Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Internet Source: Public Anthropology: Engaging Ideas, May 27th 2001
FINAL COMMENTS ON ETHICAL ISSUES RAISED
Lêda Leitão Martins
After the second round of papers I traveled to Brazil to do a consultant job with the Indigenous Council of Roraima's health project and to participate in the 3d National Conference on Indigenous Health. I divided my time there between Brasília and Roraima. That trip had an impact on my perspective on some of the subjects discussed in this roundtable. I attended a workshop on research ethics in anthropology at UnB (University of Brasília) and reestablished close contacts with some Yanomami leaders who were attending the same conference, at which I had being invited to be a facilitator. I had the opportunity to talk with them about several of the issues discussed here. In addition, being immersed in the local reality of indigenous affairs, especially regarding health care and the involvement of anthropologists in local projects, and perhaps simply being on the ground where indigenous people face life-threatening challenges put this whole controversy in a some what different light.
But to be faithful to the spirit of engagement of this roundtable and fair to the other participants I will not dedicate my final contribution to cover only the ideas my trip to Brazil inspired. I think at this point it is important to give an overall sense of where we stand in relation to the main topics of our debate. Although the second round of discussion shows serious attempts to engage one another's arguments, it appears in general that most of us agree in broad terms but have deep divergences when we descend to the details and applicability of broad notions. I want to believe that all the participants have a serious commitment to find grounds for a discussion of ethics in academic endeavors, although it is clear that the dialogue gets off track at some points. My hope is that this roundtable will inspire further reflection in the anthropology community B professors and students B and bring changes to research methods and the relation between anthropologists and the people we work with that might inspire new theories and practices. Finally, I expect as an immediate result that concrete measures will be taken by our professional association to assist the Yanomami people now.
The frame of the debate
In my second statement I discussed the context in which the American debate on Darkness in El Dorado has been set, i.e., a tug of war between sociobiologists and cultural anthropologists, or the so-called Science vs. anti-Science supporters. This context is seen clearly in Kim Hill's statements to this roundtable and is very much present in the exchange of opinions in websites, newspapers, journals, and so forth. Terence Turner laid out in his second comment the main points of contention of this debate and its relation to the discussion on Darkness in El Dorado, which, as he points out has become compromised by ideological perspectives. I believe that framing the discussion in such terms has prevented scholars from advancing a
dialogue on research ethics, which otherwise could be a positive result from this controversy. I want to push the debate outside that frame, and I begin by relating an experience I had in Brazil.
In Brasília I attended the first day of a two-day workshop entitled "Social Anthropology, Ethics and Research among Indigenous People" sponsored by ABA (Brazilian Anthropological Association) with support from the Department of Anthropology of UnB. ABA is organizing a series of debates of this kind in major Brazilian universities in preparation for ABA's national meeting in May 2002 in Porto Alegre, which will focus on current ethical problems in anthropological research and work.
The tone of the discussion in Brasília was quite different from the broad debate in the US, or to be fair, from the initial debate that followed the galley proofs of the book. (I realize that some institutions are successfully changing the nature of the discussion here; the forum organized by the Anthropology Department at the University of Michigan and this very roundtable are examples of what might be a new phase in the debate.) Even taking in consideration that no Brazilian anthropologist was accused by Tierney of wrongdoing B and in consequence the book did not raise the shields of anthropologists there B, I was surprised to see that the participants in the workshop did not react to the book as a threat to the discipline or even to science. They did not even seem interested in the nitty-gritty details of the stories told by Tierney, perhaps because most of them were already well known to the crowd there.
Anthropologists in Brasília were eager to talk about the current ethical problems they are facing, such as the reports they are asked to write for court disputes involving indigenous people. Some professors were concerned that they are not preparing students to fulfill this task that has become essential for assuring legal rights for Indians. Others raised the problem of anthropologists writing such reports in support of ranchers or the development projects that go against the interests of the local population, as has happened. Extensive information and experiences were shared on that topic.
The program of the workshop also included themes like the new Indian Statute soon to be passed by the Congress and its implication for anthropological research and the latest guidelines approved by the CNS (National Health Council) regarding studies with indigenous people. Another high point in the workshop was the participation of Azalene Kaingang, an Indian leader who was representing CAPOIB, a national indigenous umbrella organization. She spoke on the relation between anthropologists and indigenous people. Emphasizing a general desire for long-lasting relations of mutual collaboration and respect between researchers and the indigenous people, she said, "We get upset when an anthropologist leaves our villages after her/his research and never comes back, we feel s/he really just wanted to study us, we feel like objects." An exciting debated followed Azalene's speech.
I give all those details in ABA's workshop for two reasons. First, it illustrates a productive follow-up to the accusations and challenges raised by Patrick Tierney's book. Second, it shows that a discussion on the ethical questions raised by Darkness is possible and desirable outside the frame of Science vs. non-Science. Another example worth citing is a manifesto written by a special commission of the Brazilian Academy of Science (ABC) created to investigate the accusations against James Neel, who was a member of the ABC (Velho, Pena, and Salzano 2001). The ABC document is highly critical of Tierney's book and strong in defense of Neel, but it is not framed as a defense of science or sociobiology.
In Round Two I argued that criticisms of the work of Napoleon Chagnon and other researchers that take place south of the equator (at least in Brazil) are not made or perceived as an anti-science attitude. I think it is important to restate this point to avoid treating the ethical questions provoked by the book as intrinsically anti-science, as some scholars insist on doing in the US.
The measles epidemic and ethics in research
The measles epidemic of 1968 in Yanomami territory and the ethical conduct of medical and anthropological research teams have been the most disputed issue in the roundtable. Bruce Albert, Terence Turner, Kim Hill and Raymond Hames (in Round Two) have dedicated major parts of their statements to the subject. I was waiting for the last round to make my remarks on this topic.
At this point, I believe no participant disputes that Tierney's account of the spread of the epidemic was plainly wrong and that we all wish he had been more rigorous in his investigation of the episode. He made unsubstantiated accusations and distracted attention from other important parts of the book. But as Albert pointed out in his second statement, the debate on the measles epidemic have gone largely beyond the facts and analysis presented by Tierney.
In Round One, Terence Turner presented the data he and John Stevens collected on James Neel's papers that are in the archive of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia (Stevens and Turner n.d. ). Albert discussed a report written by physicians of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) about Tierney's account of the epidemic (Lobo and al. 2000). Albert organized and assisted in the production of the report. Both independent analyses, which disproved several allegations made by Tierney, come to similar conclusions. The most important are that:
1. Neel's choice of the Edmonston B vaccine was appropriate at the time and did not pose particular risks to the Yanomami under those circumstances. Turner's findings showed that the choice of that vaccine might have been merely opportunistic (laboratories were producing a more modern vaccine, the Swartz, and the pharmaceutical companies were getting rid of Edmonston B).
2. Neel's 1968 trip to Yanomami territory was primarily a research expedition. Turner pointed out that Neel had acquired measles vaccines before he had heard of the measles outbreak and that it is obvious in his papers that his main concern was to collect human specimens (blood, urine, stools, etc.). The physicians' report suggested possible experimentation on the results of vaccination with and without MIG (measles immune globulin).
3. The medical team did not prioritize treatment over research for the Yanomami population in the area they were in. The physicians of UFRJ concluded that actions taken by Neel's team demonstrate a lack of preparation to deal with the epidemic. This unprepareness is reasonably explained by Turner's findings which showed that Neel did not change the course of the expedition in the face of the outbreak of the disease. Neel's first goal in Yanomami territory was to collect human specimens, and the vaccination was a secondary aim from the beginning. Albert and Turner pointed out that Neel wrote several times in his fieldnotes that the vaccination had become a burden because of the epidemic and that he tried a compromise between the sampling and the vaccination but ended up sacrificing the latter more often than the former.
4. Neel's team did not obtain informed consent from the Yanomami involved in the sampling. At that time this was already an important bioethical norm conceived in the Nuremberg Code (1947), established by the Declaration of Helsinki (1964), and incorporated by the 18th World Medical Assembly.
It is unfortunate that Hill and Hames did not engage directly with the information and analysis developed by Turner and Albert; if they had, our discussion on ethics could have advanced a great deal. In the first round Hill got caught in the early stages of the debate on the measles epidemic and in the second round he dismissed without explanation Turner's investigation on Neel's papers and wrote more to deflect the arguments made by Turner and Albert than to address them. Hames nibbled but did not bite on the debate on these issues. Perhaps they will address those data directly and seriously in this last round. It is necessary, however, to assess some of their statements in relation to the data introduced by Turner and Albert.
I think informed consent is the most relevant issue in the discussion of Neel's expedition to Venezuela in 1968 because it touches directly in the current ethical problem of genetic studies done on human specimens that were not collected with the full knowledge and agreement of their donors. The fact that the blood samples collected in that expedition and subsequent others are stored at Pennsylvania State University forces an inevitable review of what kind of consent the Yanomami gave for the use of their blood, if any consent was given at all, and what is the correct attitude to be taken now by the parties involved.
Hames' second contribution to the roundtable started with a discussion of this topic. Although he subscribed to the principle of informed consent, Hames concluded that he could not have a definitive position on the case involving Chagnon and Neel because he needed more information. Despite his indecision, Hames proceeded in an attempt to exonerate Neel and Chagnon of any charge of not complying with norms of informed consent that had been internationally established in 1964. Hames had three main arguments. One was that "the Yanomamö gave their blood in exchange for trade goods and it was done on a voluntary basis." The second came in the form of a recent conversation between him and Chagnon in which Chagnon explained what he told the Yanomami on the occasion of the bloodsampling.
He [Chagnon] said that for a year prior to Neel's arrival and during the collection phase he told the Yanomamö in all the villages to be sampled that Neel's team wanted to examine their blood in order [sic] determine whether there were things that indicated whether or not they [sic] certain kinds of diseases, especially shawara (epidemic diseases) and that this knowledge would help treat them more effectively if they became ill (Chagnon, phone conversation 3/18/01).
Hames added that Chagnon could not provide more accurate information to the Yanomami because it was impossible to give them a "crash course in infectious disease, genetics, and epidemiology." The third argument was that this type of information, i.e., "information consistent with their ability to comprehend the research," was standard of research done with indigenous populations (and even of research done in the West).
Hames' arguments denied the Yanomami people any say on current and future research on their blood samples that now have been integrated to the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP). But his opinions were also confusing. Did the Yanomami give blood because they were paid for it with trade goods? Or because they accepted the research purposes? If yes is the correct answer for both, as Hames implied that it is, he should have explained better what the deal was. Perhaps pots, machetes and fishing hooks were used as more persuasive arguments with those who were not convinced by Chagnon's explanation or the goods were thrown in as an extra for everybody or perhaps the team gave out more goods when no explanation was given at all for lack of time, for example. I call attention here to an important distinction made by Kim Hill on the different types of medical research (experimentation, observational research, and epidemiological surveillance). He explained that observational research (taking blood temperature, collecting blood samples, recording skin lesions, etc.) "can be conceptualized as a business agreement between those who sell information (the study subjects) and those who buy it (the researchers). As such, study population should be allowed to decide if they want to sell their product (allow the research) and at what price." We are left to wonder which kind of "business agreement" Neel's team and the Yanomami really had, if any at all.
The real problem, however, is that whatever the deal was, Chagnon and other members of the expeditions did not get close to giving a reasonable explanation to the Yanomami about the purposes of the sampling. In consequence, any deal was invalid. Indeed, I think that Chagnon's statements were more deceptive than instructive. In my view, to say to a group of people with very limited knowledge of Western medical science and suffering from ravaging diseases that giving their blood will help to determine if they have certain illness and in consequence provide some kind of treatment is to lure them with implied clinical assistance for their current situation and not to simplify the explanation of a research project. It seems that it was exactly the implied promise of clinical treatment in the short run that convinced the Yanomami to give away their blood. In recent interviews, some Yanomami leaders have touched on this issue. Those interviews are presented in Appendix 1.
The Yanomami specimens collected in Neel's project have not resulted in any treatment to alleviate their suffering from any illness to the present day. The Yanomami population has been blasted with diseases in the last two decades due to the encroachment of miners and settlers on their territory. Tierney affirmed in his book that the Yanomami blood samples were used in the past for comparative purposes in research on radioactivity with Japanese survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and later turned over to the Human Genome Diversity Project. The ethical problem is not that the research on Yanomami blood samples have not benefited the Yanomami directly, but rather that the Yanomami gave their blood under the impression that they would receive medical treatment in consequence of such research. In other words, clinical help became an ethical issue because it underlined the very act of the donation of the blood when the researchers knew that treatment for the Yanomami was not the primary goal of the study or, at least, that treatment was not certain and immediate.
And let us consider as a reasonable argument for a minute that the Yanomami did not have the grasp of epidemiology, genetics and infectious diseases to receive a detailed account of the research and fully comprehend its aims and consequences. Chagnon could have given non-scientific information that the Yanomami would have understood easily and that he, as a cultural anthropologist, knew would be relevant in their decision-making process. For example, why did not Chagnon tell them that their blood was going to be kept under refrigeration for a long, long time (perhaps forever)? In the first round, Bruce called attention to the moral and cultural problems of storing blood from deceased Yanomami in light of "the salient role that blood and mortuary taboos play in their ritual life." In a similar direction, Hill stated that "something about how scientific data are used can be expected to influence Native decisions about whether or not to participate in research, and this is the logic for providing basic information about the purpose of study." In recent interviews the Yanomami indicate that this simple information would have made a significant difference for them (see Appendix 1).
The last part of Hames' argument appealed to the idea that half-disclosure or sometime no disclosure at all was standard procedure in medical research in the 1960s and 1970s when most of the Atomic Energy Commission project was carried out among the Yanomami. Hill suggested a similar idea and went even further to state that the Nuremberg Code does not "attempt to regulate observational research and is not relevant to epidemiological surveillance required in public health emergencies," suggesting that blood sampling does not come under the Nuremberg principles. Soon after making this statement Hill seemed to remember Marcel Roche's goiter study and the experiments with iodine 131 radioactive tracer carried out with the Yanomami. And he added that Roche should have sought complete informed consent for the experimentation but, then, later he dismissed his own claim by saying that the iodine study presented no danger to the Yanomami and followed standard procedures for the time.
Again I am left with the impression that Hill agrees with the general principle as long as it is not applied to anything related to the cases in question here. More problematic is his notion that norms can be bent without any accountability if no supposed harm is caused to the subjects of the studies. It is a very dangerous notion because there is no definition or regulation of who is doing the assessment of possible harm and why. Hill? Me? Hames? Are we entitled to do that? International norms like the Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki were created precisely to assure the participation of subjects in the assessment of harm and benefits of research and to give them the freedom to say no. Subjects who participate in studies that were not fully explained to them must have the right to take a stand on the assessment of damage caused by those studies, specially when such undertakings have consequences for the future, as in the case of the Yanomami blood samples. Scientists who work with those groups or communities should welcome this type of assessment.
Complaints and disputes over biological materials and intellectual property rights B and it appears that a large portion of the specimens was taken without adequate consent B are bound to become the most important issue in the agenda of indigenous people in the near future; for some it already is. (See, for example, Lewin 1993). The Yanomami are not an isolated and archaic case. An illustrative glimpse at the controversy over genetic studies is provided by a recent editorial of the New Scientist:
Should scientists who take blood and tissue samples for research be allowed to use them for other studies without permission? Will the original donors care if they do? Getting the answer right is a big deal for geneticists who are beginning to link diseases to genes in the newly sequenced human genome. [ . . . ] One group of indigenous people in British Columbia is feeling particular let down. Members of the Nuu-Chah-nulth claim research was done on their blood without their consent. They are angry, and want their samples back.
In his conclusion, the editor states that
[c]learly people have the right to decide how their own genetic material will be used and it doesn't have to be a bureaucratic nightmare. Volunteers could simply tick a box on the consent form if they want to know what their DNA is intended for. Or they could be asked to specify areas of research they don't want to be part of, such as studies on alcoholism, race, or intelligence. If they object, they must have the right to withdraw ("They Need Your DNA" 2000).
Indigenous and human rights organizations have paid special attention to genetic studies and patents on human tissue since the Human Genome Diversity Project was made public or, perhaps, since the 1995 patent case of a DNA sequence of the Hagahai, a group of Papua New Guineans (Salopek 1997b). Indian spokespeople and advocates have stated their concern about collection and use of human specimens without the informed consent of the donors, which some call "biopiracy," and the disregard for cultural practices and beliefs. They have also emphasized the financial disadvantage that indigenous people might have in deals proposed by research institutions or multinational pharmaceutical laboratories. Paul Salopek gave an overview of the different positions involved in the discussion of the HGDP. He wrote on the opinions of indigenous people that,
[a]s the gigantic scale of the survey begins to lumber into the public eye, a growing number of aboriginal groups, who are the main if not exclusive target of the study, see the project as simply another form of high-tech exploitationCscientists arrogantly using tribes as guinea pigs while offering nothing tangible in return. "It's biocolonialism, plain and simple," said Jeanette Armstrong, a member of Canada's Okanagan Nation. "First, they take our land, then they take our culture and now they want our genes" (Salopek 1997a).
In response to Hames' line of reasoning on the standard of research in the 1960s and 1970s, I would like to add that Chagnon attempted to take blood samples without adequate informed consent in 1995. Albert and I recalled the episode in our statements in Round Two. Hill's contention that studies like the ones conducted by Neel and Chagnon are not subject to the Nuremberg Code is likely to be disputed by physicians and other professionals of the field. The doctors in Rio de Janeiro cited the Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki as guidelines that should have been followed by Neel, Chagnon and Roche. In fact, the Helsinki principles adopted by the World Medical Assembly in 1964 make no distinction between different types of research.
Another point brought up by Hill is that indigenous people have a moral obligation to participate in research that may not benefit them directly since they also gain from results of studies carried out with other groups of people. I agree with him on this point, although I think potential research subjects have the right to refuse any study, as necessary as it may seem. But I do not see the reason for bringing to our debate nightmarish hypotheses of situations when the Yanomami would be forced to donate blood. We already have concrete and complex cases to discuss here. Imaginary dramas of infectious diseases coming out of the jungles of South America and, for that matter, Africa or Asia, to infect the entire world (and always starting with the U.S.) should remain in Hollywood where they belong.
Ethics in research
We all seem to agree that the well-being and interests of the people we work with should be put above any scientific objective. Hill said in Round One, "Our goals are to study issues of academic interest, but the health and welfare of the study population must always take precedence over any academic goal." I believe that all the other participants endorse Hill's statement, as do I. But the ideas of some participants become cloudy in the second round. Hill, for instance, stated that doctors who "are called into a country to research an outbreak of disease [ . . . ] do their job as researchers not clinical practitioners. They do not and can not get involved in treating every sick person they encounter in the field . . ." Was he suggesting that Neel's team had no obligation to assist the Yanomami because they were on a research mission? I think a distinction needs to be made between studying an epidemic when there are other medical teams providing care, and doing research in the middle of an outbreak when the research team is the only clinical help around. While the first case is not likely to raise ethical problems, the second hurts precisely the general principle stated by Hill. Neel's expedition in 1968 falls into the second case.
The subject gets even more divisive when we touch on the details of the case under discussion, i.e., the ethical decisions taken by Neel and his team during the measles outbreak in 1968. Did Neel give priority to research over medical treatment to the Yanomami during his research expedition? Tuner's conclusion after examining Neel's documents and fieldnotes is that Neel tried to balance the sampling and the vaccination and that he even compromised some aspects of the research to give more time to inoculation. But Neel ended up sacrificing to a larger degree the necessary measures of vaccination and health care needed in face of the epidemic in order to meet his goal of bringing home a thousand Yanomami specimens. I find it striking that it appears that Neel did not alter the route previously designed or the schedule of stays in each village in the face of all the panic, chaos and illness in the Yanomami villages around him. It is illustrative that Neel brought back the thousand blood samples he wanted, and the films that Chagnon and Timothy Asch were schedule to make were completed.
Discussing the specifics of the case, Hill first said that Neel tried both to vaccinate and to research, then in the second round he affirmed that Neel's job in the 1968 mission was to "collect information on human genetic diversity." In addition, Hill dismissed Turner's findings without any explanation for doing so. Hames did not address the question directly and preferred to restate that Neel had some kind of permission to vaccinate and that is what he did. Peters did not refer to the issue at all. The circumstances of the case are very complex, and it seems that this roundtable is not the forum to put the case to rest. In my opinion, then, the appropriate conclusion is Albert's proposition for the creation of an independent bioethics commission to examine the researches headed by James Neel in the 1960s and 1970s involving the Yanomami. Turner and Hames have directly endorsed Albert's proposal.
In the first round Albert mentioned the idea of possible lawsuits against the institutions that were responsible for the research done among the Yanomami without their informed consent. Hill reacted strongly against the idea, arguing that the Yanomami should not file "frivolous" lawsuits that would only serve to scare away scientists from doing further research with the Yanomami, which for him would be disastrous (to the Indians, of course). Hill's opinion is simple: the blood is already in the laboratories, let science do its crucial job and let the Yanomami wait for a uncertain future of medical benefits and B who knows B some profit.
I think Hill missed the point. The question is about ethical principles: the Yanomami did not give permission to have their blood stored indefinitely and to have the samples participate in the Human Genome Project. So, ethically the institutions responsible for past and present researches with Yanomami specimens are required to inform them of the purposes of the sampling and subsequent procedures done to the samples, and must ask permission now, as late as it is. And the Yanomami, considering all the information available, have the right to make a wide range of decisions, including proceeding with a lawsuit.
I am not advocating for a legal dispute over the Yanomami blood samples, but I think that it is unacceptable that Hill has attempted to shame the Yanomami out of seeking a court solution to the case. Hill has no credentials to state that no "real damage" was done to the Yanomami. Legally, damage is a very broad notion and it is up to attorneys and judges to decide if a case involves damage of any sort or not. But mostly I think Hill went too far when he suggested that this would be frivolous and would send a "wrong moral message" to the Yanomami, suggesting that the Yanomami would be puppets in such an act.
We should remind ourselves that the Human Genome Diversity Project is far from enjoying a consensus of opinion in the scientific community. Hill gives the impression that the HGDP holds the key to the complete understanding of human disease and pathology and that this knowledge will bring infinite and direct benefits to everybody, including the Yanomami. However, it appears from the extensive debate among renown scientists that the project is iffy, to say the least. Several scientists dispute the publicized therapeutic benefits of genetics studies like the HGDP and the Human Genome Project. There is no consensus about when, how, at what cost and even if the HGDP and HGP will deliver what they promise. I only need to cite Richard Lewontin to substantiate this point. He says,
According to the vision [of HGDP defenders], we will locate on the human chromosomes all the defective genes that plague us, and them from the sequence of the DNA we will deduce the causal story of the disease and generate a therapy. Indeed, a great many defective genes have already been roughly mapped onto chromosomes and, with the use of molecular techniques, a few have been very closely located and, for even fewer, some DNA sequence information has been obtained. But causal stories are lacking and therapies do not yet exist; nor is it clear, when actual cases are considered, how therapies will flow from a knowledge of DNS sequencesY The gene whose mutant form leads to cystic fibrosis has been located, isolated, and sequenced. The protein encoded by the gene has been deduced. Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of other proteins that are a part of cell structure, so it is hard to know what to do next. The mutation leading to Tay-Sachs disease is even better understood because the enzyme specified by the gene has a quite specific and simple function, but no one has suggested a therapy. (Lewontin 2000, pp. 151-152).
Lewontin proceeds to call attention to deterministic theories embedded in the DNA mapping project. He states,
The editor of the most prestigious general American scientific journal, Science, an energetic publicist for large DNA-sequencing projects, in special issues of his journal filled with full-page multicolored advertisements from biotechnology equipment manufacturers, has visions of genes for alcoholism, unemployment, domestic and social violence, and drug addiction. What we had previously imagined to be messy moral, political, and economic issues turn out, after all, to be simply a matter of an occasional nucleotide substitution. While the notion that the war on drugs will be won by genetic engineering belongs to Cloud Cuckoo Land, it is a manifestation of a serious ideology that is continuous with the eugenics of an earlier time (Lewontin 2000, p. 160).
These are two of the major points of contention among scientists. In addition, anthropologists have added their own criticisms of the HGDP, arguing that DNA cannot be related to social aspects such as ethnic identity and race that are constructed by economic, political and cultural processes. Therefore, the attempt to retrace human history through study of markers on DNA is unsophisticated, to say the least. The same is said about certain questions still asked by geneticists to the present, for example, how closely are Italians related to the French (Salopek 1997a).
In conclusion, Turner endorsed Albert's analysis and suggestion of compensation for the Yanomami. Peters did not express a clear opinion on the matter. Hill agreed that any future profit should be shared with the Yanomami. And Hames affirmed that the Yanomami blood samples have already been paid with trade goods. I think it would be educational to see someone explaining to the Yanomami that the pots and fishing hooks they got out of the deal are enough in the face of the money involved in the collection of and research on their blood and the fortune that may be made with genetics discoveries through the HGDP.
The effects of Napoleon Chagnon's work in Brazil
It seems that all the participants in this roundtable agree that anthropologists should be concerned with the impact of their research and their publications on the lives of the people they study. But there is a major disagreement on the influence of Napoleon Chagnon's work on the lives of the Yanomami. Terence Turner, Bruce Albert and I converge on the position that Chagnon's ideas had a negative effect on the political and physical situation of the Yanomami in Brazil. We have pointed out in different ways and through several examples that Chagnon's academic writing became a topic of national media coverage in Brazil and subsequently appeared in the discourse of politicians and military personnel who had power to make decisions on Yanomami land, health assistance, and so on. I hope my past two contributions have made strong arguments to support that position.
Kim Hill and Raymond Hames stated a different opinion on the issue: that Chagnon has had little or no effect on the decisions of the Brazilian government and the opinion of the public in general toward the Yanomami. However, Hill thinks that Chagnon should have engaged in "highly visible and energetic attempts to counter the misuse of his work," and in this aspect he seems to agree with Turner, Albert and me.
I think it is important to call attention to John Peters' recommendation that the American Anthropological Association "recognize, evaluate and support" the statements made by the Brazilian Anthropological Association, which deal mostly with the consequences of Chagnon's opinions for the Yanomami in Brazil. And perhaps we all should hope and expect that Chagnon will at last reach out to the Brazilian media and adequately oppose the sensationalistic use of this work. That would be especially welcome now that there is a congressional investigative committee charged with reviewing the demarcation process of indigenous lands in Brazil and politicians have stated that the Yanomami territory is oversized (See Gonçalves 2001, Monteiro 2001a,b, "Neudo Campos apóia a redução da área Ianomami." 2001).
Ethics in anthropology and the relationship between anthropologists and indigenous people
As I said at the beginning of my comments, I believe that one of the promising results of the debates trigged by Darkness in El Dorado is a serious reflection on how we relate to the people we study. I will attempt here to make some contributions to this debate, which I hope becomes a continuous process.
I have serious points of contention with Kim Hill in relation to the work of cultural anthropologists. Perhaps the problem is that Hill generalizes everything or equates disparate cases, rendering his own comments empty and hard to engage with. I take particular issue with his generalizations and attacks on advocates of indigenous rights, which he seems to direct in particular to cultural anthropologists who are involved with human rights struggles. First of all, it is chilling the way Hill insists on broadly attacking human rights organizations. It is a critical mistake to give a few examples without providing specific references to people or institutions and then generalize his experiences to a large number of organizations and activities. His discourse is very close to the arguments used by the military and right-wing politicians in Brazil (and I would guess also in other South American countries) to undermine the legal rights of Indian people. Hill must know this, and I wonder why he insists on these generalizations.
It is true that NGOs in general struggle with ways to present a de-romanticized image of indigenous people without hurting public support for their causes and running the risk of obstructing legal claims for land and assistance for Indians. It is even a fact that there are advocates with a idealized view of indigenous people who oppose any sort of data that goes against that Rousseauian notion or that they perceive as a threat to Indian rights. But in any of those cases, the participation of anthropologists in advocacy work certainly has been more on the side of supporting or pushing for non-romantic treatment of Indians, showing the complexity of their societies and fighting the easy, one-label solution. In this sense, I see and have experienced myself (from both sides) that the interaction between anthropologists and lay advocates is extremely positive and necessary to the defense of the rights of indigenous people and to anthropology because both parts are forced to confront facts and ideas that they otherwise would not. It pushes anthropologists to deal with concrete problems and advocates to rethink their concepts. Good results of the interaction between anthropology and advocacy can be seen in the work of ISA (Instituto SocioAmbiental). (See, for example, their latest publication, (Ricardo 2000).
Another charge made by Hill is that cultural anthropologists and activists defend indigenous rights on the basis of human rights laws and principles but fail to apply those principles to the lives of Indians. The example cited was the mistreatment of women that Hill implies is widespread among indigenous people and that advocates protect as a culture treasure. This is another complex issue that is oversimplified by Hill. There are several attempts made by anthropologists and scholars from other areas to address the challenge of rendering universal human rights meaningful and relevant to different cultures without obliterating the right to cultural diversity, the right to be different. An article by Terence Turner has described these attempts (Turner 1997).
Here, I would like to respond to Hill with a brief comment. Contrary to what Hill claimed, Indian rights organizations and activists (including anthropologists) deal with individual rights issues, such as the abuse of women, infanticide and incest, but most do not use religious proselytism. Hill seemed to favor the missionary approach that he called "moral cultural criticism," but which in my opinion can be more accurately referred to as moral cultural judgement. Missionaries have been criticized for condemning Indian people's beliefs and banning certain practices that go against their religious dogmas, such as shamanism (although I would not generalize this statement to all missionaries). In contrast, human rights advocates prefer secular education as the approach to deal with abuses of individual rights within Indian societies. The Pro-Yanomami Commission (CCPY), for example, has an educational project that involves lawyers, anthropologists, linguists and teachers, and that introduces Yanomami students to aspects of western laws, Brazilian social norms, economic systems, and so on.
I have never talked with an activist (missionaries excepted) who knows with certainty what position she or he would take in face of given situations or who feels totally satisfied with positions taken in the past. It seems that they all struggle with these moral dilemmas, in great part because they are conscious of the imperfections of their societies and of themselves as individuals. Perhaps this self-reflection makes advocates choose dialogue with Indians instead of impositions and threats regarding morally problematic situations. The more interaction indigenous societies have with Western societies the greater their perception and understanding become of the rights that also protect them. The trouble is that they also learn, the hard way, that the societies which created those rights are constantly violating them in relation to Indians and to their own citizens.
The engagement of more anthropologists and other scientists with ethics and indigenous rights is very welcome, but what Hill and Hames (in Round One) have done is to blur the problem and paint a misleading picture of the participation of anthropologists in human rights advocacy. In fact, my impression in reading their statements is that cultural anthropologists are easily corrupted or seduced to join an army of advocates committed to lie and hide the truth to achieve their purposes. It seems that only "hard core" scientists, like Hill and Hames themselves, are immune to such corruption. This whole scenario is so stereotyped that it leaves no space for a dialogue. Anthropologists and lay advocates are not naïfs or terrorists, and the objectivity that Hill and Hames proclaim is conditioned by their own biases and limitations. I have been involved for eleven years with indigenous rights and have been working as an anthropologist for the last two. But I refuse to be taken hostage by the generalized accusation that Hill and Hames spread and be forced to defend myself. Unfortunately, a dialogue on the ethics of human rights advocacy is not possible in the terms established by them.
The other part of Hill's argument on the relationship of anthropologists/advocates and indigenous people is even worse than the first: his accusations about the "coaching" of indigenous leaders. Throughout Hill's statements he makes several references to a supposed manipulation of Indian leaders or an absence of the agency of Indian people in their own affairs. He wrote in Round One that "somebody is maliciously coaching the Yanomamo," and in round two that "such lawsuits are essentially frivolous and send the wrong moral message to the Yanomamo."
Again, Hill's ideas are similar to those of the Brazilian military and Amazonian politicians who say the Indian spokespeople who defend their land are manipulated by the Catholic Church or by activists on behalf of foreign countries (that want to take control of the Amazon). The suggestion that Indian leaders are puppets of human rights advocates is the modern version of the colonial idea that Indians can not think for themselves, that a "white" person is always behind their reasoning. This is the easiest and most efficient way to silent indigenous people when one does not want to hear what they say or does not like what they say. It happens every day in my home state, Roraima. Indian leaders are considered authentic when they say what people expect. It happens in academia too; Chagnon has repeatedly called Yanomami leaders who criticize him parrots of NGOs.
Hill also brought up questions regarding informed consent in anthropological researches. He suggests that we cultural anthropologists do not contemplate the ethics of our methods and academic production. I think Hill has forgotten all about post-colonial, post-modernist and feminist critiques in anthropology, as well approaches that seek to foster a more engaged relationship with our subjects and produce locally relevant theories, such as applied anthropology and participatory action research. With as much debate as there is in relation to those theories and methods within the discipline, it is absurd to suggest that nothing has changed or has been challenged in cultural anthropology since Lévi-Strauss' first fieldwork.
It is also my impression that cultural anthropologists are required to fill out research permission forms and receive approval from their sponsoring institutions and from the competent institutions in the country in which they carry out the study. Hill suggests that cultural anthropologists are not required to provide any explanation or have consent to do their research, as biomedical researchers are. I and all the colleagues I know have had to deal with human subject protection requirements of our university IRBs prior to fieldwork and gain all the necessary permissions from different institutions in our research countries. But cultural anthropological and medical researches have outcomes of distinct nature and consequences and as so should be regulated by distinct ethical codes (as they are).
Despite all my disagreements with Hill, I have to admit that challenges to the ethical norms of anthropology are not totally groundless. The AAA has an ethical code that is very encompassing and progressive, but the mechanisms by which anthropologists are held accountable for their work are not clear. What happens when an anthropologist breaks the code? What is supposed to be done? What accountability exists? I am afraid that if we do not respond to these questions, the burden of dealing with our ethical problems will be always passed to the people who should have the least to be responsible for: the people we choose to study.
Hill also touched on a key aspect of anthropological research that deserves more attention within the discipline, i.e., the disclosure of our academic theories to our subjects. I think the point is not simply disclosure but the opening of a dialogue about our ethnographic writings with our subjects and a subsequent change of the nature of the relation between us and them. Such dialogues, including disputes and joint publications, between anthropologists and their subjects have already started in other parts of the world, but the process is incipient with indigenous people in South America. Indigenous people have started to transform their perception of anthropologists, and in consequence the discipline will need to adjusts its methods, its publications and so on to contemporaneous fieldwork realities. The traditional beads, pots, machetes and, more recently, cash as exchange for hospitality and data might see its last days sooner than later. Indigenous people are beginning to expect and require that anthropologists engage and assist them in their political struggles and with health projects, education programs, and so on. Not that this type of engagement is anything new. For decades some anthropologists have been assisting indigenous people in their political and economic agendas, but this has been more in consequence of the researchers' personal political orientation and interests. The difference now is that indigenous people have started to factor this kind of involvement in the trade off for research.
I am not the first to perceive this change (see, for instance, Albert 1997), and I think that the relation between indigenous people and anthropology is heading for further transformation. Beyond a transaction of exchange, being the payment material goods or professional assistance in given projects, Indian leaders seem increasingly more interested in the subject of our researches and publications. My recent fieldwork illustrates this point. I was not asked for financial or intellectual help and then left alone to do what I wanted. Instead, the very theme of my research was the object of discussion; it became in some sense a part of their own agenda and vice versa. Luckily for me, my academic goals and their interests were very similar. Some Macuxi leaders expect a long term commitment of my academic work to issues they consider relevant, and want to be able to discuss what I write about them.
In this sense, it is relevant to consider some interviews carried out with Yanomami spokesmen on the issue of their relationship with researchers (see Appendix 2). The interviewees indicate a clear interest in having anthropologists engage in activities that have a direct impact in their lives and show a concern about who comes to do research in their territory and the consequences of such undertakings. As Azalene Kaingang did in Brasília, the Yanomami I talked to also seem to favor a close, mutual and long-term collaboration with the people who work or study with them. Despite all the published work on the Yanomami, some of my interviewees had no experience with anthropologists, and one of them, Peri Porapitheri, talks about a journalist instead. I included his interview because he speaks of data collection and interactions with non-Yanomami people, issues that are close to the work of anthropologists.
The Yanomami and Macuxi leaders I talked to did not show much interest in the details of the current debate in anthropology. It certainly seemed distant and unimportant in the face of their own problems. At those moments I recalled that Bruce Albert, in Round One, said that the polemic over Darkness in El Dorado is not intrinsically relevant to the situation of the Yanomami now and that the debate in and of itself does not serve the Yanomami cause or, for that matter, any other Indian people's cause. Morally we have an obligation to assist the Yanomami in some direct and immediate form. I have pointed out some measures and supported others suggested in this debate, such as the bioethic committee proposed by Albert to review medical research conducted among the Yanomami.
However, beyond these immediate steps on behalf of the Yanomami, I believe the debate on ethics in anthropology is worthwhile and can bring real change to the discipline and, ultimately, have a positive impact on indigenous affairs. I would like to see, for example, departments having regular seminars on ethics before sending their students to fieldwork. Ethical rules are always going to be contentions and hard to pin down, but the discussion of examples and philosophical questions can help to guide students in their research. The transformations on the way indigenous people look at anthropologists need to be followed by a reflection on fieldwork methods and the production of ethnographies within the discipline. Should anthropology departments and universities develop a formal relation with subjects of studies regarding research projects and dissertations? Are anthropology programs structured to deal with contemporaneous fieldwork? Will anthropology open space for our subjects to speak back at our ethnographies? How will anthropologists negotiate their theoretical interests and the agenda of their subjects? Anthropologists should begin to address those questions if we want to have a significant role in indigenous affairs and in academia in the near future.
Prior to my trip to Brazil last April, Robert Borofsky asked Bruce Albert and me to get some input from Yanomami leaders on the issues related to the roundtable on ethics in anthropology that we were participating in. Borofsky elaborated two questions to be asked of the Yanomami: What constitutes a fair relationship between an anthropologist and the Yanomami he or she works with - both while the anthropologist is in the field and after he or she returns home? What is reasonable to expect anthropologists and professional anthropological associations to do now to help the Yanomami? The intention of those questions was to bring contributions from some Yanomami to a debate that has been so closely related to them. In this sense, the interviews brought out an issue that the Yanomami were eager to discuss and that seemed very relevant to them: the collection of blood samples by American research teams in the 1960s and 1970s among the Yanomami population of Brazil and Venezuela. The excerpts presented here seek to fill, in part, a space in the academic discussion, and nothing is more appropriate than doing so in regard to the blood sampling and the current situation of those samples, the subject that the Yanomami showed the most concern about. In addition, I think it is the conversation on the blood sampling that best addresses the question about the support that anthropologists and anthropological associations can give the Yanomami people now. In appendix 2 I present interviews that touch more directly the query on the relation with anthropologists, although the Yanomami did not relate to the abstractness of the question. The question seemed not to make sense without a context meaningful to them (and the controversy in the anthropological world did not seem meaningful at all for them) or without referring to specific people.
It is important to describe the setting of the interviews, which I believe had an impact on the themes which emerged. The Yanomami I talked to were delegates or invited participants in the 3d National Conference on Indigenous Health. Most are regional leaders who are often appointed or invited to discuss issues of general concern to their people in Brazil. In this case, they were chosen by their communities to go to Boa Vista and then to Brasília to discuss health policies and programs. Health projects with the Yanomami in the 1990s had a major influence on the creation of the system of health districts which were implemented beginning in 1998 and constitute the core of the national public policy on assistance to the indigenous population in Brazil (see Athias and Machado 2001, Pellegrini 2000). The Yanomami Health District was one of the first of its kind to be implemented in the country. As a result, some Yanomami spokesmen have been dealing with issues of Western health assistance and policies for a decade now.
The interview presented here took place in the last day of the health conference. This final phase of the conference was a intense experience, a four-day retreat where we were immersed in the problems, questions and challenges related to the health situation of indigenous people. Among the many topics presented in panels and then discussed in groups was the question of research and property rights over knowledge, plants, and their bodies that several Indian peoples in Brazil have started to face. The conference approved several resolutions on the subject. The Yanomami, of course, must have heard the discussion of the cases of disputed research and patenting. I personally saw Davi Kopenawa talking about the Yanomami blood sampling with Indian leaders from other parts of the country.
I believe the conference was a key factor determining the growing concern among the Yanomami delegates about the blood samples stored in the US that pervades the last interviews. I asked Kopenawa to set up a conversation with the other Yanomami delegates and help with the translation from Yanomami to Portuguese. All talked about with me was the collection of the blood samples that they remember or heard about from their parents and how they felt about the samples now. I confess that at that point I did not push hard on other topics. It seemed inappropriate and out of place to do so. Kopenawa was the main interpreter, but he also gave his opinion on some questions or brought in information that had come out during a conversation they all had the previous night (a conversation in which I did not participate).
The interviews were conducted in Portuguese when possible and in Yanomami with translation to Portuguese when necessary. The translation to English tries to convey as accurately as possible what the Yanomami say in Portuguese. In the interviews, ellipses indicate pauses and ellipses in square brackets indicate elisions for clarity in the translation. I have added a few comments in footnotes to clarify references made by the interviewees, but in general I have chosen to let the interviews speak for themselves.
Luziânia, GO, Brazil, May 18, 2001
Interviewees: 1. Carlos Krokonautheri
2. Ivanildo Wawanawetery
3. Roberto Pirisitheri
4. Geraldo Parawautheri
5. Alexandre Hawarixapopitheri
Interpreter (Yanomami to Portuguese): Davi Kopenawa
English translation of the interviews: John M. Norvell and Lêda L Martins.
[Davi and Carlos converse in Yanomami.]
Davi: He's remembering. He also saw the napë [non-Yanomami] taking blood, he took a lot of blood. He's saying, he's asking you [plural], if you want to help us that's good. Then, you have to . . . talk to them, the Americans, who took it, talk to the doctor toYwhat are they going to say? What are they going to think? If they want to do somethingYwhat he wants to do isY[they have to]pay or else return the blood. If they don't want to return the blood of my relatives who already died, then they have to pay. If they don't want to pay, then we are going to sue whomever is responsible for the blood.
[ . . . ]
Ivanildo: I remember this case that they were talking about yesterday as well. There is also a shamathari [Yanomami from the western part of their territory] there from Venezuela who has the same complaint.
[ . . . ]
Lêda: Do you remember which community it was?
Ivanildo: A community called Narimipiwei. The napë [non-Yanomami] based the helicopter there in the middle of the village, back there in the mountains. The napë base was there in what they call the Banana Island, near there. From right there they went in the helicopter. The napë flew over that whole area. Even today there's a clearing there in the middle. I kept asking questions. "What were they doing?" So, the chief told me everything. Look here! They were taking blood, the needle was thick. They put it in a vein [points to the inside of his arm].
Davi: They started there in Venezuela. After that they came to Brazil.
Ivanildo: So the napë [non-Yanomami], when the Yanomami fled to the jungle, the napë threatened to kill them if they didn't let them take blood. They received some exchanges. Knife, fishing line, thread. The napë even found the Yanomami who were hidden there in the jungle, whoever didn't want blood taken they talked with, making them afraid, threatening to kill  or . . .
Lêda: And the Yanomami there knew what this blood was for?
Ivanildo: They wanted to know. There was no explanation at all. So, when I arrived there, they were trying to find out why those people wanted to take blood. They would fill a glass bottle or a plastic bag. They were taking, I don't know if it was a half a liter, right? Something like that, from a child. From an adult, they took more, they filled a plastic bag with blood. So, they asked why those people were taking blood. [ . . . ]
Lêda: And so you went . . .
Ivanildo: So, they gave knives, beads, fishing line, and so they convinced them.
Lêda: They were really trading like that?
Ivanildo: Really trading. Causing fear. When the Yanomami didn't want to let them take blood, they tied them up. They tied them up by the arms with vines. They took the blood. First they had to tie them. If they tie you, you have to relax your arm. This was in every place they came that they did it like this.
Lêda: The Yanomami there were complaining? They wanted to know what?
Ivanildo: They wanted to know why those guys were taking blood, to do what.
Lêda: Ivanildo, when did you go there?
Ivanildo: It was August 6th, 1998. [ . . . ]
Lêda: You went with a health team?
Ivanildo: Yeah, I went with the Uhiri health team, Dr. Cláudio [Steves].
Lêda: You went in there to take care of those communities in Venezuela?Ivanildo: Yeah, we bushwhacked in. It took forty-eight days.
Lêda: And what do the Yanomami say about other types of research, taking photosY
Ivanildo: So, they asked why those guys were taking blood. "Where is that guy who to this day has disappeared? That guy never appeared again. He said he would come back." So I said to them, "Pay attention to that person who wants to do research, who are photographers, who do research. They photograph the area, the research, in general, right? That blood, to do research, to say where the Yanomami came from, which place the Yanomami came from, where the Yanomami were born, what Yanomami means. This is the research they took the blood for. So, maybe this blood is to be found even today. I say I am not sure." I told them, "Look! Perhaps this blood of yours is still around." This is what I was thinking, and I said to them that maybe this blood is still around. And another thing . . . "at that time you [plural] were fighting a lot as well, you fought a lot as well." So, I had . . . "look, this blood type, another blood type . . . for him to do research on which blood type is the strongest, which blood type is the weakest. Look! I'm not sure, but I think it's more or less like that. The people came here to take blood." So, I was saying to then, "look, it's not just that [blood] that he took away." Today they take something else from our body, right? Look! There are people who take a piece of flesh.
Lêda: Skin, right?
Ivanildo: Right, skin too.
Lêda: Hair . . .
Ivanildo: There is a person who cuts hair and puts it inside . . . There's all that, "there are things that you [plural] don't remember that those people did with you." [unintelligible] The guy was doing the same thing, the guy did the same thing, he came and created fear, created fear that made the Yanomami flee, that he went after, threatened to kill them or . . . when he didn't give up his blood, the guy was going to get sick, right?! If he didn't give blood the guy was going to get sick, he was going to die. Those who were donating blood would live. They said so. They tied them, tied their arm all up like this, softened their arm.
[ . . . ]
Lêda: Davi, ask him [Carlos] if when the napë [non-Yanomami] took his blood, if those others who remember, if the people who took the blood explained to them what the blood was for.
Davi: No, he didn't explain.
Lêda: He didn't explain? Or if he traded for it?
Davi: He traded, he traded a knife for it.
Lêda: But he didn't explain what he was going to do?
Davi: No, I remember. I know.
[Carlos and Davi talk in Yanomami]
Davi: Well, he said that they did not explain why they were taking blood. He's saying that he didn't receive anything. He didn't receive even a fishhook, even a knife. [ . . . ] They didn't receive payment.
Lêda: You can tell them that their blood, the blood of all those Yanomami, is in a university, called the Pennsylvania State University, there in the United States. It's all stored in a refrigerator, in tubes, with numbers . . .
Davi: Names too. They said they put names on as well.
Lêda: The number and the name?! The name of the village too?
[Carlos speaks in Yanomami]
Davi: They took the blood like that and then put the name on it, the name of the village, the name of the person who took it, with father, mother, child, together with the family. So, . . .
[Roberto begins to speak in Yanomami with Davi.]
Davi: He was also small at that time. He . . . [unintelligible] . . . Opopë-u village. The missionaries were there as well.
Lêda: Which region?
Davi: Sururucu. So, the American napë [non-Yanomami] didn't help to explain. He didn't help: "Look, this blood is going to stay many years." He didn't say that. He was thinking, the Yanomami were thinking that he would take the blood and then read it and then throw it away. That's what the Yanomami thought. That's why they gave the blood.
Lêda: They thought it was to see a disease?
Davi: Yeah, they thought it was to see some disease, malaria, tuberculosis, flu, or some other disease. This is what the Yanomami thought. The American napë didn't say, "Look, this blood, tell the Yanomami . . . ." The American didn't say to . . . [ . . . ] "Look, tell them that this blood is going to be around for many years." [ . . . ] So, the Yanomami didn't know that it was going to stay many years there. That's why they gave blood. Now they are saying that they're going to . . . that they want to take advantage of your help to make a document, like you [plural] know how to make, to talk to the owner of the university where the blood is stored. If they want to research, they have to, then, . . . speak to us, ask our permission.
Lêda: Come here to talk?!
Davi: [ . . . ] Or else send a document to you [plural] and then you go there to our village. You yourselves. Not them, no. Them we won't accept anymore. If they want to research - "Look, we're going to research, nobody's going to return their blood, we're going to keep it forever" - then you say to them, "Look, the Yanomami want this. If you don't want to throw it away, if you want to use it, research, then you have to pay them." They want to be paid, every village. It's not just me. It's every village. But me, I don't want money.
[ . . . ]
[Davi and Geraldo speak in Yanomami.]
Davi: I'm going to translate. His father spoke with him, told him the story. He remembers it more or less. So, he's thinking. He's the son of a chief, but his father passed away. So, his father told him: "Look, . . . time has passed since the napë [non-Yanomami] came here and took our blood, took my blood. These napëpë [plural for napë] came from far away [ . . . ]. He said 'The Yanomami will let us take blood and we have a present for them'" . . . this present that he gave there in Toototobi, that I remember. Now, he [Geraldo] wants . . . the blood can't be kept as if the Yanomami were alive. Since he's not alive [Geraldo's father], they can't [keep his blood]. Like them as well, like the napë prohibit [things] as well, we also want them to . . . speak to a white man who has responsibility. [If] he doesn't have money, [if] he doesn't want to pay, then we have to sue. If they want to pay, then they have to pay. If they want to keep storing [the blood] like that, keep storing it, keep using it, then they have to pay. If they don't want to pay, then return it. So, all of us Yanomami we need it to be returned. If they want to research, they have to pay the Yanomami. Then they can use it.
[ . . . ]
Lêda: What did you want to say, Ivanildo?
Ivanildo: I was going to say . . . I'm going to sayY This thing that they are worried about, I mean, that person who donated blood . . . they have to remember to say this too. That person who donated blood isn't alive anymore. He already died a long time ago. So, this always worried me. Gee, the chief from there was telling me, "Look here, that [unintelligible]." So, that person who donated blood and who was already old, that person is living no more, he does not live anymore. That is why I'm saying, what I'm saying is, look here, it's an injustice, isn't it? I say that is an injustice. We have to seek . . . seeking justice, we will uncover everything. So, that person is no longer alive, but . . . who knows which people already died, how many people have died and even today they have their blood that is . . . is in the other country . . . to do research. It is a part of the person that is still there to do research on. Someone who took this part, this is a part of a person . . . who gave blood and no longer lives, who already died a long time ago . . . and his blood is still in another country.
[ . . . ]
[Davi and Alexandre talk in Yanomami]
Davi: At that time, everybody was young. He was also young. He lives there in Catrimani. He remembers the same thing. He saw when the white man was taking blood. He saw the priest also acting as an interpreter, but he didn=t explain. Because the napë [non-Yanomami] doesn=t explain correctly, he doesn=t make it clear. So, he spoke there in his village. He used a tiny little camera like those that take films. They filmed when the white man was taking blood.
Lêda: Yeah, they really filmed it. In the United States they have those films of old Yanomami.
Davi: It's necessary, you who want to help, we need you . . . to get those films for us to see.
Lêda: The films too?
Davi: The films too.
Lêda: But there are many films, many photos!
Davi: If our blood is there far away, in another world . . . stored. They always want to study our blood, what's there, what we have in our blood. The American napë [non-Yanomami], they are something else. So, they [the Yanomami present] are saying that if they don=t want to return it, they have to pay, they have to pay each one. [ . . . ] We=re asking for something of value, money for each community, each village where they took blood, where they went . . . Toototobi, Catrimani, there in Surucucu, Mucajaí, where he took blood, then they have to pay. [ . . . ] His father also died, his father died, this one's father too. This blood that's there is already dead, already died, and we don=t want this blood kept as if the owner were alive. But the owner's dead, so they have to get rid of the blood. That's what he wants.
Interview with Geraldo Kuesitheri Yanomami and Peri Porapitheri by Lêda Martins.
Boa Vista, Roraima, Brazil, April 19, 2001
English Translation: John M. Norvell and Lêda Leitão Martins.
Lêda: Which anthropologists have been through Toototobi?
Geraldo: Bruce [Albert], who is a friend. First two others came with him to work, [to see] how we work, what the Yanomami's lives like. A newcomer, Marinês. After that, others, a Paulistano, Rogério. He worked there in Toototobi, looking at what the Yanomami's lives are like. [ . . . ] An anthropologist, if he learns to work with health teams, this helps us. This is very important for the work of the anthropologist and for health. By yourselves [health teams], you don't have the power to help the Yanomami. Who knows how to do this is the anthropologist, who knows how to work with photos, with the writing of the Yanomami [language], translation, translating Yanomami-Portuguese. If someone were to do this without an anthropologist, it wouldn't come out right. There would be no way to explain things to the Yanomami. Without an anthropologist, there's no way to understand. This is how we talk about it. If this anthropologist who works with health in other villages helps the Yanomami, I think it's veryYit's better for us.
[ . . . ]
Lêda: What does that mean, that health projects without anthropologists turn out badly because the people don't understand the work?
Geraldo: Because the Yanomami don't understand [ . . . ]. This is why we say, you [plural] can't do that. Without an anthropologist, there's no way to work in education and health. Anthropologists know how to speak, they understand, they study languages, culture, ways of doing things. If they don't do that, if anthropologists don't work together with the Yanomami, it's really bad.
Lêda: And, for example, if you have an anthropologist who does it wrong, says untrue things, what do you think ought to happen?
Geraldo: [ . . . ] If the anthropologist does his work right, it's better for us. Don't speak badly of us. If he wants to speak badly of us, the Yanomami ask, "What's happening there?"
Lêda: Peri, in your region have there been anthropologists?
[Peri shakes his head no.]
Lêda: And other types of researchers?
Peri: No, not even a researcher. One tried to interview the Yanomami and he was expelled. That one I told you about, Roberto Cabrinho.
Lêda: Why was he expelled?
Peri: Because we did not know him. Whoever has never been in Yanomami land in order for us to get to know first cannot come in!
Lêda: And how about this Roberto Cabrinho?
Peri: Yes, Roberto Cabrinho. He got there saying that he was authorized by FUNAI [the Brazilian Indian Service]. But later I came here. My relatives sent me to warn [FUNAI]. Then I went to FUNAI to inquire there. At that time, the [director] was Marnizo. I came here, "Oh, Marnizo! Was Roberto Cabrinho authorized by FUNAI in Brasília and here?" Then Marzino told me, "Peri, I did not know that this journalist Roberto Cabrinho had gone to Yanomami Territory. Look! The Yanomami have expelled him because he went there in vain, without knowing how Yanomami accepts journalists." Because there are anthropologists, journalists of goldminers, of the military, of another NGO, business company, there are so many things, right? Well, how are we going to know [the truth] if someone goes there saying that he works for FUNAI, he works for Fundação, he works for MDM, Catholic Church, MEVA. But if he is working for an NGO that provides health care to the Yanomami, then it is his boss who is going to accompany him, to explain, "This journalist here is my journalist. He is doing a job to help you, he comes here to take pictures, to show to the government, to the Yanomami Health District." In this case, we can translate what he says to the Yanomami who do not speak Portuguese. We can explain that he is working: "that guy is working for the National Health Foundation. He has authorization from FUNAI in Brasília and here in Boa Vista." Then the Yanomami will accept him because they already know that Fundação provides health care.
Lêda: So, you are saying that your people want a recommendation from somebody they already trust?
Lêda: Peri, I am going to take this tape to anthropologists in the United States. If you were to send a message, tell them how anthropologists should work inside Yanomami territory, how anthropologists could help your people, what message would you send to them?
Peri: Look! The only anthropologist I have met is Edgard [Dias Magalhães] and another perhaps, Ivan.
Lêda: But if another one wanted to come to study your people, how could he help you?
Peri: In this way. If he wanted to work clean, without doing things against us, he could work in any region. [ . . . ] We do not recognize an exploiter at first, but we are going to find out through his voice: "Look! I came here to help sick people, to [build] a hospital, to give medicine, help to acquire vaccines. I will give you presents." This type of talk I already know, he wants to negotiate, right? He wants to do research, and there are so many things, right? Research on health, research to deceive the Yanomami, research to exploit. He will take advantage if Yanomami believe in what he says. He is going to say that the Yanomami are agreeing to everything. That is why, whoever wants to help, like Geraldo said, like Bruce, who is an anthropologist who has been around for a long time. He has traveled a lot in our territory, he lived in Toototobi, everybody knows who he is. So, he can bring another anthropologist. But if another one says, "Peri, I have brought you this anthropologists because he is my friend," I am not going to believe in everything, right? I am going to ask him a lot of questions. First he comesYat first I know he is going to do right. But what is he going to after that? He is going to do secret work. I know that. If he is an anthropologist of Fundação, FUNAI will give permission for him to go in Yanomami Territory and the director of the Yanomami Health District is going to send him to work in our villages. If he is very interested in helping the Yanomami with control, with controlling the health serviceYhe is going to work well. But there are some many white people whose work we do not knowYwhite people's work. So, he goes there, start working, then after he take away pictures, books, he sells, he produces and sells. He will say, "Look! I did this, I did that. And I will send the government to help you and money will come in your name because you are suffering very much. I have spoken with the Ministry of Health." Then everybody will believe him because the majority of the Yanomami do not know the white people's ways. Yanomami does not know what an anthropologist is. Yanomami does not know what an association is. [ . . . ] That is why I speak this way.
Lêda: But if you were to say to the anthropologists how could they help the Yanomami people, what would you tell them? If I was an anthropologist and asked, Peri how can I help your people? I am an anthropologist, how can I help you?
Peri: You, without doing any secret work . . . And if you are coming through FUNAI, Fundação, if even you work in the United States, then your boss in the United States would send a document here through FUNAI or through Fundação. Then FUNAI would explain to us, "Look! Lêda is coming. She lives in the United States, studying. She is an anthropologist and she will work to help you." Then, I will believe, but it cannot be only my opinion. The others also have opinions, all the Yanomami, right?
Lêda: So, a meeting is needed?
Peri: Yes. So, I will take the news that you are going in. [ . . . ] Then they will ask me, "Peri, do you truly know Lêda?" I will say, "Yes, I have known her since I began to work for Fundação. She is cool because . . . Now! I do not know if she has a friend who wanted to exploit us." This is what I will say. I will ask everybody, the women, the youths, the kids, the elderly, everybody. But I will not call the meeting only with my village. It is necessary to call everybody. Somebody will say, "let her come because she wants to help. Let her help." Some tuxáuas will agree. But in another village, if they do not agree, I do not know how you could work here, right?
[ . . . ]
Lêda: Peri, would your people like to receiveYyou know, anthropologists write books, take pictures, like journalists as well. Then, they sell, they make money with these pictures, books, films. Would your people like to receive part of this money?
Peri: Lêda, nowadays we are, everybody is waiting, you know? Because this Roberto Cabrinho, do you know what he wanted to do? He wanted to buy a bunch of fire arms, ammunition, fishing line, machetes, flashlights, batteries, in order to negotiate with the Yanomami. Hammocks, clothes, everything. That is why I alerted everybody, "Look! There was a journalist in the Upper Mucajaí. He promised to buy all the things you need. But this is a way of exploiting us. He will exploit us. For his first work period, he will please us but only to deceive the Indian. From that moment on he will not give anything else. He will say that there is no money, that there is too little money." Then, the Yanomami will threaten, will get upset. Then he will say, "Wait a moment! We are going to take more pictures in order to sell and make more money." Then what? The white man does not know what a Yanomami is like, how the life of a Yanomami is. Why do I have patience [with white people]? Because I got used to you [plural]. I got used to you [plural], used to waiting. But the Yanomami who live inside the territory, they do not have patience. If you say, "Look! The money was not enough. I did not buy it because the money was not enough," the Yanomami will get upset, he will want to hit you. If you do not buy [what you promised] soon, like within a month, he will not want you there anymore. [ . . . ] Everybody says, "The Yanomami does not know the culture of the white people, the life style of the white people." The white people who speak our language think they know our entire culture. But they do not. They do not know how we live. Each Yanomami, each region has a different culture. The culture of my relatives of Parimi-ú is different, Xirixana is different, Sururucu is different, Ericó is different, Catrimani is different. The culture is not the same.
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