Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

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Statement delivered at the Open Discussion, "Ethical Issues in Field Research Among the Yanomami: Part II," 99 th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Francisco, 11/17/00.

My name is Gale Goodwin Gomez. I am a linguistic anthropologist, and I have worked with the Brazilian Yanomami since 1984.

During last night's session the only person to receive the support of the whole audience (as indicated by the applause) was the only indigenous person on the panel. I would like to think that this is an indication that the anthropologists present respect indigenous people and are aware that our first priority should be to them.

However, a concern for the Yanomami has been conspicuously absent from these discussions. We should be talking about the anthropologists' responsibilities to this much studied group. The Yanomami have been used and abused for many years by outsiders. What we have heard in these discussions reflects a shocking disrespect for them as human beings. They desperately need help and support in the areas of regular medical care and bilingual literacy.

How much money from the hundreds of thousands of books, films, and other materials based on their lives has been returned to them to improve their health and their ability to deal directly with the outside world?

Beyond trade goods, what have the Yanomami gotten from 30 years of research?

In Brazil a non-governmental organization now called the Pro-Yanomami Commission (CCPY) [ their website (in Portuguese): http://www.uol.com.br/yanomami/ ] has been advocating for their rights since 1978. This organization provides regular health care and actively involves the Yanomami in literacy and training programs which they themselves help design.

Much of the financial support for these programs comes from Europe. However, most of the notoriety surrounding the Yanomami and profits derived from it have originated in the U.S.

I would like to challenge the members of the AAA to, as the saying goes, "Put your money where your mouth is" and actually make the future of the Yanomami your first priority.