Clash of Cultures

The Dowbrigade has written
on the ongoing disappearance
of indigenous cultures around the world. We realize it is not a question
of somehow preserving these cultures like some kind of exotic insects
frozen in amber.  Rather, we must search for a form of engagement
which allows each culture to learn and benefit from the other, enriching
without destroying.

in today’s Boston Globe gives a sound overview and many
revealing examples of the problems and possible solutions presented by
a clash
of cultures.  One
example – for hundreds of years, the Xingu have fished with bows and
arrows, spotting the prey through clear running steams and nailing them
as they swam.  Now, development in the areas surrounding their preserve
has literally muddied the waters, erasing one of their main methods of
procuring protein. As a reult, they are adapting new technology – the
use of steel fish hooks, which of course they must buy from Western sources, unlike the bows and arrows (local technology) they have spent generations refining and improving. And of course, to buy the hooks they need cash money, so they have to find something to sell.

Is humanity’s inheritance of fishing techniques impoverished by the
disappearance of bow and arrow fishing? Undoubtably. Is the Xingu learning
to fish with hooks and bait better than shipping in UNICEF food relief
and freeze-dried protein packs, or introducing the hand-grenade fishing
technique so popular in Southeast Asia following the Vietnam war? Equally
inarguable. Some excerpts:

Xingu is Brazil’s oldest and probably its most successful Indian reservation,
a 10,800-square-mile sprawl of pristine rainforest where 14 Indian tribes

The reserve was established in 1961, a few years after many of the tribes
in the region had had their first contact with white civilization after
thousands of years of isolation.

It sat in the middle of a vast undeveloped stretch in the state of
Mato Grosso, or "thick forest." Today, the park is surrounded
by fields and pasture in the center of Brazil’s fastest developing

Satellite dishes sit outside many of the longhouses, feeding a handful
of Brazilian TV channels to generator-powered televisions.

"All the stuff on the television puts stuff in the young people’s
heads," Mairawe
said. "They are attracted to whatever comes from outside. This is
a cause for a lot of disagreement among the leadership."

For ceremonies, the Indians still strip naked and paint their bodies with
red powder from ground urucum seeds and the black ink of the jenipapo fruit.
But most days they wear Western clothing — the women preferring long,
cotton dresses, the men shorts and T-shirts.

from the Boston Globe

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