Mapping the Amazon

Some of the indigenous communities in the Amazon area are already autonomous while others are still struggling for that. In the process of applying and establishing resolutions and various decrees, maps are a big help for establishing legitimate relationship with the officials and actually support written documents with professional maps.

Representing Youth » Archive » Mapping the Amazon

Found via Racialicious

I went to check the Gaia Amazonas project linked in Representing Youth (good lord, the text cannot even be copied because it’s written in the worst kind of Flash, like a graphic, which renders their entire site useless for quoting purposes). So, I went to read the site and while I understand “good intentions”, colonialism reeks from every pore. Sure, it all sounds nice in their semi grandiose statements, but it still ignores thousands of years of indigenous cultures. The project proposes lines of action such as:

* Indigenous territorial governance through organizational process of the Association of Traditional Indigenous Authorities.

Here is the thing, though: there has never been anything like this amongst Amazonian nations (I use the word “nation”, not in its traditionally Western inception of referring to “countries”, but in the indigenous sense of “indigenous nations” or “ethnic groups”). Sure, there were nations (like the Shipibo, the Shuar, etc.), but these “nations” didn’t have a centralized government. That’s when the concept of “tribe” as it became known governed each group. These “tribes” were autonomous, each group was self governed and there wasn’t a centralized council or equivalent to unify the “tribes”. No, each tribe decided for themselves. That’s why intertribal wars were common in the Amazons. Not just inter ethnic, but one tribe against another of the same ethnicity. Add inter ethnic wars to the equation (i.e. different ethnic groups fighting) and that would be a more adequate representation of Amazonian life pre-colonial times.

And nowadays we have these well intentioned but misguided projects that attempt to recreate some utopian indigenous universe and it is no wonder they do not work or never get very far. As anyone who has spent time talking to Amazonian indigenous people, there is little cohesion in their governance. Sure, they might appear to have some common interests, but certainly there is not such a thing as a “central authority” they feel bound to. Each group has their own interests and beliefs, plus, each has their own agenda (and I do not mean this in the negative way of “hidden agenda”, but more along the lines of the interests of their specific group).

And probably therein lies the failure of most of these projects. It’s difficult to transplant a form of governance that has been alien to a group for the past 5000+ years.

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