who display no understanding of the acute shortage of money and manpower which faces any
government in the region which undertakes the work of Indian protection programmes.
An international body, if it set about the task with sufficient diplomacy and were able to invest the
task with prestige and importance, might also be able to win over the armed forces in the individual
countries to the cause of protecting rather than exterminating the Indian. Another essential requirement
is to provide the Indians with legal assistance to help them to defend their all-important land rights.
This new international body would benefit greatly if it could draw on the experience and expertise
on the specialized agencies of, for example, the United Nations, FAO, UNICEF, WHO, the Economic
Commission for Latin America, and UNESCO: this would point to the body being set up within the UN.
To do this would be to run the risk of allowing the new body to suffer the constraints of the UN. It
would doubtless run into funding problems and would also be subject to the politicking and blocking
procedures. On the other hand the fact of being part of the UN 'family' would give the body a prestige
and acceptance not otherwise easily available.
An alternative would be the use of some independent specialised international body such as a new
foundation or Survival International which, like Amnesty International, could have consultative status
with the UN. This might avoid the problems of politics but it would make the task of gaining
acceptability a more difficult one.
Any body which was set up might well consider it prudent to take into its sphere of interest all the
indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. This would prevent the Latin Americans reacting
adversely to a feeling that they were in some manner being pilloried by the outside world; and it would
also allow Latin American experts to assist the US and Canadian governments in the treatment of such
peoples as the Red Indian tribes and the Eskimos. That would help us all to realize that bad treatment
of minorities is not confined to South America.
Harald Schultz/Camera Press
Aborigines Protection Society (Anti-Slavery Society), Tribes of the Amazon Basin in Brazil, Report
on a Mission led by Dr. Edwin Brooks, London 1972.
Accion, monthly, Casilla 1072, Asunci6n, Paraguay.
Bonilla, Victor Daniel, Servants of God or Masters of Men, Penguin, London 1971.
Hanbury-Tenison, Marika, For Better, For Worse: to the Brazilian Jungles and back again, Hutchinson,
Hanbury-Tenison, Robin, A Question of Survival, London 1973.
Hemming, John, The Conquest of the Incas, London 1970.
International Committee of the Red Cross, Report of the ICRC Medical Mission to the Brazilian
Amazon Region, Geneva 1970.
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Reports 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, Copenhagen.
Lame, Manuel Quintin, En defense de mi Raza, Publicaciones de La Rosca, Bogota, 1971.
Primitive Peoples Fund/Survival International, Report on a visit to the Indians of Brazil by Robin
Hanbury-Tenison, London 1971.
Perez Ramfrez, Gustavo, Planas: Las Contradicciones del Capitalismo, Edicones Tercer Mundo,
Ribeiro, Darcy, Os Indios e a Civilizacao, Civilizacao Brasileira, Rio, 1970.
Ribeiro, Darcy, The Americas and Civilization, Allen & Unwin, London 1971.
Wallis, Ethel Emily, The Dayuma Story, Spire Books, Old Tappan, NJ, USA, 1971.
World Council of Churches, The Situation of the Indian in South America, Geneva, 1972.
The Declaration of Barbados for the Liberation of the Indians
Note: this Declaration was the outcome of a symposium organized by the Ethnology Department of the University of
Berne, and held at Bridgetown, Barbados, from the 25th 30th of January 1971, under the auspices of the Programme
to Combat Racism and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches. The
symposium on the situation of the forest Indians in South America was one of a number of responses to the decisions
made by the Uppsala Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1968 and the subsequent meeting of the Central
Committee in Canterbury in 1969. The Uppsala Assembly stated:
"Racism is linked with economic and political exploitation. The churches must be actively concerned
for the economic and political well-being of exploited groups so that their statements and actions may be
relevant. In order that victims of racism may regain a sense of their own worth and be enabled to determine
their own future, the churches must make economic and educational resources available to underprivileged
groups for their development to full participation in the social and economic life of their communities.
They should also withdraw investments from institutions that perpetuate racism. They must also urge that
similar assistance be given from both the public and private sectors. Such economic help is an essential
compensatory measure to counteract and overcome the present systematic exclusion of victims of racism
from the main stream of economic life. The churches must also work for the change of those political
processes which prevent the victims of racism from participating fully in the civic and governmental structures
of their countries.
Consequently, the Assembly decided that the WCC should "undertake a crash programme to guide the Council and
the member churches in the urgent matter of racism. This programme would involve:
- the development of comprehensive and up-to-date reports on the racial situation in various regions of the world;
- consultations on racism on a regional and international level;
- research on the areas of potential crisis, alerting the churches and secular agencies in helping to prevent the growth
of tensions arising from racism".
Membership of the Barbados Symposium, held at the Centre for Multi-Racial Studies of the University of the West
Indies, was limited to qualified anthropologists and ethnologists, mainly from Latin America. They were required to
have worked with Indians and so to have first-hand experience.
The anthropologists participating in the Symposium on Inter-Ethnic Conflict in South America, meeting
in Barbados, January 25 30 1971, after analysing the formal reports of the tribal populations'
situation in several countries, drafted and agreed to make public the following statement. In this
manner, we hope to define and clarify this critical problem of the American continent and to contribute
to the Indian struggle for liberation.
The Indians of America remain dominated by a colonial situation which originated with the conquest
and which persists today within many Latin American nations. The result of this colonial structure is
that lands inhabited by Indians are judged to be free and unoccupied territory open to conquest and
colonisation. Colonial domination of the aboriginal groups, however, is only a reflection of the more
generalised system of the Latin American states' external dependence upon the imperialist metropolitan
powers. The internal order of our dependent countries leads them to act as colonising powers in their
relations with the indigenous peoples. This places the several nations in the dual role of exploited and
exploiters, and this in turn projects not only a false image of Indian society and its historical development,
but also a distorted vision of what constitutes the present national society.
We have seen that this situation manifests itself in repeated acts of aggression directed against the
aboriginal groups and cultures. There occur both active interventions to "protect" Indian society
as well as massacres and forced migrations from the homelands. These acts and policies are not unknown
to the armed forces and other governmental agencies in several countries. Even the official "Indian
policies" of the Latin American states are explicitly directed towards the destruction of aboriginal
culture. These policies are employed to manipulate and control Indian populations in order to
consolidate the status of existing social groups and classes, and only diminish the possibility that Indian
society may free itself from colonial domination and settle its own future.
As a consequence, we feel the several States, the religious missions and social scientists, primarily
anthropologists, must assume the unavoidable responsibilities for immediate action to halt this
aggression and contribute significantly to the process of Indian liberation.
The Responsibility of the State
Irrelevant are those Indian policy proposals that do not seek a radical break with the existing social
situation; namely, the termination of colonial relationships, internal and external; breaking down of
the class system of human exploitation and ethnic domination; a displacement of economic and political
power from a limited group or an oligarchic minority to the popular majority; the creation of a truly
multi-ethnic state in which each ethnic group possesses the right to self-determination and the free
selection of available social and cultural alternatives.
Our analysis of the Indian policy of the several Latin American nation-states reveals a common
failure of this policy by its omissions and by its actions. The several states avoid granting protection
to the Indian groups' rights to land and to be left alone, and fail to apply to the law strictly with
regard to areas of national expansion. Similarly, the states sanction policies which have been and
continue to be colonial and class-oriented.
This failure implicates the State in direct responsibility for and connivance with the many crimes
of genocide and ethnocide that we have been able to verify. These crimes tend to be repeated and
responsibility must rest with the State which remains reluctant to take the following essential measures:
1) guaranteeing to all the Indian populations by virtue of their ethnic distinction, the right to be and
to remain themselves, living according to their own customs and moral order, free to develop their
2) recognition that Indian groups possess rights prior to those of other national constituencies. The
State must recognize and guarantee each Indian society's territory in land, legalising it as perpetual,
inalienable collective property, sufficiently extensive to provide for population growth;
3) sanctioning of Indian groups' right to organise and to govern in accordance with their own
traditions. Such a policy would not exclude members of Indian society from exercising full citizenship,
but would in turn exempt them from compliance with those obligations that jeopardise their cultural
4) extending to Indian society the same economic, social, educational and health assistance as the
rest of the national population receives. Moreover, the State has an obligation to attend to those many
deficiencies and needs that stem from Indians' submission to the colonial situation. Above all the State
must impede their further exploitation by other sectors of the national society, including the official
agents of their protection;
5) establishing contacts with still isolated tribal groups is the States' responsibility, given the dangers
biological, social and ecological that their first contact with agents of the national society represents;
6) protection from the crimes and outrages, not always the direct responsibility of civil or military
personnel, intrinsic to the expansion process of the national frontier;
7) definition of the national public authority responsible for relations with Indian inhabiting its
territory; this obligation cannot be transferred or delegated at any time or under any circumstances.
The responsibility of the Religious Missions
Evangelisation, the work of the religious missions in Latin America, also reflects and complements the
reigning colonial situation with the values of which it is imbued. The missionary presence has always
implied the imposition of criteria and patterns of thought and behaviour alien to the colonised Indian
societies. A religious pretext has too often justified the economic and human exploitation of the
The inherent ethnocentric aspect of the evangelisation process is also a component of the colonialist
ideology and is based on the following characteristics:
1) its essentially discriminatory nature implicit in the hostile relationship to Indian culture conceived
as pagan and heretical;
2) its vicarial aspect, implying the reification of the Indian and his consequent submission in exchange
for future supernatural compensations:
3) its spurious quality given the common situation of missionaries seeking only some form of personal
salvation, material or spiritual;
4) the fact that the missions have become a great land and labour enterprise, in conjunction with
the dominant imperial interests.
As a result of this analysis we conclude that the suspension of all missionary activity is the most
appropriate policy for the good of Indian society and for the moral integrity of the churches involved.
Until this objective can be realized the missions must support and contribute to Indian liberation in
the following manner:
1) overcome the intrinsic Herodianism of the evangelical process, itself a mechanism of colonialisation,
Europeanisation and alienation of Indian society;
2) assume a position of true respect for Indian culture, ending the long and shameful history of
despotism and intolerance characteristic of missionary work, which rarely manifests sensitivity to
aboriginal religious sentiments and values;
3) halt the theft of Indian property by religious missionaries who appropriate labour, lands and
natural resources as their own, and the indifference in the face of Indian expropriation by third
4) extinguish the sumptuous and lavish spirit of the missions themselves, expressed in various forms
but all too often based on exploitation of Indian labour;
5) stop the competition among religious groups and confessions for Indian souls a common
occurrence leading to the buying and selling of believers and internal strife provoked by conflicting
6) suppress the secular practice of removing Indian children from their families for long periods in
orphanages where they are imbued with values not their own, converting them in this way into
marginal individuals, incapable of living either in the larger national society or their native communities;
7) break with the pseudo-moralist isolation which imposes a false puritanical ethic, incapacitating
the Indian for coping with the national society an ethic which the churches have been unable to
impose on that same national society;
8) abandon those blackmail procedures implicit in offering goods and services to Indian society in
return for total submission;
9) suspend immediately all practices of population displacement or concentration in order to
evangelise and assimilate more effectively, a process that often provokes an increase in morbidity,
morality and family disorganisation among Indian communities;
10) end the criminal practice of serving as intermediaries for the exploitation of Indian labour.
In so far as the religious missions do not assume these minimal obligations they, too, must be held
responsible by default for crimes of ethnocide and connivance with genocide.
Finally, we recognize that dissident elements within the churches are engaging in a conscious and
radical self-evaluation of the evangelical process. The denunciation of the historical failure of the
missionary task is now a common conclusion of such critical analyses.
The Responsibility of Anthropology
Anthropology took form within and became an instrument of colonial domination, openly or
surreptitiously; it has often rationalised and justified in scientific language the domination of some
people by others. The discipline has continued to supply information and methods of action useful
for maintaining, reaffirming and disguising social relations of a colonial nature. Latin America has
been and is no exception, and with growing frequency we note nefarious Indian action programmes
and the dissemination of stereotypes and myths distorting and masking the Indian situation all
pretending to have their basis in alleged scientific anthropological research. A false awareness of this
situation has led many anthropologists to adopt equivocal positions. These might be classed in the
1) a scientist which negates any relationship between academic research and the future of those
peoples who form the object of such investigation, thus eschewing political responsibility which the
relation contains and implies:
2) a hypocrisy manifest in rhetorical protests based on first principles which skilfully avoid any
commitment in a concrete situation;
3) an opportunism that although it may recognize the present painful situation of the Indian at the
same time rejects any possibility of transforming action by proposing the need "to do something"
within the established order. This latter position, of course, only reaffirms and continues the system.
The anthropology now required in Latin America is not that which relates to Indians as objects of
study, but rather that which perceives the colonial situation and commits itself to the struggle
for liberation. In this context we see anthropology providing, the colonised peoples with the data
and interpretations both about themselves and their colonisers useful for their own fight for freedom,
and re-defining the distorted image of Indian communities current in the national society, thereby
unmasking its colonial nature with its underlying ideology.
In order to realize the above objectives, anthropologists must take advantage of all junctures within
the present order to take action on behalf of the Indian communities. Anthropologists must denounce
systematically by any and all means cases of genocide and those practices conducive to ethnocide. At
the same time, it is imperative to produce new concepts and explanatory categories from the local
and national social reality, in order to improve the subordinate situation of the anthropologists
regarded as mere "verifiers" of alien theories.
The Indian as an agent of his own destiny
Indians must organise and lead their own liberation movement otherwise it ceases to be liberating.
When non-Indians pretend to represent Indians, even on occasion, assuming the leadership of the
latter's groups, a new colonial situation is established. This is yet another expropriation of the Indian
populations' inalienable right to determine their future.
Within this perspective, it is important to emphasise in all its historical significance, the growing
ethnic consciousness observable at present among Indian societies throughout the continent. More
peoples are assuming direct control over their defence against the ethnocidal and genocidal policies
of the national society. In this conflict, by no means novel, we can perceive the beginnings of a pan-
Latin American movement and some cases too of explicit solidarity with still other oppressed social
We wish to reaffirm here the right of Indian populations to experiment with and adopt their own
self-governing, development and defence programmes. These policies should not be forced to
correspond with national economic and socio-political exigencies of the moment. Rather, the
transformation of national society is not possible if there remain groups, such as Indians, who do
not feel free to command their own destiny. Then, too, the maintenance of Indian society's cultural
and social integrity, in spite of its traditional well-trodden paths of the national society.
Barbados, 30 January 1971
Miguel Alberto Bartolome
Guillermo Bonfil Batalla
Victor Daniel Bonilla
Gonzalo Castillo Cardenas
Miguel Chase Sardi
Nelly Arvelo de Jimfnez
Estaban Emillio Mosonyi
Scott S. Robinson
Hugh O'Shaughnessy, 38, is the Latin America
Correspondent of the London Observer and Financial
Times. He travels extensively throughout Latin America
This report was first published in May 1973
_ The Reports already published by the Minority Rights Group are:
oNo. 1 Religious Minorities in the Soviet Union (Revised 1973 Edition)
'systematically documented and unemotionally analysed" ; 'telling'2; 'outstandingly good and fairminded'3.
*No. 2 The two Irelands: the double minority a study of inter-group tensions (Revised 1972 Edition)
'a rare accuracy and insight ; 'lucid .. without bias' ; 'pithy, well-informed ... the best 24 pages on
Ireland's contemporary political problems that have found their way into the permanent literature ...
*No. 3 Japan's outcastes the problem of the Burakumin
'sad and strange story .. a frightening picture'7; 'expertly diagnosed'3.
*No. 4 The Asian minorities of East and Central Africa (up to 1971)
'the most comprehensive document on this still important subject' ; 'brilliantly sketched'2; 'admirably
clear, humane and yet dispassionate'8.
*No. 5 The Southern Sudan and Eritrea: aspects of wider African problems (Revised 1973 Edition)
'clear, concise and balanced'9; 'the study is the first independent examination of two rarely-reported
conflicts and certainly the most comprehensive'" ; 'an exemplary account' .
eNo. 6 The Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans and Meskhetians: Soviet treatment of some national minorities (Revised
'brilliant'" ; 'great accuracy and detail'l2
*No. 7 The position of Blacks in Brazilian society
'another important contribution from this increasingly important group' .
ONo. 8 The Africans' predicament in Rhodesia (Revised 1973 Edition)
'Important and topical'13; 'What is important about his study is the sheer weight of his evidence that
discrimination is not only great, but is daily felt to be great and often intolerable'14; 'Outstandingly good and
*No. 9 The Basques
'This is only the lull before the next storm and therefore a good moment for the Minority Rights Group
to produce its report on the Basques'4; 'Very valuable's.
*No. 10 The Chinese in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia (price 45p)
'A well-documented and sensible plea'.
*No. 11 The Biharis in Bangladesh (price 45p)
'It is to be hoped that the British Government will study the report and act quickly'6; 'A significant fusion
of humane interest and objective clear-headed analysis'7.
*No. 12 Israel's Oriental Immigrants and Druzes (price 45p)
*No. 13 East Indians of Trinidad and Guyana (price 45p)
oNo. 14 The Rom: the Gypsies of Europe (price 45p)
'The first comprehensive description and analysis of the plight'8; 'One of the worst sketetons in Europe's
oNo. 15 What future for the Amerindians of South America? (price 45p)
'The outlook for the survival of these people is still bleak'8; 'A horrifying indictment deserves a very
wide readership'20; 'Excellent'.
*No. 16 Problems of a displaced minority: the new position of East Africa's Asians (price 45p)
'A comprehensive analysis'9.
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