Friday, October 15, 2010

Barasana revitalization

In the August number of Scientific American, Wade Davis reports that "the once endangered Barasana are experiencing a powerful rebirth". He attributes this directly to a 1991 decision of the Colombian government which "granted the Indian peoples of the Northwest Amazon legal land rights to an area the size of the U.K."

In an otherwise grim recounting of the "last of their kind" (the title of the photo-essay), the Barasana are a lone ray of hope. Curiously enough, Davis concludes with hope:

"That cultures do not always fade away but rather may be casualities of other societies' priorities is actually an optimistic observation, because it suggests that if humans are the agents of cultural decline, we can foster cultural survival.... Our goal should not be to freeze people in time. Instead we must find ways to ensure that in a pluralistic, interconnected world all peoples may benefit from modernity without that engagement demanding the sacrifice of their ethnicity."

The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World (2009) is his new book. In January 2010 Davis gave a talk based on that book at the Long Now Foundation. That talk is now archived on ABC's Big Ideas site.

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