Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Internet Source: American Anthropological Association, Media Release, December 12, 2001
Source URL (Archive.org): http://www.aaanet.org/press/pryano1212.htm

Yanomami People Face Risks

The first-ever meeting of members of an Amazonian tribe reveals a long list of issues threatening their future.

In late November, Janet Chernela, PhD, newly appointed chair of the American Anthropological Association's Committee for Human Rights, visited with the indigenous Yanomami people at the first-ever all-Yanomami meeting in Venezuela. It took place in a small village of Shakita by the Mavaca River in the Upper Rio Orinoco region on November 20 - 23. While there, she interviewed both Yanomami and members of the Venezuelan government who were attending the first National Conference of Yanomami.

Chief among her concerns is the fact that theYanomami will be losing claims to land if they don't get help before the deadline date of September, 2002 when final land rights will be deeded. The Yanomami, a hunting and horticultural people, do not have their lands demarcated, as was formerly thought, Dr. Chernela says, and are living inside a "biosphere reserve " with other tribes, all of whom will be vying for the same territory. Without prompt assistance, the Yanomami could lose out because they are geographically more remote, less organized, and ill-equipped to compete in the elaborate negotiating process that is already taking place. "They'll get less land than any of the others and since they're semi-nomadic, they need more," Chernela maintains.

Other issues include: Access to medical attention for the Venezuelan Yanomami is minimal and mortality is higher than for the same tribal people in Brazil. Health posts are understaffed with poorly trained personnel.

Venezuela's 1999 constitution grants the Yanomami the right to vote but rules require an official idenitity card and since most Yanomami have no way to register for these cards they are unable to vote. Petitions for boats to bring registration officials to their area were rejected.

In Brazil, Dr. Chernela points to the alleged sexual abuse of Yanomami women living near military installations that have been established on Yanomami territory. Official complaints by the Yanomami of Brazil about the growing use of their land for military bases and the sexual abuses have been ignored.