Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Anthropological Niche of Douglas W. Hume
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Below is a summary of a statement made by Leslie E. Sponsel, former chair of the AAA Committee for Human Rights and previous Commission for Human Rights (1992-1996), at the open session of the last annual convention of the AAA in San Francisco on Friday evening, November 17, 2000.

I am happy to see so much interest in the Yanomami. I wish there had been such interest over the Hashimu massacre.

There are plenty of things I could discuss about this matter at length. However, here I will simply pose three questions for the AAA leadership to consider in coming months and years. These three questions apply to both individual anthropologists who have lived and worked with the Yanomami and to anthropology as a whole.

First, what have the Yanomami contributed to us?

Second, what have we contributed to the Yanomami for good and for bad?

Third, how are professional ethics and human rights involved?

These three questions apply to the past, present, and future. They could also be applied to other cultures or groups as well.

This is not primarily a matter of science versus postmodernism, sociobiology versus cultural anthropology, war studies vs. peace studies, Hobbes vs. Rousseau, and the like. These are smoke screens. This is primarily about the harm done to the Yanomami if any of the relevant allegations made by Tierney prove true. There is good reason to believe that some will. For example, on their website Survival International of London states that the persistent characterization of the Yanomami as "the fierce people" led the British government to refuse an SI funding request for an educational program for the Yanomami and Sir Edmund Leach to refuse to support a SI campaign on behalf of land and resource rights for the Yanomami. According to the statements on professional ethics which can be found on the AAA website: "Anthropologists must do everything in their power to protect the physical, social, and psychological welfare and to honor the dignity and privacy of those studied."