CS Projects - Annual Review
Since 1972 about 60% of Cultural Survival's limited funds have been channeled to field projects. During the year we receive numerous international requests with regard to these projects. So, we have decided that the final number of each volume of the Cultural Survival Quarterly will include summaries of active projects.
How Are Projects Selected?
Cultural Survival does not design projects; the organization responds to requests, either from active communities, their regional organizations or support groups. However, our budget has permitted support for only about 15% of the requests received. Thus, projects selected must:
1) focus on representative problems faced by small societies in many areas, and
2) allow for extensive documentation and analysis.
By confronting common problems we hope to document their resolution (or failure) and disseminate this information to concerned individuals, human rights groups, development organizations, and, when deemed appropriate, national governments. The organization thus responds to particular groups' urgent needs while also generating data for case studies useful in developing methodology and theory to help similar groups. When possible, Cultural Survival also provides assistance such as medicine for epidemics and travel funds to investigate sudden human rights violations.
What is a Representative Problem?
Physical decimation, either from murder or introduced diseases, threatens numerous distinct ethnic populations; it sparks justified outrage and demands immediate action in the form of denunciation, demands for cessation, or international intervention and monitoring. Such gross violations of human rights usually cannot be confronted by field projects. Local development projects nonetheless serve a vital function and perhaps can prevent some atrocities. Genocide or other extreme human rights violations often occur after a long process of gradual social erosion and economic marginalization which weakens a population's ability to defend itself as a group. Terms such as "assimilation" and "integration" usually serve only to mask, and thus make more palatable, the destruction of the social fabric which binds a group, provides it with a voice, and permits an integrated program for controlling their future.
Cultural Survival's field projects develop from a concept of culture which defines it as a set of social mechanisms which permit a society as a group to have a sense of itself, to comprehend its situation, and to adapt to changing circumstances. Cultural survival is not the preservation of a romantic status quo, but rather the maintenance of these mechanisms. Cultural Survival takes the position that societies do change and that it is not for outsiders to determine whether indigenous people are being true to themselves. The organization responds to the needs expressed by native peoples themselves, not some outsider's idealized image of an appropriate life.
Typical requests fall into two general categories:
1. Specific proposals which request assistance to improve the lives of native people. Foremost among these is a secure territorial base. In addition there are requests for appropriate education, access to credit, assistance to grass roots organizations, improved health care, and opportunities for locally managed economic activities.
2. General requests to eliminate the abuses ethnic groups face from the dominant society, such as:
- Political domination
- Violence and other forms of repression against ethnic minorities
- Absence of equal rights and justice under the law
- Distorted or Eurocentric histories
Cultural Survival's field projects generally assist groups that are anticipating or undergoing radical social change. These groups are often at critical crossroads in their social and economic evolution. Cultural Survival's projects are selected to provide groups with as much control as possible over economic and social variables which will permit them the flexibility and control necessary to prevent their becoming marginalized victims.
Several projects from 1983 are described below.
APCOB - Leadership Training Program Publications
In the summer of 1982, Cultural Survival approved support for APCOB (Assistance to Indian Communities of Eastern Bolivia) which enabled the organization to prepare and publish (1) an analytical report on APCOB's leadership training program, a project supported by Cultural Survival since 1980, and (2) a training manual for indigenous people in Bolivia.
Information exchange and solidarity among Bolivia's 41 lowland Indian groups is low, a condition which the leadership training program was designed to alter by helping these groups develop organizational skills essential for their social and economic survival in the face of the rapid change in the eastern Bolivian lowlands.
Through APCOB meetings were arranged between two groups near the city of Santa Cruz - the Chiriguanos and the Ayoreode. The Chiriguanos, a large, proud, and relatively well-organized group, advised and aided the Ayoreode, a nomadic population recently displaced and settled. From these meetings, APCOB has prepared a training manual - illustrated with drawings - which considers the theme of local organization and the development of an Indian consciousness and is directed toward Indian groups in Bolivia's eastern highlands. The intent is to help these groups understand how to protect their land and autonomy from settlers moving into the area.
Publications and audio-visual materials prepared after the meetings illustrate how one group can assist another and help it develop the kind of group identity needed to successfully confront the national society. APCOB plans to hold these meetings with groups throughout the eastern lowlands and has requested financial support from Cultural Survival.
A more formal analytical report will discuss the history of the APCOB-sponsored indigenous meetings in the Bolivian lowlands and will help to develop a methodology concerning the organization of indigenous communities in such areas. This report will be issued as a Cultural Survival Occasional Paper.
Community Development for the Miranhas Indians of Tefe, Brazil
In the fall of 1983, Cultural Survival approved support for Priscilla Faulhaber Barbosa, a Brazilian anthropologist working in collaboration with UNI to publish three volumes documenting the evolution of recent Indian interethnic social collaboration and efforts to become economically independent from merchants who have dominated the Miranhas since 1920. The studies will document the Oxfam-sponsored project "Community Development Among the Miranhas Indians of Tefe," and the general social, political and economic evolution of the region. Since the texts will serve community interests, the research will rely heavily on a regular dialogue with local leaders.
Activities in and around Tefe incorporated various ethnic groups to coordinate their activities through formal meetings and ritual events which provided both a sense of community and an opportunity to discuss matters of common concern. As a result:
1) Several ethnic groups have obtained land titles from FUNAI.
2) Trails have been opened, linking previously isolated communities.
3) Regional congresses have been held to discuss widespread problems.
4) Communal efforts to control production and marketing of agricultural goods have begun. Communities have abtained bank loans, rather than relying on local patrons, and have purchased a boat to market locally produced goods. In addition, most communities now purchase and sell goods through several merchants rather than relying on a single "patron."
5) Formation of a rural workers' union, Indians and other residents, has become an important political and economic force in the region.
The studies, by illustrating the success of a single project, will assist three other indigenous communities in the municipio to attain a similar degree of economic and political autonomy, and will serve as a useful case for numerous other groups in the hemisphere.
UNI - Uniao das Nacoes Indigenas
While the interests of Indians in Brazil have been represented by non-Indians for several years, recently native populations have begun to develop their own organizations; the small populations living as dispersed communities and, until recently, in an unreceptive political climate, made such work difficult.
While the National Indian Organization (UNI) was formed officially in 1980, only in the past year has it begun to take the lead in defending the human and civil rights of native peoples, while also creating initiatives for social and economic development. Working in close contact with the non-Indian support groups, UNI has begun to take control of activities previously dominated by the government's National Indian Foundation (FUNAI).
UNI's request for funds from Cultural Survival was approved in April, 1983. Modest support permitted UNI representatives to establish an office and will help them to obtain official recognition. Funds also allow them to maintain regular contact with disparate Indian communities and thus assist Indian community leaders in presenting their needs, claims, and rights to FUNAI or other appropriate national and international organizations.
Increasingly UNI has publicized complaints by Indian communities while preparing documents and reports on the social, economic and political situation of indigenous groups in Brazil. These documents are disseminated to local communities, appropriate government agencies and international support groups. UNI also helps communities design and present requests for economic development programs which reflect their needs and promote environmentally sustainable development.
Within a short time, UNI has undertaken a wide range of activities which aid or inform groups from throughout Brazil. Cultural Survival anticipates continued support to UNI.
At the First Regional Congress of Indian Nations of the Ecuadorian Amazon in August 1980, the Confederacion de Nacionalidades Indigenas de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana (CONFENIAE) was established to promote the solidarity of these nations and their organizations. In March 1982, Cultural Survival began to support CONFENIAE, which represents five regional-level organizations and has begun to incorporate the three smallest and relatively unorganized tribal groups in the region, the Cofan, the Siona-Secoya, and the Huaorani.
The goals of CONFENIAE, in addition to the overall consolidation of all Indian communities, are to obtain land titles for the various groups and to develop locally managed, ecologically appropriate, agricultural and forestry projects. For those communities embroiled in land disputes with colonists, however, land titling is a long and difficult process; they have met stiff resistance from wealthier, established colonists.
Since the initiation of Cultural Survival support, CONFENIAE has held its third Congress, during which delegates elected new officials and discussed matters ranging from education to land rights. In addition to the approximately 16 delegates, the Congress was attended by a large number of other Indians who presented their views.,/P>
Cultural Survival support- has enabled CONFENIAE to publish a quarterly Amanecer Indio (Indian Dawning), which is distributed among member groups. The results of meetings are published in the bulletin, as is information on the problems confronting various groups in Ecuador's Amazonian region.
CONFENIAE also participates directly in national development projects. Leaders have worked to involve the organization in a large forestry and resources management project being directed by Ecuador's Ministry of Agriculture. By early 1984, the program will have a component aimed at CONFENIAE's member organizations and thus will demonstrate CONFENIAE's ability to contribute to national development planning and to represent the needs of its member groups.
On the basis of CONFENIAE's first year of activities, Cultural Survival has approved support for another year.
Cultural Survival/Mundo Shuar Publications
In 1981, Cultural Survival provided funds to support a second, joint publication with Mundo Shuar, a center for documentation and publication working in conjunction with the Shuar Indian Federation of the Ecuadorian Amazon region. Published in 1983, Pueblo de Fuertes (The Strong People) chronicles Shuar history from the Indians' point of view. Initially, a relatively brief study (150 pages) was envisioned for publication in 1982. However, as the project unfolded, the authors decided to prepare a three-volume study.
The three-volume set will be used in Shuar secondary schools as a supplement to the required, national history books. While Pueblo de Fuertes meets the immediate educational needs of Shuar school children, it also serves as an example of efforts by Native Americans to write their own history, rather than to accept the status of minor actors or, at best, a chapter in national history.
Shortly after Cultural Survival initiated support of CONFENIAE, the Board of Directors approved a request from one of the member federations. This group, FOIN (Federation of Indian Organizations of the Napo) coordinates the activities of the Quichua communities (total population about 25,000) in the Upper Napo River Valley, promotes and develops Quichua community organizations and strengthens ties with similar organizations at both a regional and national level. In addition, FOIN trains community leaders, promotes the Quichuas' cultural pride, and develops programs of economic self-sufficiency.
Although founded in 1969, the Federation's growth has been sporadic due to a lack of managerial experience. To aid FOIN's recent reorganization, Cultural Survival and Oxfam-UK have jointly supported the organization with modest grants for operating funds. The situation improved in the early 1980s. In addition local organizations have assisted FOIN to construct a multi-service headquarters.
FOIN's activities include meetings and seminars which are conducted around such themes as agricultural technology, animal husbandry, accounting, administration, marketing cooperatives, and civil rights.
In view of the fact that FOIN has greatly improved its managerial skills and expanded its activities. Cultural Survival has granted a small increase in funds which will permit increased contact with local communities as well as an improvement in accounting practices for both the organization and the communities which it represents.
Chiapas Oral History
In November 1982, Cultural Survival's Board of Directors approved a special project, "Cultura de los Indios Maya." This project seeks to maintain and revitalize Mayan Indian culture in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The project presently supports an independent writers' cooperative which produces booklets and magazines detailing life histories, folk tales, humorous sayings, Mayan history, native remedies and other themes deemed appropriate by members of the cooperative. These will be disseminated among the Mayan inhabitants of Chiapas to inform them and to stimulate similar efforts.
The Mexican government, particularly local officials, have supported the program. The state governor, through the Secretariat for Culture and Recreation, has agreed to publish three books annually. At the same time the National Indian Institute (INI) has provided office space to the cooperative. Funds obtained through Cultural Survival will pay for additional publication costs and salaries for the writers.
The present cooperative is formed of five Tzotzil and one Tzeltal speaker, but is expected to include at least one additional Tzeltal speaker. Additional writers or language groups may be added as the project expands.
Two booklets have been published to date: Llego el Primer Soldado (The First Soldier Arrived), written in Spanish and in Tzotzil, is a rendering of Bernal Diaz's accounts of the battles of Chamula and Huistan in 1524.
Historia antigua de Zinacantan (Ancient History of Zinacantan) in Spanish and in Tzotzil, presents Sahagun's account of Aztec spy traders in Zinacantan, and Tomas de la Torre's description of Zinacantan in 1545.
In October, 1982, Cultural Survival provided funds for a carpentry workshop/school, "Project Tuapuri." This project resulted from the Huichol Indians' growing awareness of the need to guarantee and maintain their land base and livelihood.
Under the supervision of a forestry professor from the University of Guadalajara, a dozen apprentice Huichol learned to select trees suitable for cutting, as well as techniques for felling trees, and sawing and drying the boards. Thus the program helps the Huichol selectively utilize forest resources and demonstrates the community's claim to surrounding forest resources.
At the workshop, instruction is geared to the production of high-quality goods. This creates a profitable, community-run industry which offers an alternative to migratory work, and avoids disruption of the community's traditionally egalitarian economy. Income generated from the sale of finished products its first distributed to the workers. The surplus is contributed to the communal treasury.
An Austrian chemistry and physics professor obtained funds for an experimental solar-powered kiln to dry the lumber. In 1983, the kiln provided sufficient lumber for the manufacture of 150 chairs which were commissioned by Guadalajara's Institute Technology y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO). The Tuapuri workshop received 1,850 pesos per chair. One pine log yields enough lumber to make 50 chairs, thus generating approximately 62,500 pesos, yet the same log would sell for only 200 pesos when uncut. Thus chairs produce a 300% increase in income per log for the Huichol.
Profits from finished wood products enable trained carpenters to earn an income and remain at the workship, continuing to teach apprentices. The sale of chairs and other wood products will enable the workshop eventually to become financially independent. Plans are now underway, with assistance from ITESO, to expand the program to other communities.
The workshop also served as a focus for community mobilization. During a recent drought there was a shortage of corn. A communal warehouse was erected near the site of the school workshop to store approximately 30 tons of corn obtained from the Mexican government at subsidized rates. Needy Huichol were lent the corn on the condition that they repay it after the next year's harvest, thus eliminating the need to borrow money at high interest rates.
!Kung San Development Foundation
Over the past seventy years, the !Kung San of Namibia have been reduced from self-sufficiency maintained through hunting and gathering in the Kalahari desert to dependency on welfare or menial government jobs, and, in many cases, recruitment as government anti-guerrilla troops. In the past twenty years their lands in Namibia have been reduced by 60%. The remaining territory is now threatened by a plan to establish huge game reserves. With the reduction in their lands the !Kung San have migrated gradually to white-owned farms and government posts where traditional values are eroded to the point of social disintegration, and economic life offers few escapes from malnutrition.
The !Kung San are attempting to reclaim parts of their former territory. They have moved into formerly abandoned areas and developed a mixed economy based on animal husbandry, subsistence agriculture, and hunting and gathering.
The !Kung San Foundation, established in Namibia in 1982, provides basic training in agricultural and herding techniques and direct material assistance (livestock, tools and equipment, hand and wind pumps, and medicine) to the !Kung San who want to resettle near traditional waterholes, or recently drilled boreholes. Such relocation allows the !Kung San to abandon overcrowded urban areas and, through their own efforts, change and improve their economic condition, thereby permitting them to continue many aspects of their traditional social and cultural life. As of late 1983, several !Kung San groups had resettled successfully, their herds expanding. Other groups are considering similar moves. Cultural Survival is coordinating the United States efforts to aid this Namibia-based international program which also receives African and European assistance.
Tengboche Cultural Center
Since Nepal opened its borders to foreign visitors in 1961, mountain trekking and tourism have become a major industry. The Khumbu region, with about 10,000 foreign visitors each year, is the most popular trekking area. Located within this area is the Tengboche Monastery, a focal point for Sherpa religious, cultural, and educational life.
While increasing numbers of foreign visitors have given the Sherpa community greater employment opportunities as well as exposure to people and ideas of the West and Japan, they also pose a threat to the survival of many Sherpa cultural institutions and traditions. The Tengboche Cultural Center is planned to counterbalance those threats.
For several years, the head of Tengboche has developed a plan to help maintain the roots of Sherpa culture by creating a cultural center for the use and benefit of the Sherpas and to promoting the education of Sherpa Buddhist monks. Architectural plans for the Sherpa Cultural Center have been prepared, and in 1982 the Lama requested Cultural Survival's sponsorship for the project. In addition to the funds raised by Cultural Survival, the Nepalese government contributed money to begin construction of the library/museum building in the summer of 1983. Progress is good, and the structure should be completed in another 12 months.
Funds raised by Cultural Survival will be used for the purchase of books, exhibition materials, and cultural artifacts for the library/museum building, before such treasures are sold to passing tourists. This collection will be expanded as contributions to Cultural Survival increase.
Achual Land Demarcation
In May 1981, Cultural Survival initiated support for a project to secure communal land titles for 42 Achual Indian communities of northeastern Peru. These communities are located in an area of intense oil exploration and exploitation, through which the Northern Peruvian Pipeline now passes.
The regional office of Agrarian Reform, charged with titling Indian land, acknowledged its obligation to the Achual, but said that it lacked funds to maintain a surveying team in the field for the time needed to demarcate land for all 42 Achual communities. With Cultural Survival's financial assistance and labor donated by the Achual Indians, the communities employed a government surveyor and a social scientist to collect data required for land-titling. Cultural Survival has also provided funds for a lawyer to process the titles.
The project was to have been concluded in December 1982. While the field work, surveys and studies have been completed, restructuring of the Peruvian government has slowed down the final land titling. The project coordinator and community leaders met with Peru's President Belaunde during the summer of 1983 to request rapid processing of the titles.
Such titles are especially important for the Achual of the Changuap, Manchari and Huituyacu. Twenty-three lumbering concessions have been granted to non-Indians. By making concessions on lands already demarcated by Achual, land rights would be jeopardized, as would any Indian initiative at forest management. Although the concessions were annulled by the Ministry of Agriculture, timber cutting continues and cannot be halted until titles are obtained.
Such encroachments on their lands have made the Achual increasingly conscious or their territorial boundaries and the need to preserve the land's resources. Through reforestation programs and the direct marketing or agricultural produce the Achual have already increased their incomes and begun to establish a resource management scheme.
In January, 1980, AIDESEP (Inter-Ethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Jungle) was formed as a non-profit organization to unify the tropical forest-dwelling Indians of Peru. Membership includes 10 officially recognized Indian organizations and 13 small, as yet unorganized, ethnic groups. Each member group has three representatives who communicate information back and forth from the communities to AIDESEP. The organization works on behalf of about 50% of Peru's approximately 220,000 forest-dwelling Indians.
AIDESEP publishes Voz Indigena, which documents current problems faced by jungle Indian communities in Peru. AIDESEP also publishes monographs and recently translated and published Cultural Survival's Occasional Paper No. 6, The Dialectics of Domination in Peru: Native Communities and the Myth of the Vast Amazonian Emptiness, by Richard C. Smith.
To help the organization to maintain a visible presence in Lima and to enable representatives to visit constituent communities, Cultural Survival approved funds to expand AIDESEP's program. In order to wean AIDESEP from sources of international funding, a plan has been initiated which will require progressively larger contributions by the 23 member organizations.
Peruvian handicrafts - particularly ceramics and textiles - are among the finest in the world. Much production, however, is marketed through non-producer owned or managed organizations. Such dealers rarely encourage traditional quality nor do they pay prices which stimulate such creativity.
ANTISUYO, a Peruvian organization, receives and markets goods from members who range from family producers to large cooperatives. It also provides technical assistance to its members. Most of the 22 producer members live in Andean or jungle communities where the sale of crafts provides cash essential to their subsistence farming. Founded in December 1981, ANTISUYO serves as an essential "middleman" yet does not charge fees exceeding costs required to maintain its Lima-based store and its three-person staff.
In April 1983, Cultural Survival approved support for ANTISUYO's expanded program for the production and sale of high quality handicrafts from groups living in Peru's Amazon jungle. These funds provide working capital which permits ANTISUYO to pay producers immediately upon receipt of goods, an important concern for producers who cannot afford to sell their goods on concession. Funds also will support ANTISUYO's efforts to develop high quality goods through seminars and workshops with local craftspeople. Through these efforts, ANTISUYO hopes to promote and maintain a sense of pride in Indian culture while improving the general economic condition of member communities.,/P>
Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.