Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wisdom from the Amazon Jungle

Steve Saint with Waodoni friends
Deep in the rainforest, the Waodani are an indigenous people made famous for their homicidal statistics and the spearing of five North American Christian missionaries who tried to befriend this community in 1956.  This week I stumbled on a copy of the "End of the Spear" written by Steve Saint, a son of one of the killed missionaries and recently released as a movie.  In the early 1990's Saint chose to go back to the Amazon, seek out the Waodoni community who murdered his father and to continue his father's work of showing love.  
     "The Waodoni had been killing themselves into annihilation when my dad and his four friends tried to establish friendly contact with them. As far as I can tell, the Waodoni in those days had only a short list of generally accepted rules, most of them dealing with killing.
1) If someone does something you don't like, ignore it.
2) If you can't ignore it, kill the person.
3) If someone kills someone in your family, it is your right and your duty to kill someone in that person's family in retaliation.
4) It is best to kill everyone you can in the families of those you have vendettas against so there will be fewer of them to retaliate against your family.
I'm convince that the Waodoni didn't like to kill.  They simply knew that they could kill and live or be killed .  They felt they had no choice."
Before you cast judgment, think about how "civilized nations" basically follow these rules too.   Our spears just look different!

(As an aside, although there has been much change in the past fifty years in this people, they are still labled as a killing society.  You can find the Waodoni being mocked on facebook as people friend and like the Waodoni Tribe.  Facebook followers make up tribal positions like high chieftan, A gentleman from Syracuse New York is the tribal rabbi and another calls herself the tribal prostitute, ... Hmm.  Not exactly honoring to a group of indigenous people that actually exists, not some fairy tail) 

The Waodani told Steve Saint of their concern of those outsiders who would come to strip them of their land and resources in Ecuador.  And today we hear the same concerns in the Tar Sands debate in North America.  Two indigenous youth, Eriel Deranger and Melina Laboucan-Massimo have become spokespeople opposing the Keystone XL project, a proposed 1700-mile pipeline that would stretch from Canada's Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. Here is another case of conflict -- governments who wish to build for "progress" and the indigenous people who are told that THEIR lands are not THEIR lands because development dictates that this route must be used.

Read the September 7th Open Letter to President Obama from several Nobel Peace Prize Laureates who are opposed to the Tar Sands projects and their reasons and an information sheet prepared to explain the issue to laymen:
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) - Ireland
Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) - Ireland
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) - Argentina
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) - South Africa
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Laureate (1989) - Tibet
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) - Guatemala
José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate (1996) - East Timor
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) - USA
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) - Iran

For almost every indigenous people group, there is a story of a conflict with those who wish to "Develop" their land base and help them make their people more "civilized."  A friend shared this song/link with me with lyrics that speak of fighting against the God of Development.

My questions: 
+If the Tar Sands development project gets approved, will First Nations affected in Northern America say that they have had enough and move beyond the tipping point?
+What will President Obama's reaction be to this Open Letter and to the indigenous people who have been reminding USA and Canada that they are sovereign nations and that this is THEIR tribal land guaranteed through government to government treaties?
+Is there a way to prevent violence when there is such conflicting world views?

BONUS: A couple of good Steve Saint quotes:
"A hundred years from now no one will care how much money any of us made or what we did with our lives unless it serves a purpose that outlives us."

"I have come to understand that life is far too complex and much too short to let amateurs direct the story.  I would rather let the Master Storyteller do the writing."