It is extremely important to try and comprehend the development in the post below in a historical perspective. I am hardly the person to do this, given my very limited knowledge of the history of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil and in Abya Yala more generally, but if I’m going to do this post then I feel I have to at least attempt to give an idea; and am doing so from some scraps of knowledge I have gained over the years. But where I would welcome anyone receiving this coming in to correct what I say here, and to expand and deepen our understanding… and with thanks in advance.
[Unlike many parts of the world originally inhabited by Indigenous Peoples alone, there were large numbers of tribes of such Peoples in the Amazon basin in Brazil who remained what is / used to be called ‘isolated’ from mainstream settler society till as late as the 1960s, and even into the 1970s; in other words, till just fifty years ago. This meant that at that time, these peoples lived in an entirely different time and space world than mainstream society in Brazil.
[(There is a small footnote to this, in the sense that Amazonia, like other such parts of the world, had however had a longish history of the intrusion from the fringes of mainstream society of occasional explorers, adventurers, loggers, miners, rubber tappers, and others – so it is not as if some such tribes had absolutely no contact with the outside world – but this was, taken in a larger perspective, a very limited contact, and without the invasive trappings of full-blown colonisation and more recently, modernity. And though there were several incidences of even this limited contact leading to devastating epidemics of disease that decimated whole tribes, in other areas this limited contact in a way often – though not always – left the tribes somewhat as they were earlier.)
[And so where, when the Brazilian state took the historic decision in the mid-late 1960s to massively explore and appropriate Amazonia – through the construction of roads, through massive programmes of transmigration of peasants from the Northeast of the country to forcibly populate (and ‘civilise’) the western Amazon, and in the course of this, the creation of historically new towns – large numbers of the Indigenous Peoples of the region were forcibly brought into contact with the ‘outside’ world for the first time, and were forced to learn to cope with it. I find it difficult to comprehend, let alone communicate, the enormity of that historical moment. As one of the people I interviewed in the course of research I did in the late 1990s on the dynamics of movements in the course of one of the many such projects of forced ‘development’ said, “We learned [very quickly] to move from fighting with arrows to fighting with words….”. Just take a moment and think about what this means…..
[Within about 5-10 years, and of course as a part of the Brazilian state’s plan to assimilate the tribes with whom ‘contact’ had been made, the sons of the chiefs of the tribes were attending the new university in the still very new capital of the country, Brasilia. And where, I learned from one of the other people I interviewed, this led to the formation of the Uniao das Nações Indígenas [the ‘Union of Indigenous Nations’], first as a soccer team – made of the sons of the chiefs, who though they had never ever earlier met as Indigenous Peoples, found that they shared a commonality in that they were shunned by mainstream students, and so, and even though they didn’t speak each other’s languages, came together, started playing soccer, and in time formed a soccer team and named themselves the ‘Uniao das Nações Indígenas’.
[The rest of this little story is even more interesting, and historic. The university authorities promptly suspended the students for using the term ‘nations’ to refer to themselves – since the Brazilian state, then under military rule, considered that this constituted a threat to the idea and majesty of the state-nation; which led to all the fathers of the students, in other words the chiefs of the different tribes, assembling in Brasilia in defence of their sons – and of their right to refer to themselves as nations… And so where the formation of a soccer team led to the formation of the first ‘national’-level political association across tribes of the Brazilian Amazon, which named itself the… Uniao das Nações Indígenas.
[This happened in the mid 1970s, within a decade of the historic ripping open of the fabric of the Amazon. Roughly a decade later, the first Indigenous Senator was elected in the mid 1980s to the Brazilian Senate (remember, “We learned to move from fighting with arrows to fighting with words….”); and now, and where a great deal else has happened in the intervening years, we see the launching of the first independent Online Indigenous Radio channel in Brazil, and where the voices of the Indigenous Peoples of the Brazilian Amazon, and their perceptions, are now beaming out across the planet, and universe.
the caravan of radio and gender
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