1

CONTENT
CONTENT.................................................................................................................................................. 1
PREFACE................................................................................................................................................... 5
Why Amazonia?........................................................................................................................................ 5
Why Political Ecology?............................................................................................................................ 6
Why Political Ecology of Northwest Amazonia?...................................................................................... 7
CHAPTER 1: SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, INDIGENOUS MANAGEMENT AND
POLITICAL ECOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION.................................................................................. 8
1.1 The Making of ‘Sustainable Development’ ........................................................................................ 8
1.1.1 Science on, Religion off ....................................................................................................... 9
1.1.2 Reductionism versus Holism.............................................................................................. 11
1.1.3 The same old ‘development’ is now ‘sustainable’ ............................................................. 13
1.1.4 Why bother about ‘Sustainable Development’?................................................................. 14
1.2 Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability............................................................................................. 16
1.3 Scope of the Research ...................................................................................................................... 19
1.4 Aims.................................................................................................................................................. 21
CHAPTER 2: GETTING THERE .................................................................................................. 22
2.1 The Beginnings................................................................................................................................. 22
2.2 More on Territorialisation ............................................................................................................... 23
2.3 Knowing the Rainforest People....................................................................................................... 24
2.4 The House of the Shaman................................................................................................................. 26
2.5 Healing Shaman............................................................................................................................... 27
2.6 A year Later...................................................................................................................................... 30
2.7 Territorialisation and Conflicts........................................................................................................ 31
2.8 A Functionary of the State................................................................................................................ 34
2.9 A Public Audience and the Same Old Political Business ................................................................. 35
2.10 Getting to know the Indigenous Movement in the Amazon............................................................. 38
2.11 Tukanoan Territory ........................................................................................................................ 39
2.12 Conclusion of Chapter Two............................................................................................................ 41
CHAPTER 3: TERRITORIALITY AND GOVERNANCE IN THE COLOMBIAN AMAZON 43
3.1 What this Chapter is About .............................................................................................................. 43
3.2 Territoriality..................................................................................................................................... 43
3.2.1 The case of informal workers in the garbage recycling process in Bogotá ........................ 44
3.3 Territorial Ordering Process among Indigenous Amazonian Peoples............................................. 45
3.4 Indigenous Territoriality .................................................................................................................. 47
3.5 Indigenous Governance and the Defence of the Territory ............................................................... 49
3.5.1 Violation of a Sacred Place ................................................................................................ 51
3.5.2 Forcing an Administrative Procedure through an ‘Acción de Tutela’ ................................ 53
3.6 From Territoriality to Governance .................................................................................................. 55
3.6.1 The conflict provoked by different perspectives on ‘environmental management’ ........... 55
3.6.2 The Colono’s Perspective................................................................................................... 56

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3.7 State Reforms and the Indigenous Territorial Ordering Process..................................................... 58
3.8 Radicalism and Conflict ................................................................................................................... 59
3.9 Conclusion: Amazon and the Complexities of the Territorial Ordering Process............................. 62
CHAPTER 4: THE MARCH OF THE MANIKINS. AGROFORESTRY PRACTICES AND
SPIRITUAL DANCING.......................................................................................................................... 64
4.1 What this Chapter is About .............................................................................................................. 64
4.2 Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability............................................................................................. 64
4.3 Rituals and Myths: there and here ................................................................................................... 68
4.4 The Place and the Peoples ............................................................................................................... 72
4.5 The Origins....................................................................................................................................... 74
4.5.1 The Lake of the Manikins .................................................................................................. 76
4.5.2 Who are these characters and what do they sing about?..................................................... 77
4.6 The Performance.............................................................................................................................. 77
4.7 Discussion ........................................................................................................................................ 81
4.8 Conclusions to Chapter Four ........................................................................................................... 83
CHAPTER 5: THE SEMANTICS OF HUMAN SECURITY IN NORTHWEST AMAZONIA:
BETWEEN INDIGENOUS’ PEOPLES’ ‘MANAGEMENT OF THE WORLD’ AND THE USA
STATE SECURITY POLICY FOR LATIN AMERICA..................................................................... 85
5.1 ‘Human Security’, Security for Whom?............................................................................................ 85
5.2 The ‘Nation State’ and ‘Human Security’ ........................................................................................ 88
5.3 Exploring the Local Perspective in NWA......................................................................................... 90
5.4 The Management of the World and the Challenge of Extractive Economies ................................... 92
5.4.1 White peoples’ ways of living compete with traditional indigenous ways of ‘Managing the
World’ 94
5.5 Diverging Discourses Surrounding Amazonian Territorial Ordering and Indigenous Peoples ...... 96
5.6 Is Indigenous Territorial Policy Plausible?..................................................................................... 98
5.7 The USA and Counter-Insurgence.................................................................................................. 100
5.8 Conclusion: Plan Colombia or the Closing of a Vicious Cycle ..................................................... 103
CHAPTER 6: INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE AND THE SCIENTIFIC MIND: ACTIVISM
OR COLONIALISM? ........................................................................................................................... 106
6.1 Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 106
6.2 Part One: The Path to Ethnosciences ............................................................................................ 109
6.2.1 The ‘others’ and ‘me’ ....................................................................................................... 109
6.2.2 Behind economic motives ................................................................................................ 110
6.2.3 Reminiscences.................................................................................................................. 112
6.2.4 From ‘exploration’ to ‘economic botany’ ........................................................................ 114
6.2.5 Ethnobotany: the ‘other’ as ‘equal’? ................................................................................ 119
6.3 Part two: The Path Towards a ‘Political Ecology’ of Northwest Amazonia.................................. 125
6.3.1 ‘Modern democracy’ in the Colombian Amazon ............................................................. 125
6.3.2 Complexities and transformations.................................................................................... 128
6.3.3 Getting the job done ......................................................................................................... 130
6.3.4 The specialists: the changing of ‘power structure’ ........................................................... 132
6.3.5 Varied outcomes............................................................................................................... 134
6.4 Conclusions to Chapter Six ............................................................................................................ 134

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CHAPTER 7: SKETCHES FROM INSIDE................................................................................. 137
7.1 Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 137
7.2 On Technological Gadgets and Cultural Contact .......................................................................... 137
7.3 Filming Project, my Framing......................................................................................................... 139
7.4 Sketches of the Use of a Video Camera in an Indigenous Settlement of NWA............................... 142
7.4.1 Sketch one ........................................................................................................................ 142
7.4.2 Sketch two........................................................................................................................ 142
7.4.3 Sketch three...................................................................................................................... 143
7.4.4 Sketch four ....................................................................................................................... 143
CHAPTER 8: TECHNOLOGY IN NORTHWEST AMAZONIA. VIEWS OF VIEWS:
SUSTAINABILITY, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT AND TERRITORIAL ORDERING...
.................................................................................................................................. 145
8.1 Aims................................................................................................................................................ 145
8.2 Deconstruction of an Internet Generated Discourse...................................................................... 146
8.3 Views of Indigenous Environmental Management ......................................................................... 147
8.4 The Contrasting Discourses Obtained from the Questionnaires.................................................... 149
8.5 Website Evaluation......................................................................................................................... 150
8.6 Q1 – Are Development and Sustainability Compatible?................................................................ 151
8.6.1 Development first ............................................................................................................. 152
8.6.2 SD: human - environmental security................................................................................ 152
8.6.3 Sustainability is an aim..................................................................................................... 152
8.6.4 The need for local definitions........................................................................................... 153
8.6.5 Semantics and the economic imperative .......................................................................... 154
8.6.6 SD inconsistent with the present ...................................................................................... 155
8.6.7 Greening politics .............................................................................................................. 155
8.7 Non-conclusive comment on Q1..................................................................................................... 156
8.8 Q2 - Is there a relationship between ‘Indigenous Reserves’ (IR) and ‘Protected Areas’ (PA)?.... 159
8.8.1 Harmony or the need for it ............................................................................................... 159
8.8.2 Utopia............................................................................................................................... 160
8.8.3 Contamination and cultural imposition ............................................................................ 160
8.8.4 Analytical responses......................................................................................................... 161
8.8.5 The politics involved........................................................................................................ 162
8.9 Non-conclusive comment on Q2..................................................................................................... 163
8.10 Q3 – Do you think that the concepts of ‘Protected Areas’, ‘Indigenous Reserves’ (IR) and
‘Sustainable Development’ are useful for Environmental Management’ today?................................. 166
8.10.1 Environmental indians and contamination risk ................................................................ 166
8.10.2 Principles as instruments .................................................................................................. 166
8.10.3 Risk and protection........................................................................................................... 167
8.10.4 The need for integration and its impediments .................................................................. 168
8.10.5 Dynamism........................................................................................................................ 169
8.10.6 The need for new concepts – Q3 ...................................................................................... 170
8.11 Non-conclusive comment on Q3................................................................................................... 170
8.12 Q4 - Should Environmental Managers get Involved in the Territorial Ordering Process (TOP) of
Amazonia?............................................................................................................................................ 173
8.12.1 EMs are the ones: ............................................................................................................. 173
8.12.2 EMs and scientists figure out the solutions and take the decisions: ................................. 173
8.12.3 Indigenous peoples direct EMs ........................................................................................ 174
8.12.4 EMs have equal rights to participate as other stakeholders .............................................. 174
8.12.5 The apolitical EM:............................................................................................................ 174
8.12.6 The political participation of EMs.................................................................................... 174
8.12.7 EMs as facilitators of the dialog between IK and WS:..................................................... 174

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8.12.8 Capacity, ability and quality of EMs: ............................................................................... 175
8.12.9 Political risks, EMs have a tough job: .............................................................................. 175
8.13 Summarising Q4........................................................................................................................... 175
8.14 Non-conclusive comment on Q4................................................................................................... 178
8.15 Discussion .................................................................................................................................... 178
8.16 Conclussions to Chapter Eight..................................................................................................... 186
CHAPTER 9: ACIYA IN THE 21
st
CENTURY........................................................................... 187
9.1 Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 187
9.2 Getting There: an Environment of Political Conflict ..................................................................... 187
9.3 Indigenous People’s Resistance to War ......................................................................................... 189
9.4 Indigenous Development?.............................................................................................................. 192
9.5 External Help and Sustainability ................................................................................................... 196
9.6 COAMA: a Bigger Picture ............................................................................................................. 205
9.7 A Way Forward.............................................................................................................................. 206
CONCLUSIONS .................................................................................................................................... 208
Adaptation and Shamanism.................................................................................................................. 208
Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.................................................................................................................. 209
The USA and Amazonians .................................................................................................................... 212
Research and Activism......................................................................................................................... 214
The role of ICT..................................................................................................................................... 216
Narratives and Counter-Narratives ..................................................................................................... 217
Challenges to the Social Movement ..................................................................................................... 218
REFERENCES....................................................................................................................................... 220
Figures:
Figure 1: Map of the Yaigojé Resguardo………………………………………………………………….74
Figure 2: Drawing of the Amazon Basin………………………………………………………………...229

Tables:
Table 1: Q1- Do you think that 'development' and 'sustainability' are compatible?……………………..158
Table 2: Q2- Do you think there is any relation between 'indigenous reserves' (IR) and 'protected areas'
(PS)?…………………………………………………………………………………………………...…165
Table 3: Q3- Do you think that the concepts of PA, IR and SD are useful for Env. Management today?
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………173
Table 4: Q4- Should or should not environmental managers (EM) get involved in territorial ordering
process in Amazon?……………………………………………………………………………………...177

Annexes:
Annex 1: Northwest Amazonian Boundaries……………………………………………………………229
Annex 2: Survey Form…………………………………………………………………………………..232
Annex 3: Summary of the Technical work of www.kumoro.com………………………………………233


5
PREFACE

Why Amazonia?
There have been calls to preserve biodiversity, conserve tropical rainforests and
maintain cultural diversity in the Amazon basin; all of which are seen as imperatives for
planetary survival (Hirsch 2002). During the last thirty years, the importance of the
Amazon basin has been emphasised in the media. It has been claimed that Amazonia
represents one of the World’s largest reserves of biological diversity and an invaluable
genetic reserve. That it is a regulator of planetary climate and a vitally important sink
for carbon dioxide and thus significant in terms of countering the effects of increasing
concentrations of so-called ‘greenhouse gasses’ in the upper atmosphere (EMBRAPA
2002). However, I did not get involved in the environmental politics of Amazonia for
any of these reasons.

Initially I went to Amazonia looking for a place to rest. At that time, a friend of mine
with whom I used to go mountain climbing had recently lost her mother; she had been
brutally murdered in Bogotá by a criminal gang. Someone suggested that my friend
might find comfort if treated by an Amazonian shaman he knew. Thus, I went to
Amazonia to accompany my friend on a trip that was to transform my life. What
happened on that trip, the questions that puzzled me and how I got involved with
Indigenous Amazonian Peoples provides one of the narratives of this dissertation
(Chapter Two).

My first journey to Amazonia took place in 1991. The next trip I made was to
Colombian Northwest Amazonia (NWA), since when (1992) Bogotá has become a
place to visit while Amazonia has become my home. Eight years later, while working
with NWA indigenous peoples’ organisations, I would be forced to leave the region
following a guerrilla eviction rule (Chapter Three). These experiences forced me to
think about what had happened to me and to the social movements of Amazonia during
the 1990s. I needed to understand the events I was involved in and this was the main
reason to start the process of deconstruction of political speeches referring to
‘sustainable development’ and the environmental politics of NWA.




6
Why Political Ecology?
I was used to working with indigenous peoples in their own projects, which involved
long periods of ‘fieldwork’. This was no longer possible due to the eviction imposed by
guerrillas, and to a restriction of one of the scholarships I was awarded. Therefore, I
needed to transform the methodology I had been using and adapt to the circumstances.
In 1999 although unable to travel to Northwest Amazonia (NWA) I decided it was
worth to go to Colombia and visit the people of COAMA (Consolidation of Amazonia),
a network of non-governmental organisations (NGO) I used to work with. I talked to ex-
colleagues and realised that I was reflecting on their words from a distance, a distance
created by an absence of one year (1998-1999). This was an important realisation, I was
detached, the NGOs’ discourses were no longer mine; from then on I could reflect on
them from an outsider’s perspective. Nevertheless, I still wondered how I might
continue to do PAR (Participatory Action Research)
1
, whilst maintaining my distance?

I thought that I could attempt a monograph of the discourses of the indigenous peoples,
government agencies and NGOs of NWA. I wanted to understand what was essential to
these discourses, and to assay the main political contradictions and conjunctions derived
from them in the context of Northwest Amazonian environmental policy. This approach
is not novel, (although it was for me) Escobar suggests that cultural variations in
biological and historical discourses are constituents of reality, which we can deconstruct
in order to interrogate their essential elements (Escobar 1999a).

I decided to take such an approach. The first difficulty was that even while I was
detached from the NGOs’ discourses, I remained very much attached to indigenous
peoples’ causes. I was and I remain indebted to the Indigenous Peoples I worked with
until 1998, while working as an advisor for COAMA. One of the aims of the indigenous
organisations COAMA helped to establish and continued supporting was, and is, to
enhance indigenous peoples’ political autonomy. Thus, what I needed to do and what I
have been developing over the last three years is a way to locate ‘fieldwork’, to connect
the narratives I had constructed with the wider context. I had the tendency to generate
narratives as if there were placed in a core, and that core for me was no other than the
perspectives of the indigenous’ peoples I lived with. One of the tasks ahead of me in

1
See ‘Action and Knowledge. Breaking the monopoly with Participatory Action – Research’; Fals Borda
and Rahman 1991.

7
1999 was the de-construction of my own work as an advisor of NWA indigenous
organisations.

The subject of this dissertation is the political ecology of NWA but all of the chapters
refer somehow to the struggle to accomplish the fulfilment of indigenous peoples’ rights
experienced by the inhabitants of the Yaigojé Resguardo Indigenous Reserve. I
acknowledge, and think it could be no other way, that the narratives developed here
have a personal framing, but I hope the reader would concede at the end that I have
managed to ‘de-construct’ my own work. How successful I have been at presenting
these narratives within a wider context must be for the reader to decide.

Many of the chapters of this dissertation provide narratives based in ethnographic
fieldwork and the revision of secondary historical and ethnographic information.
Whatever else these chapters may portray, they all present an individual reflexive
understanding of events and texts. In contrast to those chapters, Chapter Eight
incorporates other peoples’ framing. An on-line survey was designed to gather that
information. The chapter includes the analysis of discourses on “indigenous reserve”,
“environmental management”, “sustainability”, “development”, “protected areas” and
the politics derived from them.

Political Ecology of Northwest Amazonia
What I mean for ‘a political ecology of NWA’ is the process of identification and
analysis of discourses of territorial ordering and environmental management.
Stakeholders in NWA such as churches, indigenous organisations, governmental and
non-governmental organisations, and armed groups produce different discourses; these
discourses will be analysed in terms of meaning, narrative structure and political aims.
It will be shown, along the various chapters of this dissertation, how the fabric of
discourses entangles the conflicting reality of NWA.

Why?
Because this is the way I have found to reconstruct my life while contributing to the
peace and territorial ordering processes of Northwest Amazonia. Because in this way, I
hope the time and effort I use while being outside Amazonia will be of some use to its
inhabitants.

8

CHAPTER 1: SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, INDIGENOUS
MANAGEMENT AND POLITICAL ECOLOGY, AN
INTRODUCTION

° 'Dcucíopncnt` ís u t)ícI píuucd on tIc pcopíc o] tIc TIí)d uo)íd, cspccíuííu
)u)uí connunítícs, to )oI tIcn o] tIcí) )csou)ccs und ucuítI, und ícuuc tIcn
dísposscsscd und ín dcIt
Vandana Shiva 2000

1.1 The Making of ‘Sustainable Development’
Thirty years ago Georgescu-Roegen pointed out the “development contradiction”. The
economic process requires the use of energy and therefore it has an entropic cost: “the
economic process is actually more efficient than automatic shuffling in producing
higher entropy, i.e. waste.” (Georgescu-Roegen 1971: 282). Following the two laws of
thermodynamics he stated that the matter we use today could not be used in the same
way in future. Therefore future life forms, including our own species, will not have high
quality energy to use in the same quantities as we do today. By using the resources now,
we are reducing options for future generations: “There can be no doubt about it: any use
of natural resources for the satisfaction of non-vital needs means a smaller quantity of
life in the future.” (Georgescu-Roegen 1971: 21)

Thus, if development implies a reduction of possibilities for future generations, then
sustainable development: a development “that meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987:
8), is a contradictory statement. This contradiction was evident since it was proposed. It
was deliberately vague and inherently self-contradictory to promote debate among
academics and to provoke development oriented politicians (O'Riordan 1993: 37).

Despite its vagueness the concept of sustainability had made its way onto the
international political agenda. Today sustainability is a moral principle and ‘sustainable
development’ is the alternative utopia to the dominant paradigm of ‘development as
economic growth’. Defining the fundamentals of an alternative paradigm for
‘sustainable development’ is now in vogue and in Chapter Eight we will present an
analysis of different perspectives. For now, we will do with a quick revision of the
construction of the term ‘development’ with, and without, the ‘sustainable’ qualifier.

9
1.1.1 Science on, Religion off
Positivism and the enlightenment movement inspired generations of scientists in their
desire to dominate nature, understand its laws and, make the most out of the resources
available for the benefit of human development. From this perspective, resources, not
only knowledge were unlimited. In fact science was there to provide solutions to any
problem that mankind was to face in respect of progress. The development of positive
sciences had immense repercussions in every aspect of human life.

While sciences were able to abolish superstition in religion and produce rational useful
responses for concrete problems, it also created its own sacredness
2
. Even though
technological development has increased life expectancy and the realms of
communication, it has failed to eliminate poverty and the risk of biological destruction.
On the contrary, positive science facilitated the development of the technology of war,
colonisation and, prized the continuity of a paradigm that perpetuates the primacy of
western systems of knowledge over any other, and that of development as material
wealth.

Economics is arguably the most politically influential discipline in the shaping of the
‘third world’. In order to maintain the paradigm, in the light of the sustainability debate,
the science of economics had not only to provide instrumental tools for the expansion of
corporations and international regulatory bodies, (such as the International Monetary
Fund - IMF, the World Bank – IBRD, the General Agreeemant on Tariffs and Trade –
GATT and, the World Trade Organization- WTO), but also to reform its own
perspective on development. The primacy of economics in development comes from
one of the fundamentals of conservative thought, that of poverty as lack of material
wealth:
“A common confusion is the assumption that development means overall continuous material
growth. To dissociate growth from development is difficult, because of the almost universal
commitment among the political and economic leadership in advanced, developed economies to
largely undifferentiated perpetual growth” (Caldwell 1994: 193)

Therefore “economic development” was the unidirectional answer to the problem of
poverty:

2
In order to gain access to the scientific establishment it is necessary to follow the institutional rules and,
to qualify, apprentices have to follow a ritual and make commitments to the paradigm in vogue and the
school that provides him/her with support to develop a scientific career. Once positioned with a title, the
new scientist has to publicly reject any (other) religious belief. There’s been 2000 years of marketing
that if you want to be a scientific person you’ve got to keep your mind free of the fetters of religion”
(Stark quoted by Larson and Witham 1991: 81).

10
“There is hardly a mention of the idea that poverty might also result from oppression and thus
demand liberation. Or that sufficiency might represent a strategy of risk minimisation, which is
essential for long-term survival. Or even less that a culture might be directing its energies
towards spheres others than economic” (Sachs 1992: 162).

The imposition of western knowledge systems is another of the fundamentals of the
traditional paradigm of development and, therefore other alternative ‘developments’
have to be supplanted, silenced or replaced. “The coming into dominance of modern
economics meant that many other existing conversations or models were appropriated,
suppressed or overlooked” (Escobar 1995: 62). The economic discipline, in order to
cope with the premise of neutrality in science, claims to achieve objectivity. However,
economic science, like no other sciences, had been involved with modelling not only for
the production of goods and services, but also for the reproduction of power institutions
and the shaping of societies. “The economy is not only, or even principally, a material
entity. It is above all cultural production, a way of producing human subjects and social
orders of a certain kind” (Escobar 1995:59).

During the 1970s some analysts started to assess the work of development economists.
There was evidence that the premise of capital over people had implications. The
indices of GNP of countries in transition were rising, development was under way, but
so was the increase of poverty and unemployment (Escobar 1995: 80). Economists
referred to developing countries as embraced in a cycle in which limited
industrialisation and lack of capital meant low productivity and limited markets. In
order to become efficient countries would have to attract capital, and turn into efficient
societies. In Latin America, the Comisión Económica para América Latina- CEPAL
(Economic Commission for Latin America) challenged orthodox international
economics by pointing out that lack of capital was related to the deterioration in terms
of trade.

But CEPAL did not challenge the basic assumptions of the paradigm, instead they
postulated, through dependency theory, that to gain capital, which was accumulated in
the industrialised centre, developing countries, of the periphery, would have to follow a
process of industrialisation by import substitution. Other schemes such as
diversification of exports were also aimed at the accumulation of capital. In other
words, ‘development’ became ‘economic growth’, which did not account for peoples’
life projects or their relation with the natural environment and social context. On the
contrary, this cultural background and different social aesthetics of multicultural Latin

11
America was usually pictured as marginal and economists and politicians refer to the
need to ‘convert’ these societies. The political project of development was to insert
individual material wealth into the cultures and minds of the people that did not fit
within the model.

The CEPAL theoretical framework of the 1970s and 1980s can also be criticised in as
much as it appears to view Latin American societies as mere subjects of development,
as if they were offering no resistance to these developmental models. Societies appeared
as malleable objects of planning and implementation agreements formulated by the
political economic elite. Dependency theory did not take account of the process of
cultural transformation needed to ‘accommodate’ tradition and modernity.

More recent political conflicts of the 1990s between ‘states’ and ‘minorities’ in Latin
America could always be related, at least partially, to the confrontation between the
governmental elite addressing neo-liberal policies and the minorities searching for
protection of their community rights. “The economic neo-liberalism, democracy and
transparency in electoral processes seems to be the paradigmatic model for democratic
transition in the configuration of the ‘new international order’ ” (Left 1992: 47 –
translated by the author). We have to study with care the changes operating in the
symbolic world (semiotics) and political world (governance) among Latin American
societies when they encounter the neo-liberal project.

Amerindians have played a special chapter in this scenario: The Zapatista revolution of
Mexican Chiapas, The Bolivian insurrection (April-2000) against privatisation of water
services, the two-year conflict for the exploitation of oil in the Uwas’ lands of
Colombia, the indigenous insurrection of Brazilian indigenous peoples that claimed the
right over the lands lost at Portuguese hands 500 years ago, and that later joined the the
movement of “peasants without land” (April-2000); all of them are indicators of such a
conflict.
1.1.2 Reductionism versus Holism
Criticism of “development”, with or without the “sustainability” qualifier expanded
during the 1990s. The “cultural defoliation” of developmental education was denounced
(Ke-Zerbo, Kane et al. 1997). Education reflects the major forces of the paradigm. The
educational process has been designed to transmit the expertise required in the complex

12
modern world, placing little emphasis on the implications of our present treatment of
people and the planet (Reid 1995: 148).

This criticism is related to reductionism within science. “If we have learned something
from modern cosmology, this is, the modern view of the world that comes from
quantum physics, molecular biology, from the new anthropology or, from ecological
reflections, is that everything is always and everywhere interrelated” (Boff 1996: 94 –
translated by the author). The criticism revived the holistic versus reductionist dualism.
Human development, now in the hands of specialists, proceeds independently of
cultural experience and, is unaware of many non-western systems of knowledge.

This call is, perhaps, the principal modification to the conventional development
paradigm aimed at by a substantial group from the scientific establishment itself. The
acceptance of quantum theory, implying that the world does not exist in a definite state
without being observed, challenges the division “subject – object”, which is the
fundamental base for experimentation in positive sciences. For studies aiming to
develop a political ecology, this means that human populations whose systems of
knowledge had been ‘objectified’ or ‘silenced’ have had much to contribute to the
formation of a new paradigm of development.

As models are simplifications of reality, they become precarious or insufficient when
dealing with global environmental problems. And models have been the instrumental
tools of developing expertise. Therefore, instead of assuming neutrality from science,
like developmental economists did, scientists will have to make new agreements with
other social groups, to incorporate the other’s perspectives into political action and, to
accept the involvement of other systems of knowledge.

In Latin America by initiative of Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef a new paradigm
within development was proposed. It was named ‘Human Scale Economics” and the
group of people that promoted it referred to themselves as ‘barefoot economists’. They
stressed that development policy had proved to be biased and that the debates
surrounding development were made by technocrats far away from the realities and
cultures of the people involved in development (Max-Neef 1986). The postulation that
development was about people’s wellbeing and not about material wealth was

13
fundamental for the reform of the paradigm, but other fundamentals of this approach
were going to have an impact.
1.1.3 The same old ‘development’ is now ‘sustainable’
During the 1990s environmental economics (EE) developed new ways of valuation of
natural resources as a tool for achieving sustainability. The problem, as EE framed it,
was that of considering natural resources unlimited because they were unvalued. To
make the correct allocation of resources it was imperative for economists to establish
valuation of the environment. Different aspects of this problem were addressed. Some
economists began including environmental costs in the national indices. The argument
went, that developmental policy would gain accuracy if the growth indices such as
Gross National Product –GNP could reflect the costs involved for the environment. The
problem is that this premise hides the assumption that value is always and everywhere
monetary value.

The willingness to pay (WTP) technique to establish the monetary value of
environmental assets was established. In this way, participation by consultation was
incorporated into economics. By asking people how much they would pay to prevent
environmental damage or to preserve the environment, economists estimate
environmental value and compare it with the value gained by society when damaging or
developing and, in this way, they use cost-benefit analysis to facilitate the decision
making process.

Other economists developed models to measure the social costs of environmental
damage caused by a particular business, population sector or enterprise. The
environmental costs that were not being taken into account by the polluters, called
externalities, had to be internalised. EE persevered at estimating the marginal cost of
pollution and providing firms with cost analyses to facilitate the decision-making
process to decide if they should convert to a more environmental-friendly technology or
proceed with pollution and pay taxes and/or fines. The most refined analyses take into
account the bureaucratic gain from environmental measures including ‘probabilistic’ or
‘risk assessments’ prefiguring the response from public sector willingness to impose
measures that will imply income reduction from tax, fines and bribes.

Finally, the new school of EE has dedicated itself vigorously to valuation per se. If
consuming now is better than in the future, (the basic, unchanged utility function), there

14
has to be some way of measuring the interest rate which the current generations will
have to pay in order to use future generations’ resources. The question they address is
how much marginal utility is lost by postponing development. The tool for achieving
this is ‘discounting’. Refined techniques for establishing discounting rates and
achieving the internalisation of externalities had been established.
3


All these efforts are important in the sense that they try to address the moral principal of
intergenerational equity that was key to the WCED definition of sustainable
development (WCED 1987: 8). However, these methods of internalisation of
externalities are incapable of confronting the matter of intergenerational allocation
because the majority of externalities have future, uncertain, irreversible effects, not only
immediate effects. Hotelling’s solution is to allocate exhaustible resources equally over
time, minimising future regrets (Guha and Martinez-Allier 1997:177). Thus, exactly the
opposite to the premise of discounting, where the individual maximisation of utility is
the base of the model. And, in any case, we will be ethically forced to question how
future generations might discuss the discount rate applied by present generations.

1.1.4 Why bother about ‘Sustainable Development’?
Throughout the history of development economics the statements of economists became
sacred, they were accorded high status in development hierarchies, while the voices of
minorities from the “third world” were unheard. And we should notice that the term
‘third world’ comes from first world academia. The scientific discourse was never
impartial but, following the premises of positive science, objectivity was claimed.

These dominant discourses encompass corporate strategies. In the World Trade
Organisation –WTO, the ‘proposal making’ role of industrialised countries’
representatives contrasts with the ‘approval-rejection’ role of the third world countries.
The WTO rules over environmental measures, public health, unemployment and
protection of cultural diversity. It does so through the direct and indirect imposition of
economic and political sanctions on governments that try to protect their environments,
biodiversity, population health or cultural diversity, all of which are defined as threats to
the free trade
4
.


3
See “Economics of Natural Resources and the Environmen”, Pearce and Turner 1990.
4
WTO works in agreement with The International Monetary Fund –IMF and the World Bank –IBRD.

15
This hidden global government of corporations was challenged in Seattle in 1999 when
more than 200 NGOs and 40,000 demonstrators manifested opposition to WTO
initiatives (Retallack 2000: 30-34). The fact that local people all around the world have
decided to denounce the currant paradigm and that their voices are making a difference
drives ‘civil society’, and academics within it, to transform the traditional paradigm.

Through the above summary some of the problems of the traditional development
paradigm have already been identified. So what should be the bases for a new paradigm
of sustainable development?

- Holism: If everything is related to everything, then in finding solutions to
environmental problems we have to take into account possible effects, which means
finding solutions, figuring out the consequences and, if these were impossible to
foresee, then taking the ‘precautionary principle’. Models are partial views of reality
and objectivity cannot be claimed when based upon them.

- Aesthetics: The relations between species (including humans) and the environment
have an aesthetic component which is defined outside economics. Value does not
simply mean monetary value. The life projects of people are not relegated to
economics and even less to monetary value.

- Integrity: If there is some kind of sustainability to achieve, it is through the
continuous effort to maintain high quality energy. At the universal scale all
resources are limited therefore everything that we do use should be indispensable for
life. Needs are limited too
5
. The model of unlimited needs and life directed by utility
functions is partial and unreliable. Without a principle of sufficiency it would not be
possible to preserve ecosystems, otherwise habitats and species will be driven to
extinction.


5
In the barefoot economics proposal, there is distinction between needs and satisfiers. For traditional
developmental economics, things such as food, housing, clothes and, health and security services, are
basic needs susceptible of infinite expansion, (so they can become luxury needs). Under the barefoot
economics paradigm these goods and services could provide satisfiers for needs. The needs of health,
recognition, esteem and others can be synthesized as the basic need of being (Max-Neef 1986). The
challenge is to find multi-satisfiers, which could satisfy multiple needs without wasting resources. In
other words the use of resources has to be restricted to low entropy action but accomplishing satisfaction
of limited needs.

16
- Education: Bateson referred to the attitude of finding solutions without figuring
consequences as the traditional paradigm (in Sale 1980: 27 and in Reid 1995: 6)
6
.
We need to transform education by prompting scholars to challenge and debate the
economic order, life styles, and ways of producing and validating knowledge.
Without this training, it is difficult to create a plural society willing to transform
ideologies and establish better bases for the scientific paradigm. There is a better
chance that the people educated on this basis would aim to elaborate the social
contracts for a more sustainable society, one that meets limited needs at minimum
entropy cost.

1.2 Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability
The current debate in sustainable development places indigenous peoples in the middle
of ideological confrontations. With increasing concern about global climate change, the
rainforest is seen as an atmospheric and climate regulator and, Amazonian indigenous
peoples have gained new importance as ‘keepers’ of the rainforest. From archaeology
and ethnohistory we know there has been a long period of domestication of plants and
fruit trees in the Amazon Basin, which indicates millennial management (Andrade
1986; Cavalier, I. , Mora et al. 1990; Cavalier, I., Mora et al. 1992; Denevan 1996,
1998). Ethnographers and ethno-scientists in general have pointed out the importance of
studying indigenous Amazonian rainforest management systems.

Northwest Amazonia (NWA)
7
in particular received special attention, maybe because of
the impact of accounts from early explorers
8
, that inspired naturalists and ethnologists.
But also because of the interesting findings on “sustainable” indigenous management
models or the academic controversy about how researchers categorise, incorporate or
select discourses of indigenous sustainability.

Schultes, a North American botanist that visited Northwest Amazonia as early as 1943
while working for the “Rubber Development Corporation” (Schultes 1953), got
involved in a long-lived ethnosciences project with the aim of unifying indigenous

6
In the introduction of “Mind and Nature” Bateson calls attention to the fact that education is offered in
such a way that students have no idea of the fundamental concepts of the social and biological sciences.
When trying to write about evolution he realized another book “every scholar knows” should be written
to explain concepts such as entropy, homology, description, metaphor, topology, etc. that adults who
educate their children were(are) not able to explain (Bateson 1979).
7
See Annex1: Northwest Amazonian Boundaries
8
E.g. Koch-Grünberg 1995; Wallace 1889; Whiffen 1915.

17
knowledge and biotechnology. He advocated in favour of preserving indigenous culture
and rainforest as biotechnology reserves:
“The perspicacity of the Amazonian Indian is unbelievable. He is literally master of his ambient
vegetation. His knowledge of the properties of the plants of his environment is
deep…Unfortunately, it is in great danger today of being lost…Much of this precious knowledge
is disappearing faster even than the trees in many regions where forest devastation is rife. Its loss
will be disastrous for the progress of humanity as a whole” (Schultes 1991:264).

During the 1960s, Reichel-Dolmatoff proposed a framework for the ecological analysis
of the rain forest. The study of shamanistic practises and cosmology of the Tukano
9

indigenous peoples from the Pirá-Paraná caught the attention of the ethnographer. In a
set of works he proposed Shamanism as a tool of ecological adaptation: “Tukano
concepts of cosmology represent a blueprint for ecological adaptation and the indians’
acute awareness of the need for adaptive norms can be compared with modern system
analysis” (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1976: 307).

After Reichel-Dolmatoff’s call for long term research on Northwest Amazonia a
number of ethnographers visited the area. Following Reichel’s approach, his daughter
studied the Yukuna, the Matapí and the Tanimuka of the Mirití. She confirmed that
access to natural resources implies knowledge of ecosystem dynamics, and that
interactions between humans and supernatural and spiritual owners is tantamount to
claiming rights over these resources (Reichel-Dusan 1987, 1997). Von Hildebrand
studied the Tanimuka in Guakayá, a tributary of the Mirití
10
, confirmed a series of
propositions about the shamanistic management of the rainforest environment.
Tanimuka shamans, called jaguar-men, impose diets and sexual abstinence as a way to
restrict the use of resources and keep an energetic balance with animal-people and
plant-people. Tanimuka Shamans are mediators of indigenous people who negotiate
energy compensations with spiritual owners of game, fish or plant peoples (Forero
1999; von_Hildebrand 1983). These approximations echo Rappaport’s theoretical
proposal of religious conceptions and practices as tools for human adaptation. They are
concerned with finding out how the cognitive models of indigenous people are

9
The term Tukano or Tukanoan is used in this dissertation when referring to any of the nearly 20 ethnic
groups which speak languages belonging to the Eastern Tukano linguistic family. The author worked
mainly with the Makuna, Letuama, Yahuna, Barasana and Tanimuka from the Apaporis area.
Additionally, the reader will find references to the Yukuna and Cabiyarí, speakers of the Arawak
linguistic family; and to the Yujup, speakers of Makú – Puinave linguistic family.
10
Von-Hildebrand refers to the Tanimuka as Ufaina, the name given to them by the Letuama. Some
informants contacted in La Playa – Apaporis in 1994, claimed that the term Ufaina meant ash people, and
that it was given to them because they were supposed to act as keepers of the ash left to them by the last
warriors (mythical heroes) (Forero 1999).

18
appropriate to the biological well-being of the actors and ecosystems in which they
participate (Rappaport 1999: 364).

Ethnographers also directed their attention to the ways of life of gatherers and
agroforesters. The materialistic, traditional approach had relegated indigenous gatherers
and agricultural societies to the lowest level of development. They were pictured as very
poor people unable to cope with minimum ‘civilised standards’. Sahlins challenged
these thoughts and showed that gatherers’ life was nothing like poor, having plentiful
means for scarce wants. The poor indigenous societies were a bourgeois construction.
“Poverty”, he made clear, has to do with hegemonic characterisations, the same as the
concept of “civilisation” (Sahlins 1986).

Some ethnoscientists that were witnessing the developmental processes in Amazonia,
were impressed by the apparent rate of destruction and, embarked on projects to
understand indigenous ecological systems and to integrate their practices with “modern
technological know-how” (Posey 1983: 225). Posey was to describe how Kayapó
classified and managed plants on a long-term basis, manipulating forest areas,
transplanting and domesticating numerous species of plants and also of animals.
Kayapó were shown to have knowledge of the concepts of microclimate and habitat,
and a refined management to improve productivity of the ecological systems (Posey
1985: 139-158). The same was shown for the Ka’apor speakers of Tupí-Guaraní (Balée
and Gély 1989).

Studies in the management of forest succession were carried out at Western-Amazonia
among the Yukuna and Matapí. It was demonstrated that Yukuna-Matapí believe that
there is a limited amount of energy to share between all living forms, an almost
identical conception to that of the Tukano. They conceive of plants and animals as
categories of people, just a different type of people. Seeking the optimal use of their
gardens required agreement on the use of energy and the relations with other types of
people. Yukuna have different kinds of gardens, which are classified in relation to forest
succession but also to rituals aimed to regulate relations between these different types of
people and the Yukuna group. (Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996b: 257-269)

In the Pira-Paraná the Barasano have similar agroforestry techniques and also the same
conception of animal-people and fish-people (Hugh-Jones, C. 1979; Hugh-Jones, S.

19
1979; Hugh-Jones 1999). The same has been documented for the Makuna from the Pirá-
Paraná and Apaporis (Århem 1976, 1981, 1990).

One common characteristic of these conceptions of the world is that although they
reflect indigenous society they are not human-centred conceptions. It is a ‘perspectival
vision of the world’, “by ‘perspectival’ vision of the world I mean that it appreciates the
world under different perspectives and from different seers’ point of view” (Århem
1990: 119 –translated by the author). Humans, animals and plants are involved in the
same system with equal importance. This characteristic is not exclusive to Amazonian
indians, other vernacular societies also have this integrity principle that makes them
inclined to preserve the undifferentiated environment through the unified management
of social and ecological systems.

1.3 Scope of the Research
One can notice similarities between indigenous systems of knowledge and modern
ecological thinking. Or at least the similarity of the language used by researchers when
explaining indigenous systems of knowledge. It has been suggested that there are
common bases of models for interpretation of the origin of life, and even similar images
for interpretation or variants of discourses with semantic parity (Narby 1999). An
alternative proposition is that cultural hybridisation implies that at the same time that
researchers translate indigenous idioms, their ethnographic research becomes a media
instrument through which indigenous knowledge reaches non-indigenous people.

The above proposition must be developed
11
. For the time being we can begin with some
examples that seem to illustrate these processes. Schultes made a description of the
Apaporis River (Schultes 1953) dividing it in bio-geographical areas, which coincide
with territorial divisions made by indigenous peoples. In fact the river changes its name
to an Arawak word ‘Pare’ when reaching the Cabiyarí’s territory at Jiri-jirimo waterfall,
which corresponds to Schultes’ division between the Middle and Lower Apaporis. This
division was then taken by Domínguez and is the one currently used in bio-geography
(Domínguez-Ossa 1975b).


11
Chapter six, ‘Indigenous Knowledge and the Scientific Mind: Activism or Colonialism’, was written in
an attempt to do just that.

20
Another example of this Western Sciences (WS) - Indigenous Knowledge (IK)
hybridisation is Reichel-Dolmatoff’s ‘ecological footprint’, based on the Desana
explanations of ritual trade of vital energy (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1971, 1976). Similarly,
Århem uses a myth to illustrate how the spiritual essence cycles among different life
forms within the Makuna cosmos, inter-link all living things within a single
categorisation: ‘masá’ (peoples) (Århem 1990).

Anthropologists have an old question in this respect: Are there similar cognitive devices
behind the different cultural models of nature and if so how can we access and
conceptualise them (Descola and Pálsson 1996)? There have been two main
approximations to explain the common basis of ‘models or structures’. From cultural
ecology, sociobiology and some brands of Marxist anthropology, human behaviour,
social institutions and specific cultural features were seen as adaptive responses to
environmental constraints (Descola and Pálsson 1996: 3). Thus, cognitive devices are
seen as the by-product of the adaptation process of human kind. Further more,
“…culturalist perspectives tended to treat individuals largely as creations of the
sociocultural orders they inhabited” (Watanabe and Smuts 1999:99). From the second
perspective, that of structuralism, the social order is independent despite its ties with the
environment (Murphy 1970: 165). Culture conforms to certain material constrains but
according to a definite symbolic scheme which is one of many possible (Sahlins 1976:
p.viii).

We second the idea that both perspectives are valid, plausible and equally incomplete
12
.
With the development of a methodology that incorporates evidence from both
perspectives in NWA, the intention here is to advance in the proposal of the new
paradigm
13
.


12
It has been suggested that the two approaches emphasise a particular aspect of a polar opposition. In
one the emphasis is made around the constraints that nature impose on culture, in the other the emphasis
is made in the need of culture for making any sense of nature (Descola and Pálsson 1996:3).

21
1.4 Aims
The context where indigenous knowledge meets post-modern ecological thought is one
of global markets and cultural hybridisation. We must open channels to connect
indigenous knowledge systems and post-modern ecological thought. In order for this to
be possible both, the semantics and the formal structure derived from mythological
corpus and shamanistic practices must be outlined. Therefore, it is aimed to advance in
this direction
14
.

Translation however is always interpretation. The indigenous “management of the
world” practised by Northwest Amazonian indians is almost impossible to translate into
western knowledge semantics without reference to the spheres of nature-technology,
spirituality-health, society-governance, even as mere starting points for de- and re-
construction
15
. And it has been suggested that after such ontological separations are
made there might be no way out (Pálsson 1996: 63-5), other than to acknowledge the
problem and proceed with the analysis.

Following the development of the proposition outlined, an aim of the current research is
to advance in documenting the transformation of indigenous peoples’ management of
Northwest Amazonian environments. Another aim is to uncover the ideologies behind
the transformation of the concepts of ‘development’, ‘conservation’, ‘sustainability’ and
‘territoriality’ in Amazonia, and how these ideologies are contested by the systems of
knowledge of indigenous peoples. In order to do that, a critique of the discourses and
practices of different stakeholders must be presented. A Political Ecology of NWA must
inform us of the arrival of new paradigms and their effects on ‘development practices’,
‘policy making’ and ‘social transformation’.

13
Other authors have already shown the dialectical relation between human acts and acts of nature, which
is encrypted in the landscape. See “Historical Ecology: Cultural Knowledge and Changing Landscapes” ,
Crumley 1994.
14
In Chapter Four, ‘The March of the Manikins’, a narrative will be presented to illustrate how among the
Tukano, rite re-creates myth, and myth prescribes ritual performance. One of the arguments developed in
that chapter is that these complementary parts are inherent to Tukanoan territorialisation.
15
Chapters Four and Five, this dissertation.

22

CHAPTER 2: GETTING THERE

2.1 The Beginnings
In 1990 I was still an undergraduate student interested in urban anthropology. The
“Anti-Oedipus” had been translated and the concept of ‘territorialization’ presented in
the book caught my attention. Territorialisation was treated as a dynamic process
(Deleuze and Guattari 1985) and, this suggested possibilities for studying the
transformation of the concepts of territorialisation themselves. The concept would
influence my perspective of urbanisation conflicts.

The most impressive transformations of Bogotá were related to migration processes. In
1984 the city had nearly 4 million inhabitants, in 2000 it had almost 7 million.
Migration was the product of many factors, mainly related to the expulsion of people
from rural areas due to economic depression and violence. The new urban populations
were changing their aspirations, livelihood strategies and lifestyles. People from
different cultural backgrounds were forced to live together in depressed
neighbourhoods. Many people went to the city in search of alternatives to the traditional
rural ways of living. Once in the city all these people had to adapt to new ways of
living.

I had the opportunity to work in the Proyecto Interdisciplinario de Accion Comunitaria
–PRIAC (Interdisciplinary Project for Community Action), developed by the National
University of Colombia. Specifically, my work was related to the socialisation process
among children from a very depressed area of Southeast Bogota. I asked children
attending a State School in the area to draw their neighbourhood. What came out were
maps of territories. Children knew perfectly well where the drug dealers and robbers
hung out, they knew which places would be safe to visit and at which times, they knew
the places were the drinking water fountains were placed and the distances to them.
They also included drawings of special places with religious significance (Forero 1990).

The information I collected showed me that there were competing forms of
territorialisation, and that the children were learning this information as part of their
socialisation process. Without it they would be unable to cope with the tough
environment they were being brought up in. It seemed clear to me that new conceptions

23
of territory were developed by people from different backgrounds when faced with new
environments. As a consequence the urban territories were reshaped. As Deleuze and
Guattary proposed there was a possibility of re-territorialasing and I felt I was
witnessing the processes.

2.2 More on Territorialisation
The dissertation I presented for the degree of Anthropology was about the conflicts that
arose among different uses of land and water in the area surrounding the river that flows
out of Siecha Lake. The Municipality of Guasca, in charge of the environmental
management of the area, had no means to regulate the practices of the new trout, flower
and stone crushing industries.

In the valley where stone crushing industries were located, the river was used for the
disposal of residues, which then got into the underground waters. Peasants complained
about contaminated water affecting the production of the farms and their health. Up the
mountain, following the river path, environmental threats increased. The export flower
industry changed the scenery of la Trinidad town affecting not only the water with
residues of pesticides and fertilisers, but also creating visual contamination. Finally, in
the highest part of the mountain, the pools constructed for trout industry operations had
no filters to retain residues and no treatment was carried out of the water leaving these
pools. The water and the river itself were considered free resources. The Municipality of
Guasca did not even bother to plan inspections. Environmental impact assessments were
never done before locating these industries and the effects of their activities were not
measured.

As a social response, peasants, and the few people living in the area that were interested
in preserving their environment, created an association to start discussing these issues. I
was trying to understand how peasants and rural workers reacted to the environmental
changes and I got involved with locals, carried out interviews and also went to the
public school to repeat the experiment I had undertaken in Bogotá.

I found a particularly interesting form of social resistance, which I called “incomplete
migration”. Individuals within an age range from 18 to 30 that were not able to find jobs
in the new industries and who could not make a living from their smallholdings were
forced to leave town in search of work. They found jobs in Bogotá. They worked

24
delivering documents in offices, as cleaners, cooks, waitresses, etc. They did not have
university training, which prevented them from getting better jobs. They were forced to
live in Bogotá but went to visit their relatives at weekends. However, they did not
consider themselves inhabitants of Bogota but of Guasca. When I asked them where
they lived they always answered “in Guasca” or “We are Guasqueños”. Sometimes they
stayed in Guasca with grandparents or spouses that had managed to get jobs in the local
industries.

The seeds of the peasants’ organisation resided in this identity recognised in the self-
claimed noun of Guasqueños. In order to maintain family ties, rural traditions and the
attachment to land, people from Guasca assigned another meaning to “migration”. Thus
migration was not related to physical movement but cultural movement. To resist the
pressure coming from changing land use and transformation of the rural environment
they reacted by revitalising community ties through the recognition of identity and
mobilising themselves towards the defence of the environment. This was an example of
competing forms of territorialisation.

2.3 Knowing the Rainforest People
In 1991 a lawyer and friend of mine spoke to me about an indigenous shaman, Hilario
Lopez, who lived in the Guayuyaco Resguardo reserve in Putumayo. My friend was not
involved in social research, but had met Hilario by chance. My friend had taken Yagé
(Banisteropsis caapi), the hallucinogenic vine under the shaman’s supervision. As he
would explain to me latter, his ‘visions’ seemed very real and offered him explanations
to personal questions. Hilario was not dedicated to giving hallucinogens to tourists and
visitors, -an activity that was starting to take place even in Bogotá. No, Mauricio
explained to me, this was a real honest man who offered advice to his people and
opened his house to people with health problems.

Shamanism was a very important subject of study for anthropology and I had read the
literature like any other student. I had also been captivated by anthropological studies of
mythology, rituals and shamanism among the rainforest peoples of Colombia. But,
besides the revision of literature, I had little idea about indigenous people at the time. I
never had lived close to them, never heard their languages (except for one class in
Witoto I took), and I had not visited their territories. I was suspicious of the

25
anthropology of indigenous people and wondered if it was not a form of colonialism
16
.
Why didn’t we study the anthropology of the wealthy? It seemed to me that we already
lived in a transcultural world and that the study of indigenous peoples was not the key
to stopping the cultural homogenisation process that takes place when attempting the
production of goods and services at the global scale. I was convinced that only by
acknowledging this de facto process would it be possible to respond to the
environmental problems associated with the loss of cultural diversity.

When knowing that one of my best friends was passing through a depression period due
to the murder of his mother, my friend the lawyer suggested that Hilario might be able
to help. I talked to my friend; after all, if he, being a graduate in psychology thought it
was in his interest to go, I might also find the trip interesting. I was not going to play the
anthropologist looking for an object of study, that was clear to me. My friend agreed
that whatever shamanistic performance occurred, it would not harm him and he thought
it could be pleasant to travel to Amazonia and meet indigenous people before heading to
the Pacific cost of Ecuador where he would like to stay for a while.

When we arrived to Puerto Guzmán we had being travelling in an old bus for twelve
hours along a rough track. My friend Mauricio had instructed me to look for a young
North-American missionary woman that could give us instructions on how to get in
touch with Hilario. She informed us that she had just seen Hilario in town and he was
getting ready to leave. We found him in the streets. He told us he was going to be absent
for a couple of days as he was travelling to Puerto Asis. However, he told us, if we
wished we could go to his house located at the mouth of the Guayuyaco river. We
would have to find someone who could take us to his place by boat and should tell his
wife we were going to wait for him.

He perceived our concern. We just had two days of travelling and it would be Christmas
in five days time. This meant we might get stuck, who knows where, for several days.
Hilario could not guarantee when he would return to his house. Then he looked at us
directly in our eyes, something he had avoided before. I noticed something blue-grey in
the retina of his eyes as if he had cataracts. He laughed at our amazement and went
away. We decided to wait for him anyway.

16
I was thinking in this same question when writing Chapter 6: Indigenous Knowledge and the Scientific
mind: Activism or Colonialism?

26

2.4 The House of the Shaman
Hilario was about 80 years old and his wife, who never spoke to us in Spanish and that
always told us a different name when we asked hers, seemed older. She was a fine lady
about 1.40 m. tall and could have weighed no more than forty kilograms. She managed
the house alone, despite the many people who went there expecting a cure for their
pains and illness. By the time we arrived there was a black man with a fracture in his
left foot and, a woman with pain in her kidneys. There were indigenous people coming
all the time looking for some remedy. And then there was us, looking for a conversation
with the shaman and wondering if we could also take the Yagé and how would it affect
us.

The daughter of Hilario, a woman in her late twenties, who was the ‘governor’ of
Guayuyaco Resguardo, came to us enquiring about the motive of our visit. We
mentioned Mauricio and his experience and she was happy to speak to us. When I
mentioned that I was studying anthropology I noticed she got suspicious. I told her I
was not there in search of information and that this was my first visit to the rainforest.
She invited me to go further inside the rainforest to her house. I said I was happy to do
so, but the occasion never arose.

Three days passed before Hilario arrived home one evening. He saw his patients, but
told us we would have to speak later as he was going to his rainforest house and to seek
some herbs he needed. Next day, when we woke up, at about seven, Hilario had already
gone for wood, herbs, eaten something, visited and given medicine to his patients and
was ready to go to Puerto Guzmán again, telling us to wait for him once more.

I spent the next few days walking in the forest, bathing in the river and observing and
talking to the visitors. I was amazed by the fishermen I saw. For a boat they used a
small, scarcely hollowed out tree trunk they called a “potrillo” (colt). They could not sit
in it, but had to stand up, carrying the spear they used to fish with. It seemed
impossible; I wouldn’t have dared try it. How could they navigate through the currents,
look for fish and throw the spear with sufficient force? It was inconceivable to me.

I had an inflatable mattress. I used it as a boat and managed to go almost six kilometres
up the river on it. Sometimes I felt myself being observed and once I saw a pair of black

27
eyes peering out from behind a bush. When I called, someone ran away. The river was
clear and it was excellent to be in contact with the cold waters, as the ambient
temperature was about 35° C in the shade. However, I had not noticing the thousands of
small mosquitoes that were biting me.

That same day at noon we had new arrivals. There was a man of about twenty-seven, his
mother, a large, concerned woman in her forties, and a young woman of twenty-two
held close by the man. The older woman explained to me they were her son and
daughter. They sat her at the table behind our hammocks. The mother said they had
travelled from Ibagué, a city more than 800 km away in search of a cure to the madness
of the daughter. She said the young woman had been in a mental hospital but had
escaped twice. The drugs were not effective and they were desperate for her to get well.
As she seemed calm and they wanted to feed her, her brother released her. In that
instant, she started running away, jumping around and laughing in a very noisy way.
Her mother was calling her, her brother running after her. She went to the creek and
after an hour or so of chasing her, the brother finally managed to catch her again.

2.5 Healing Shaman
Hilario promised to attend his new patient. I asked him if I could accompany him on his
journey next day. “What for?” he asked. I wanted to know what he did and it might be a
chance to get to know each other better. He agreed. Next day at four o’clock I was up
with him, we took a cold bath in the river, drank some coffee and went. We walked
about two miles. He pointed out where their neighbours lived; he named many plans
and started to talk to me about “yagecito”. He told me that his knowledge was revealed
to him through yagé. He started his training before he was seven. His “padrino”
(godfather), I understood his tutor in shamanism, had given him tobacco and yagé to
test him. When he took the plant, ‘it talked to him’. He recounted all he had seen to his
padrino and the latter decided that he was particularly suited to yagé. He was in training
continuously for twelve years, receiving larger doses of the plant beverage every time.

After picking some leaves and roots and inspecting other plants he decided we should
return. I have to say that I could hardy follow him. He appeared to make slow, delicate
movements, but it was as much as I could do to keep up with him, I was sweating and
breathless. We went to pick up wood for the next two days. This was completely
absurd. I had no idea how to use the machete, I struggled to put a few branches on my

28
shoulder and, after much effort, I managed to get some of them home. Hilario laughed.
My pile of wood was one-fifth of his and he had returned with it half an hour before.
Besides that, the wood I had picked up apparently was not the most suitable, as his wife
explained through a series of gestures of disgust and laughs. Hilario had already made
the first visit to his patients and prepared two beverages with the plans he had picked
up. Comparing myself with him I did not feel useless, I was.

It was half past eight I needed to bath again and to rest. I could not eat a thing; I felt
dizzy and went to the hammock. My day of following Hilario had ended before it really
started. Hilario was going to take some medicines for the patient he had in Guzman.
Before leaving he gave Henry and I a cuya
17
with a black liquid inside instructing us to
give it to his new patient. It was bitter, he said, and the patient could take some bites of
sugar cane after drinking it, just to get rid of the taste.

When she awoke I offered her the beverage. She refused. This was not going to be easy.
She stood up, walked towards me and said: “you are my husband. No but you are going
to marry me. You heard mother, he is going to marry me”.
“Yes dear he is your man and he is giving something nice to you”, the mother replied. I
smiled as I said “this is good for you”. Again I was rejected. Two hours passed by
without success. She was getting exited, talking faster, huddling, jumping, running,
coming to my hammock, lying with me touching my chest. By midday we had made no
progress. But worse still, the girl was getting anxious and her mother was getting
worried, her brother under the shadow of a tree seemed numb.

My friend Henry, the psychologist, took up the challenge. He had some sweet candy in
the shape of teddy bears. He took a tranquilliser pill he carried and put it in one of the
candies. “She will rest for a while”, he assured me. What he was actually meaning was
“we will rest”. Bad trick, she did not take the bait. Hilario came back between three and
four o’clock in the afternoon. “We are so sorry” I said, “we did everything to try to
make her drink it but she refused”. The mother assented with her head, excusing us.
Hilario took the cuya and went to the woman. He talked to her warmly: “My daughter
this is to cure you. You must drink it”. She drank it all. Hilario stroked her hair tenderly
and looked at her in a kindly way. The woman rested for the rest of the day.


17
Guard container, which is used largely among indigenous peoples of Amazon rainforest.

29
We spent the afternoon looking at Hilarios’ drawings. “These are the paths I take when I
drink yagé”. The drawings were made with coloured pencils. I could see a palm and a
vine standing out from the rest. “These are the worlds I have visited. So far I have been
in twelve worlds, all of them are populated by spirits of different power”. The drawings
showed small people floating in the clouds, a ladder hanging. “This is the path, this is
yagé”. “In the third world I went to lives your god, the god of white people. I know him.
I took these drawings to a Congress in Bolivia, the anthropologists invited me”.

Before we went to rest in the hammocks Hilario announced that we were going to take
Yagé the next day, which was the 25
th
December. We had not eaten much that day and
he advised us not to eat the next day. Since we had arrived he had told us not to eat
garlic, onions or greasy food. He said Yagé does not like garlic. We spent Christmas
day with one of his grand children who loved to stand on my shoulders and was really
easy going. We wanted to avoid staying in the house as sometimes the girl would come
out of a dream and become hysterical again, and, we really didn’t know what to do.

In the night Hilario told us to bring the hammock, cigarettes and a flashlight. He made
us walk to a house further into the jungle where he said it was better to receive yagecito.
He prepared himself, using some necklaces, smoking cigars and singing for hours. Then
he gave us the yagé.

It made us throw up at first, and then, at least for me, it began to have an effect. Yagé
showed me some ‘pictures’, these pictures used to be called “pintas” (painted visions). I
will not go into detail about what I saw, as many people have described the yagé visions
and they seemed to vary little from person to person
18
.

Next day we came from our sleep as if to a new life. I had a peace within me that is now
difficult to describe. I felt clean. Henry had not seen anything. It might be that he did
not take more Yagé after feeling sick. He just submerged into a dream he could not
remember. Hilario looked at me saying that he had seen what I had, because he guides
the dreamer. He now knew my life and from then on he called me amiguito (dear
friend).


18
See "The cosmic serpent. DNA and the origins of knowledge", Narby 1999. Additional information is
also available on-line at: www.biopark.org/Ayaharmadine.html

30
Later that day he explained to me how he could see inside the person, look for sickness
and, help the patient to recuperate. He explained to me, the good “yasha”
19
could go to
all the worlds above and over us, but sadly, he said, he had nobody to teach what he
knew. In fact, his only apprentice had been a young white man from the interior of the
country who had died during the land slides caused by the eruption of the Ruiz volcano.
I felt sorry and said it.

My skin had worsened as the mosquito bites were infected and I got a fever. Hilario
knew we had to go because we wanted to continue our journey to Ecuador. He insisted
on giving me lejia
20
to heal my skin. I said good bye to my friend. Henry noticed the
peaceful state of the previously hysterical woman and wondered how the treatment
would end.

What followed on the way to Ecuador was unpleasant. I was delirious with the fever,
but this time the pintas I had seen after taken the Yagé became clear and once the fever
had passed I came to a determination. I told my friend that until then I did not
understand what “otherness” meant and it was imperative for me to return to the
rainforest.

2.6 A Year Later
Many questions arose from my time in the rainforest. What was the relation between the
shaman and the rest of the community? Why, if he had so much power and helped all,
was he not the governor? And, why did they have governors? I understood indigenous
people from the interior of the country were forced to adopt certain political structures
during colonial times and they had since been maintained. But people from the
rainforest also have different political institutions. What was the relation between
shamanism and territorialisation? Could the territories and forms of territorialisation
within the rainforest be compared to the kind of territories peasants and urban groups
were establishing? What was my role as ‘anthropologist’, as ‘environmentalists’ in
Colombia at that time? What were the links between the two? What could I have said to
Hilario when he told me that none of his sons or grandsons was learning what he knew?
How could I really help?


19
Another word for shaman used in some areas of Amazonia.
20
A liquid concentration of dark color obtained by filtering ashes through a piece of cloth.

31
Nearly a year had passed when I received a call from a friend who told me students
from the University of the Andes and The National University had gone to different
places to offer help as assistants to governmental agencies. He had gone to Macarena
and spent six months there. One of the people running this initiative was a common
friend: “May be this is the chance for you to go back to the rainforest and have a break
from that dissertation of yours”, he said. I gave A. Sarmiento a buzz and he connected
me with an anthropologist of the Plan Nacional de Rehabilitacion –PNR (National
Rehabilitation Plan)
21
who, after listening to me, connected me with Martha L. Lotero,
the delegate of PNR in Puerto Leguizamo –Putumayo. She needed help at the office,
especially with indigenous people and I could visit the National Park La Paya and think
for myself about the problems related to the management of Natural Reserves. They
would pay for the ticket and give me something to live on during the six months I was
going to stay.

2.7 Territorialisation and Conflicts
I spent six months in Putumayo. I wrote a chronicle as my report to PNR and gave a
copy to the Director of National Parks as I thought it was in the interest of the Park
authorities to know about other perspectives on the management of conservation areas.

In Putumayo I went to visit several indigenous communities, some of them were living
in small Resguardos (Legalised Indigenous Reserves), others lived in lands without
titles, and some others lived within the Park (Conservation Area) boundaries. I had to
learn the procedures and jargon used in the public sector when dealing with
developmental projects. Indigenous peoples wanted to use the resources available for
their own purposes but were always denied access by functionaries assuring them they
were unable to follow the procedures or, not eligible for such support.

Martha Lucia was an indefatigable promoter of development, truly interested in the
wellbeing of the peoples from Putumayo. Her house was a meeting point where





21
This was an initiative designed by the Presidency of the Republic. It was made with the intention of
facilitating the process through which communities in marginal areas of the Country will get help from
governmental institutions to design and implement development projects. Its purpose was also to facilitate
the dialogue between civil society and governmental authorities with the intention of contributing to the
peace process. Years later it became the Red de Solidaridad Social (Social Solidarity Network).

32
biologists, social workers, community leaders, etc, debated and planned actions to make
possible the improvement of the quality of life in Putumayo. A hard task to achieve in a
conflict torn area with such diverse but in many ways fragile environments.

I went to advise indigenous people on the elaboration and presentation of projects. I had
to figure out a system for explaining what governmental agencies meant by a
‘development project’. Inside indigenous communities there were internal rules,
competitiveness for power but also solidarity and a strong sense of belonging. There
were people speaking other languages and reasoning in a different way compared with
governmental agents or me. I was putting into action years of training and it was
difficult. But, to complicate things even further, there was the war.

Colonisers in the park and elsewhere were cultivating coca, the only crop that would
yield enough money to buy the groceries they needed and to pay the school fees for one
of their kids to attend the Catholic School in Leguizamo. The army fought the drug
dealers, or so they said. What I witnessed was the searching of colonisers’ and
indigenous peoples’ boats, their humiliation and, in some cases, their detainment. The
big buyers of illegal drugs were known and yet never detained in the airport, ports or
anywhere else. The Peruvian soldiers on the other side of Putumayo also detained
colonisers, and robed and tortured them. The Colombians complained but the armed
forces never lifted a finger. The guerrillas did, (two Peruvian army boats were bombed
at the time) and this made the situation even more tense. Trafficking of wood,
ornamental fish, live animals and illegal drugs were all combined, as I was to find out in
the year ahead. The trafficking network extended everywhere and resistance to it meant
to risk one’s life.

The Chief of the Paya Park at the time was Oscar Vargas. His approach was that of
Carlos Castaño, the National Parks Director of the time. “Decree 622 had to be
applied”, he explained, which meant that the Park was to be protected from the people.
There were conflicts all along the Caucayá river, the only river in the park with a cabin.
The park had no management plan. In summary, it was a “paper park”. Social conflicts
worsened everyday and the tough position of functionaries did not help at all.

Leguizamo, on the other hand, had problems related to urbanisation: lack of adequate
services for water and electricity, housing was poor, unplanned and, the town needed

33
land for expansion. From the social side, there was a division between the navy and
army officers living inside the base, and the rest of the town living on the other side of a
metal fence. There was prostitution, drug dealing and the related violence. The people
who really wanted to remain and bring up a family had problems finding a place for
their children at local schools.

Many of the people felt they did not belong, an attitude I was going to encounter in
many flourishing places in the rainforest, and which is so characteristic of extractive
economies. There were always people passing through. There were the ornamental fish
buyers, giving shotgun cartridges, batteries and flashlight to indians for hunting the
Arawana (Osteoglossum bicirrchosum) and getting the baby fish, which the mother
keeps in her mouth. The ornamental fish traders came for a month or so twice a year.
There were the timber men, people cutting and transporting wood and, the occasional
miners also. All these people came to make a fortune in a day with the hope of enjoying
the money inside the Country. And of course there were the traders, owners of the
shops, bars and brothels, that controlled the credit and made the most out of it, charging
exceptionally high interests rates.

There was also the local government. The council of the city had one independent
member; the rest were part of the traditional parties. The first elected major was a young
woman that had never attended a public meeting. There was no co-ordination between
the authorities of the Park, the Corporación Autónma del Putumayo - CAP
(Autonomous Corporation of Putumayo)
22
and the Unidades Municipales de Asistencia
Técnica – UMATAs (Municipal Technical Assistance Units), making it impossible to
take environmental measures or start regulating the exploitation of natural resources or
the use of land.

Martha Lucia used all her personal skills and legal instruments to help fishers co-
operatives, to make the functionaries attend meetings and to make the National
Rehabilitation Councils a space of peace and reflection about political problems. I
ended up being the secretary of the Councils and preparing the debates. All the training
I had received in University was insufficient, precarious and distant. This was the
rainforest of Colombia. I could not turn my back now. I decided I needed to go to

22
CAP was the governmental authority in charge of the regulation of natural resources at departmental
administrative level.

34
Bogotá finish my dissertation, obtain my degree and comeback to the rainforest as soon
as possible.

2.8 A Functionary of the State
The constitutional reform of 1991 had just happened. A Ministry of Environment was
created and a new Director for the renamed Administrative Unit of National Parks,
Martha Suarez, was appointed. I went to meet her and expressed my wish to help with
the Paya Park management. I went through the routine of exams and interviews, which
were to be taken in Pasto
23
, as the park depended directly from this office, making all
procedures far more complicated. I already knew Leguizamo but I did not know the
Park completely. In fact, none of the functionaries did, nobody had ever visited the main
rivers crossing the Park. I wanted to introduce myself to everyone living inside the park,
to let them know I was there to talk and the problems were to be solved between all of
us. I wanted to change people’s perception of Natural Reserves; to demonstrate that
such designations did not have to jeopardise local people’s cultures and livelihoods.

Fundación Natura, an NGO from Colombia, was receiving funds from The Nature
Conservancy and other international bodies, to finance a project called “Parques en
Peligro”-PEP (Parks at Risk), and La Paya was one of them. Natura helped by
providing resources to pay salaries for two functionaries and me, the maintenance of the
outboard engines and boats, and to buy food and supplies for the cabin. They also hired
another anthropologist, who was to carry out a social appraisal. We were going to visit
the Mecaya, Senceya and Caquetá rivers. We would speak to the people living there,
explain the legal situation and try to establish good relations with them.

Apart from that I was working with Martha Lucia, the Municipal People’s Attorney, and
members of the council discussing the issue of territorial ordering. A special
commission for the territorial ordering process was established in Congress as
mandatory. Martha, with the results from the Consejos Municipales de Rehabilitación –
CMR (Municipal Councils for Rehabilitation), which showed the need to clarify
boundaries and jurisdictions of State agencies, was trying to persuade the presidency to
address this issue in Putumayo as a way to attempt to stop the violence. I was doing the
same at the Ministry of Environment. For me it was clear that some co-ordination had to
be in place between functionaries of the Municipality, the CAP and the Environmental

23
The southern Andean Department of Colombia

35
Ministry in order to bring some rationality to the use of natural resources. It was also a
priority to establish agreements with the inhabitants of the park be they indigenous
people or colonisers.

A. Lagos, (the hired anthropologist) presented a report containing information from
people living inside the park
24
. The majority of the colonisers were producing coca. We
went to the most remote places inside the Park and some of them thought we were the
army and got scared and hid their machinery, guns or gasoline.

The Indigenous Resguardos that bordered the park or that were at the same time a part
of it, were inhabited by colonisers and indigenous people as well. In one of them the
authority was held by the cacique
25
, who co-ordinated his work with the resguardo
governor. Here white people were living under community rules established by
indigenous authorities. In the Resguardo El Hacha things were different. The majority
of the population was white, colonisers living illegally in properties without titles
(because they were either inside the Park or inside the Resguardo boundaries). But they
were in charge. Indigenous people were divided. Four families had become Jehovah’s
Witnesses, a Christian sect introduced by an American evangelist. It was really sad to
see indigenous youngsters contradicting their parents and grandparents, the chagras
(indigenous gardens) were practically abandoned and they had no intention of
undertaking any political or economic activity, they were simply waiting for death and
the joy of encountering paradise.

2.9 A Public Audience and the Same Old Political Business
We managed to arrange a Public Audience of the Congress in Puerto Leguizamo. The
audience was attended by the President of the Territorial Ordering Commission, the
Minister of Environment, the Director of National Parks, the Director of CAP, a
delegate of the Agrarian Bank and, the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy in Puerto
Leguizamo. And also, some governors of the Resguardos, some representatives of the
colonisers, educators, community leaders and some members of the Municipal Council
were present.


24
See “Diagnóstico Socioeconómico y Cultural del Parque Nacional Natural La Paya y sus áreas
aledañas”, Lagos_Zapata 1993.
25
Indigenous political leaders had been called sometimes this way. The “cacicazgo” is a political
structure where a leader is in charge of redistributing goods and services. From an evolutionary political
view the cacicazgo is seen as pre-State political structure.

36
In the case of the Park, it was obvious that the 422.000 hectares were impossible to
manage with the resources and functionaries available. Some indigenous communities
living within the park or around its boundaries needed recognition of their territories.
This meant 100.000 hectares would have to have double legal status of resguardo and
national park or, become exclusively resguardo.

The problems of territorial order experienced by families of colonisers were different.
Some of them had been living there since before the Paya Park was established and
some had arrived after. For the first group, INCORA (the National Agrarian Reform
Agency) had to estimate the ‘mejoras’
26
that had been made and then establish the
amount of compensation owed to the farmer. That was of course in theory. Where
would those families go? And what about the other families? If they were not legally
entitled to land and compensation, did it mean that they could be evicted without
compensation?

The park was not a place of joy and entertainment for the people of Putumayo, but a
scene of conflict. The problems related to urbanisation, the lack of work and the
dominance of drug trafficking in economic activities were creating a climate of war
through the entire Department.

The colonisers and indigenous peoples did not have much confidence in the local
authorities, suffered from the attentions of the army and, in some cases, sought some
kind of authority to regulate conflicts related to trade. This authority came from the
guerrillas, but in such cases whole communities were accused of being guerrilla
supporters. They could be tortured, killed or go missing at any moment.

Before the audience I had told the colonisers from Caucayá that I was there for dialogue
and that the problems were to be solved between us. However, I also told them I was
not going to allow trafficking of live animals nor the cutting and marketing of cedar
wood. I agreed with them, they needed to resolve the problem of land titles, that their
schools needed improvement and that the park functionaries should help to find ways of
co-operating as I was doing, but wood and live animal trading were to be stopped.


26
‘Mejoras’ means improvements. The legislation considers that when a coloniser has made a clearing
within the rainforest to cultivate crops this is an ‘improvement’ to the land which implies an economic
value that has to be estimated. In the case of dispossession of the land in favour of Parks or Resguardos,
the State has to compensate the coloniser, paying him the ‘mejoras’.

37

I used the four functionaries of the Park to control traffic in live animals. Some were
confiscated in the park and others at the airport. The bureaucratic process I had to go
through was time consuming and the functionaries became exhausted. The functionaries
of the Park and I would construct facilities and buy food for the animals that needed to
be re-adapted to life in the wild.

I also confiscated a ship carrying 6,000 tons of cedar wood. The procedures for this
were far more complicated. I had only two boats and had to stop the cargo ship before it
left the park. I had to be accompanied by a representative of the local authority. I had to
transport the wood to the place were it was to be put in custody. I needed witnesses and
I needed a custodian. I did it all. The municipal solicitor accompanied me and I was
very careful to fulfil the legal procedures. The only person that was capable of
maintaining custody was the commander of the naval base and he agreed to do it.

After a week of terrible stress, while walking to the public market in Leguizamo two
men I had not seen in town approached and told me I should leave my post. Then they
vanished. I asked the park functionaries that were in town to help me identify them. We
went through the entire town and there was not a trace of them. Martha Lucia advised
me to stay at her place for a week, while things cooled down. I did. However to my
astonishment one of the functionaries at the park told me another ship loaded with wood
was coming down the river. We had no fuel and no means to organise the whole
operation again.

The next day the ship was in Leguizamo right in front of the CAP office. I went there
and told the functionaries to get on with the legal procedures. They would not move. I
went to the office and made out a document claiming that as a State functionary, I was
urgently requiring another State functionary to act in accordance with the law and
functions assigned to the public post. By the time I had finished the ‘requirement
document’ the boat had already been moved.

When the audience took place, and after the Director of Parks had spoken to the CAP
director, the Director of Parks informed me there was going to be collaboration between
governmental offices from now on, but I should not attempt to send another ‘legal
requirement’ to CAP.

38

From the functionaries that attended the public audience we heard the discourses of
peace and progress. All were agreed that the process of territorial ordering was
important and that further steps had to be taken. Nobody from INCORA attended the
meeting and if some recognition of indigenous land or, “sanamiento de mejoras
27
” in
the case of colonisers, were to be made, INCORA had to do the valuation and carry out
the necessary procedures to legalise the lands and issue the land titles.

What I got out of the meeting was the advice not to do much. I was to understand that if
I wanted to stay I had to be blind to many things. As the main problems with the
management of the Park had already been identified and had to do with re-establishing
boundaries, and, as there were no resources to do so; it was better for me just to let
things go on as they were.

2.10 Getting to know the Indigenous Movements in the Amazon
Before taking the post at the Park I had accompanied two anthropologists from the
GAIA foundation on a long and intense trip. We made a one-month trip from
Araracuara to Pedrera in the Caquetá River basin. We also visited other communities
along the Caquetá river: Puerto Sábalo, Los Monos and Puerto Berlín. By then I had
already met many different peoples from a variety of ethnic groups: Muinane, Witoto,
Nonuya, Andoke, Miraña; as well as indigenous peoples from the Mirití and Apaporis
rivers: Makuna, Letuama, Barasano, Matapí, Yukuna and Tanimuka.

Indigenous people from these cultures like to distinguish themselves from each other.
They manage their own traditions and keep their own languages, however they were
also acquiring a collective identity as ‘indigenous rainforest peoples’. This allowed
them to meet together and plan a common strategy to assure self-governance.

The new Constitution provided for the creation of Entidades Territoriales Indígenas –
ETIs (Indigenous Territorial Entities) and the provision to obtain State resources for
development. Indigenous peoples were seen as guarantors of the rainforest and their
ways of living as instrumental tools to achieve preservation and development at the
same time. Indigenous peoples from Amazonia started building associations and
organising to discuss the issue.

27
Payment for the ‘improvements’ to the land.

39

Six months later, the director of COAMA
28
told me, if I wanted I could go to Apaporis
and spend six months there, getting to know the people, their circumstances and the
processes they were involved in. A meeting had just occurred in Apaporis and the
indigenous authorities had agreed to ask for advice from GAIA foundation.

2.11 Tukanoan Territory
During the meeting that indigenous authorities held with GAIA, they defined two main
problems that had to be solved. The legalisation of the indigenous land that was outside
the boundaries of the Resguardos and, the availability of money to buy the basic foreign
products they depend upon and to pay for the education of their children at the Catholic
Schools.

I made a census of the people living in the lower and middle Apaporis river. I also
interviewed every family living in the Yaigojé Resguardo. I wanted to know how they
perceived their situation, their problems and how they thought it might be possible to
solve them. The majority of the people were wary of talking at first. They did not like to
talk to a “Gaua” or “Cariba” (white man), even less if translators mediated talks. I had
to remain for many days in each community before they would start opening up.

I understood that the problem of the Resguardo boundaries was perceived as a
responsibility of the ‘captains’ (indigenous chiefs). Every person I interviewed told me
that the payés
29
and captains were in charge of guarding indigenous territory and that it
was important to follow them so no sickness or evil would befall before them. They
made me understand that ‘the land’ was a vision of white men, that there was no
boundary between them and the forest and that the safeguard of sacred places was vital.
If captains considered that the titles were needed, it was something that should be
catered for immediately. They often told me that this world (the Tukano conception of
the world) was ‘given’ to them to live in and to respect, the world has spiritual owners
not material ones. They disliked the idea of land as property and understood that white
men were appropriating the territories of all the peoples from the rainforest. They felt
oppressed by the fact that white men have the power to impose things. “How come the

28
Program for the Consolidation of Amazonia. It is the largest network of NGOs working in Northwest
Amazonia.
29
Payé is a vernacular name given to the Shamans

40
land that was given to us by our own god is now claimed not to be ours?” they asked
me.

The other problem, the need for money, was far more complicated than it might look.
There was very little circulation of money in indigenous communities. There had been a
system of reciprocity that was being modified because of their relationship with white
men. Since the first iron tools reached Amazonia great changes had occurred.

It has been suggested that a horticulture revolution occurred with the arrival of iron
tools (Denevan 1992, 1998). People still consider metal axes, machetes, knifes and
fishhooks to be of great value. These artefacts changed the production technology and
hunter-gatherers are dependent upon their supply.

The other major goods from white people that also contributed to major socio-
economical changes in Amazonia were salt (NaCl) and ‘carbines’ (shotguns). Besides
this, cloth, cotton hammocks, matches, catering equipment, flashlights, batteries, soap
and other minor products, have to be purchased outside indigenous territories.
Indigenous people always struggled to buy them and to pay for accommodation and
education of indigenous students at internee Catholic schools.

In order to be able to advise indigenous people, there was work to do at many different
levels: household, community, resguardo, river, indigenous movement and the
departmental and national political levels. The household level work was to be carried
out by indigenous authorities and leaders. Training courses were provided for leaders,
and open and specialised workshops were held at community level. An association of
traditional authorities was set up and an organisation established at river - resguardo
level. The integration with other organisations and the assumption of political roles at
departmental and national levels was planned to take place in the future, after the
consolidation of organisations.

During the first year I worked alone inside the Resguardo. A lawyer from GAIA
foundation came with legal advice and, in the second year, we started to work together.
Collaboration with other foundations and programmes, and the promotion of indigenous
experiences was slowly being organised. I became deeply involved with the

41
organisation and the indigenous movement, living half of the time among indigenous
people and the other half in Bogotá, arranging funding for the projects.

During the last two years I worked in Northwest Amazonia, when continuous
arrangement of political activities was taking a great deal of time, an interdisciplinary
group of researchers from GAIA foundation was established and dedicated exclusively
to work with the people of the Apaporis.

Indigenous leaders were subjected to attacks from different organisations, so were the
staff of the GAIA foundation and, particularly R. Laborde (the legal adviser) and I, as
we were involved in the process of legalisation of indigenous territories, their
Associations of Traditional Authorities, and also, involved with promoting participation
of indigenous organisations in the political scenario. Despite the difficulties, indigenous
leaders and the Apaporis group of researchers working with them received the full
support of COAMA and GAIA foundation. The European Community and DANIDA
(Danish Agency for Developmental Assistance) also gave support to local organisations
and the activities of the research group.

In the next Chapter: Territoriality and Governance in the Colombian Amazon, I aim to
describe what followed. In the following chapters I will present an analysis of the
ideology that supports the actions of indigenous movements, governmental agencies,
guerrilla groups, environmental movements and other important political actors. I will
offer for the following argument: discourses of all stakeholders had had repercussions
for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and the conservation of Northwest
Amazonian rainforest.

2.12 Conclusion of Chapter Two
The policy towards Northwest Amazonia does not only concern its inhabitants. The
events described demonstrate that transcultural processes have already impacted the
rainforest environment from within.

At the same time, the discourses of biological and cultural diversity preservation and
“sustainable development”, have been taken up by social movements that look for
feasible strategies to maintain alternative ways of life in the context of globalisation.

42
This apparent contradiction might be clarified through the study of the ideologies that
are involved in a particular scenario.

43

CHAPTER 3: TERRITORIALITY AND GOVERNANCE IN THE
COLOMBIAN AMAZON

3.1 What this Chapter is About
30

This chapter describes how indigenous organisations in the Colombian Amazon have
used new legal and political instruments to access governance while fortifying
territoriality. It also analyses how other parties interested in governing the region, such
as environmentalists, the Catholic Church, guerrillas, and regional politicians, have
reacted to the indigenous territorial ordering process, and the implication of these
actions.

The chapter attempts an analysis of the development of jurisprudence through two
safeguard tutela actions presented by an indigenous organisation from Colombian
Amazonia, postulating that such development is important for future implementation of
indigenous peoples’ rights.

It is concluded that determining the conception and structure under which territorial
actions are developed could help to foresee the arrival of conflicts in governance, and
that the process of territorial ordering is far more complex than simply providing
political tools for democratic participation.

3.2 Territoriality
The concept of territorialisation, (already introduced in previous chapters), was used by
urban anthropologist to describe the relationship between human groups and the
geographical space that constitutes part of their environment. Through the use of
indices, social groups or individuals, mark their territories, and, in this way, set out the
scope of their power, making it clear that alliances with other groups or individuals will
be based on understanding these territorial limits (Forero 1992).

The term Governance should be understood as the process through which a group of
people creates and regulates the political institutions that exercise the control required
for the maintenance of the group’s identity and territory.

30
A previous version of this chapter was presented at the 2001 SLAS Annual Conference. I wish to
express my thanks to the Society for Latin American Studies that gave me a grant to attend the
Conference and to all the participants that kindly made suggestions and constructive criticism.

44

There is a relationship between the two concepts as they both refer to territorial control
and the exercise of power. To differentiate the concepts it may be useful to have an
example:

3.2.1 The case of informal workers in the garbage recycling process in Bogotá
The garbage recycling workers (GRW) are organised in bands. Each member of the
band has a little cart built of wood, with roller bearings and decorated with materials
salvaged from the ‘rubbish’ (Salcedo 1988).

Each GRW band defines the limits for its territory, among other things, by painting
symbols at different locations in the streets. Indeed, the bands are sometimes called
“parche”, meaning the sign left by painting, often with used car oil, a sign on the wall
or in the street. The boundaries encompass assured working areas, which usually relate
to city neighbourhoods, where each group exercises its power.

Within the territory each member of the band expects solidarity from his/her partners.
This solidarity is exercised by defending a member from abuse by the police or from an
angry restaurant owner who might attempt to beat somebody “messing with the garbage
in front of his/her business”. But most important, all members of the band are ready to
protect their territory from intrusions by other bands. When there are newcomers to a
neighbourhood they have to go through a certain procedure in order to be accepted by
the band, or conflict would break out.

These procedures, however, are not formally institutionalised. And it is only recently
that the State has decided to get to grips with GRW’s problems and that the Mayor of
Bogotá has social advisors. Today, the leaders of the GRW’s informal association are
elected and can represent the interests of the GRW when dealing with state institutions,
such as the welfare office or the police. When these leaders are officially recognised and
assume political functions, we can speak of ‘acts of governance’ but these are
differentiated from the activities of non-State-institutionalised social actors, such as the
GRW bands, which are better understood as ‘acts of territorialization’. Governance is
linked to the institutional processes, which structure interaction with the state, while
territoriality refers to processes of informal organisation which establish boundaries and
structure power relations within them.

45

3.3 Territorial Ordering Process among Indigenous Amazonian Peoples
After the Constitutional reform of 1991 Colombia started a process of territorial
ordering. The previous constitution of 1886 was criticised because it was considered
that the administrative functioning of the state was centralised. The process of decision
making occurred in Bogotá, where the President and his Ministers intervene. With the
regime changes that came from the constitutional reform, budgets were assigned to each
distinct territorial entity, and today each is responsible for the design of their own
governmental plans. Publicly funded projects have to be designed and implemented
locally and approved by the Departmental Assembly. The execution of the programme
of activities is the responsibility of the Governor of each Department. There are regional
organs of State control, which are balanced by the rights of ‘civil society’. If disputes
cannot be resolved at the regional level they are referred to the national authorities.
Furthermore, all governors, as well as the town and city mayors, are elected by the
citizens.

The decentralisation has been complex and the participation of Colombian ‘civil
society’ has been considered fundamental to the process. The idea was to stimulate each
region to evaluate its performance in the development process of the country, and to
establish its own targets. This would allow all social groups to express their opinions
and to participate in the development projects. This would avoid exclusion and facilitate
the peace process.

One of the minority groups that acquired new constitutional rights, were indigenous
peoples. They can now participate in the processes of governance not only as individual
citizens but also in the institutional guise of ETIs (Indigenous Territorial Entities). The
new rights were not hastily drawn up but were the result of indigenous resistance,
lobbing and campaigning.

Prior to the adoption of the new Constitution, the indigenous peoples had already
recorded some significant achievements. Around 20 million hectares of rain forest were
already recognised as “Resguardo” reserves. The Resguardos policy was used
intensively by President Virgilio Barco Vargas (1986-1990), who was responsible for
establishing the largest Resguardo in Colombia: “Predio Putumayo”.


46
Resguardos are “the collective property of the indigenous communities for whom they
have been constituted and, in pursuance of Articles 63 and 329 of the Political
Constitution, they are inalienable, unmortgageable and imprescriptible.” (Art. 21.
Decree 2161-1995). This definition has evolved through a long process of legislative
reforms. Law 81 (1958) halted the dissolution of Indigenous Colony resguardos; Law
135 (1961) made possible the creation of new resguardos in what were called Tierras
Baldías: waste- or unfounded-land. These two pieces of legislation allowed the
indigenous anti-colonisation movements to have legal instruments that were used in
their search for political autonomy as well as territorial ownership.

The laws were more confusing in respect of the definition of “indigenous” and group
identity was usually established formally in law without the participation of the
indigenous peoples themselves. Since Independence, indigenous people have not shared
the same rights as the rest of the citizens. They were considered to be in a state of
transition in a continuum that ranged from ‘savagery’ to ‘civilisation’. At the same time,
the concept of ‘culture’ was that of acquisition of customs and uses. Both concepts were
behind the legislation that considered indigenous people as minors and in process of
development. The political aim was to integrate indigenous peoples by destroying their
identities and converting them to civilised citizens. Correa refers to this political project
as one of integration-disintegration (Correa 1992). It represents an act of governance in
pursuance of the establishment of nationhood and is a common feature in the political
history of many newly independent countries.

In 1988 a variation in the concept was introduced into the legislation by Decree 2001-
1988:
“It must be understood that an indigenous partiality or indigenous community is a
group of Amerindian descendent families that share the feeling of identity with
their aboriginal past, maintaining characteristics and values from their own
traditional culture, as much as internal forms of government and social control that
distinguish them from the other rural communities”. (Art.2).

The decree does not refer to indigenous people, and only defines their social affiliation:
community, such affiliation is made by the community itself and is not subject to
external structuring principles, but still defines indigenous people as groups that
maintain tradition: somehow groups of the past.


47
The major achievement with respect to indigenous legislation before the constitutional
reform of 1991 was the ratification of Covenant 169 of the WLO (World Labour
Organisation) by Law 21 (1991). While previous legislation referred ambiguously to
“indigenous”, or to the communal character, the new law refers to “indigenous
peoples”, recognising not only the collective affiliation, but also making it clear that
indigenous individuals can also assume their own identity. This legislation enlarged the
room for manoeuvre for indigenous peoples as a minority and also as citizens. Even
though Paragraph 3 of Article 1 of Law 21 states that this recognition “does not imply
the recognition of rights in international legislation”, it nevertheless improves on
previous indigenous rights. Since Law 21 (1991) was adopted it has been possible not
only to claim property rights, but also other rights related to territorial governance:
“The interested [indigenous] peoples should have the right to decide their own
priorities with respect to the development process, when this affects their lives,
beliefs, institutions, spiritual well-being, and the lands they occupy or use in a
certain way; and to control, as far as possible, their own cultural, social and
economic development. Furthermore, these [indigenous] peoples must participate
in the formulation, application and evaluation of the regional and national
programmes and plans of development that could affect them.” (Art. 7 Nm.1)
(Translation by the author).

The 1992 Constitution creates the ETI, but it is subject to the “Organic Law of
Territorial Ordering”, a law that has not yet been submitted for consideration of the
Congress. Different organisations have used various legal and political instruments to
claim their rights to political autonomy without waiting for the proposal and sanction of
the law.

3.4 Indigenous Territoriality
For anyone who had lived among Amerindians in Northwest Amazonia it would be
obvious that their use of resources and the environment, while being a constant matter
of study, is not the only fundamental aspect of indigenous life, it is accompanied by
constant concerns and worries and a range of religious practices. The philosophical
relation with the world is a daily subject of discussion among indigenous peoples. In our
contemporary world, there are still some groups that depend greatly on agroforestry
strategies for their livelihood. However, even though there are certain aesthetics in
reference to land, which have been reflected in rural studies, there is rarely any
reference to ritualisation.

From the perspective of historical materialism this fact would be explained by arguing
that the agricultural societies of today are involved in the capitalist mode of production,

48
and therefore their conception of environment simply casts the land as a means of
production. In contrast, indigenous societies, structured by pre-capitalist modes of
production, have a communal attachment to their land and therefore cultural elements
play a different role: the conception of territory plays a much more fundamental part in
a society’s survival than that of land as a means of production.

Furthermore, in the case of Amazonian indigenous peoples, the conception of territory
is not only fundamental for the survival of people as a community, but also for the
survival of their cultural identity and of the rainforest itself. Religion, as a social
structure, is based on the capacity in which society copes with environmental limits and
develops its means of production and reproduction. The complexity required in the
indigenous management of environments, such as those of NWA, often results in the
development of management systems in which people are understood as integral parts
of the system. Thus, the priority is the conservation of rainforest, which indigenous
people have found is at the same time, the only way to guarantee cultural survival.

Amerindian cultures have an extensive mythological corpus in which the origin of the
world, living things, the human mind, social organisation and environmental
functioning are carefully explained. For the indigenous peoples of Colombian
Amazonia this has been studied in some detail. The indigenous peoples, speakers of the
Tukano, Arawak and Yujup–Puinave linguistic families, have captured the attention of
different specialists.

Elsewhere, I have described the environmental management process carried out by
Tukano People in the Yaigojé Resguardo (Forero 1999) and in Chapter Four I will
develop the thesis that the structure of different rituals relate to ecological, economic,
socio-political, religious and aesthetic aspects of environmental management. It may be
inappropriate to name such practices as ‘sustainable’, because even if we accept that the
concept of sustainability might embrace socio-political equality and the management of
ecosystem energy cycling, the term does not encompass the sacred and aesthetic
dimensions managed by the Tukano.

The recognition of territory as a fundamental right is therefore an essential legal tool for
the survival of indigenous people. However, this constitutional recognition has not been
regulated clearly in legislation. First, there is contradiction and lack of clarity in what

49
exactly constitutes the territory. And, second, there is discussion about what is more
fundamental as a right, the indigenous peoples’ claims over their lands or the rights of
other citizens to preserve or use ‘national resources’ according to development plans or
conservation laws. These conflicts are to be solved by jurisprudence.

3.5 Indigenous Governance and the Defence of the Territory
This section reveals and analyses the political and legal procedures engaged in by the
indigenous peoples of the Amazonian region of Apaporis and the importance of this
process for future indigenous peoples’ demands for the development of jurisprudence in
Colombia.

In 1994 some of the traditional authorities of the Yaigojé Resguardo asked the GAIA
Foundation for help with the organisation of a meeting to discuss territorial issues. A
lawyer from the Foundation was present during the meeting. The traditional authorities
were concerned with two main problems. First the Resguardo resolution did not offer
recognition of the complete Tukano territory, thus, leaving unprotected ‘sacred places’
and leaving out of the Resguardo the Tanimuka territories, including the community of
La Playa. Since the resolution had been made, local indigenous leaders or ‘captains’ had
been conscious of the problem, but as stated by Isaac Makuna, (who received the title in
the name of the Tukano people in 1988), the functionaries did not understand how this
territory was formed or what kind of use indigenous people made of it. They were even
less able to understand what was meant by the term ‘sacred place’ and the importance of
such places to the Tukano.

The second problem they were concerned with was the lack of financial resources for
building new schools, health centres and other important infrastructure they considered
necessary for the wellbeing of their community. The GAIA Foundation lawyer was
impressed by the knowledge these indigenous authorities had of their territory, how they
were able to make a pretty good map in two days, which identified not only the limits of
the territory but over eighty places of sacred importance. This vast knowledge
contrasted greatly with the lack of financial resources. There were communities working
with tools that had been acquired in the1960s and, there were no means of getting cloth,
fishhooks, knifes or other manufactured products they were used to and that were
considered indispensable for their daily activities.


50
From this moment onward a partnership between the indigenous peoples of Apaporis
and the GAIA foundation was established. GAIA offered legal and social advice with
the purpose of overcoming the two main problems identified by the traditional
authorities: the enlargement of the Resguardo, and the development of economic and
political activities that would allow them to have access to the basic tools and goods
they needed for daily survival, as well as access to state resources for the development
of community projects.

GAIA helped authorities to organise meetings, and provided legal advice for the
establishment of ACIYA. This association set out the legal requirements for the
Resguardo enlargement. Each community was also involved in workshops on
‘constitutional pedagogy’ and on the preparation and presentation of projects. In 1994
they were the first Resguardo which developed projects for the use of ‘Territorial
Transfers”, the national resources that central government grants to the Governors of
each department and that can only be used by the territorial entity for which the
governor is responsible
31
. They were targeted at specific projects dealing with
education, health, infrastructure, communication and economic activities.

Both processes required long periods of training for the local captains and a good
understanding of the communities’ members. International bodies donated funds for the
realisation of the organisational project in Apaporis
32
. The changes inside communities
and in relation to the higher levels of organisation were remarkable
33
. Schools were
built and there was some money available to pay teachers and privide for their training.
There was preparation and training of young leaders on the administrative functions that
the organisation required. There was restructuring of some communities. The largest
and most multiethnic community was divided into three, as people perceived that work
opportunities should be available for everyone.

The procedure for the collecting of money, the administration of resources, the
accounting and control of the state transfers proved to be very difficult. Both indigenous
peoples and advisers from the GAIA foundation were working together on the

31
A more detailed account of the discussions that took place inside the GAIA Foundation at the time is
presented in Chapter Six.
32
Among them were Cultural Survival, The Danish Agency for Developmental Assistance- DANIDA,
and the European Union.
33
In Chapters Six and Nine a critique of the impacts of social transformations due to this intervention is
developed.

51
development of a coherent organisation. During a meeting in the Playa community (23-
28 February of 1996) some reforms were made to the organisation in order to give it
more political power. The functions of the Traditional Authorities Assembly were
defined, an education committee was formed with the function of elaborating the first
appraisal of education inside the Resguardo, and a general secretariat was appointed. In
this same meeting an agreement with the Health Department Services was made in
order to have a support system in the Resguardo
34
.

But these developments were not without problems. Inside the organisation, the
authority in charge of the state funds lost some money, which was supposed to be used
in the payment of communal projects. Even when the majority of the projects were
carried out in accordance with the contracts, this mistake provoked difficulties for the
organisation. Perhaps this was one of the reasons behind the establishment and
definition of the functions of the post of Vigilante, to be held by an elder of the
Resguardo elected by the traditional authorities. He would be accompanied by the
authorities’ secretary and, in cases where help was needed, by another local leader.

But the major problems came from outside the organisation. No training was provided
by the State and there were delays on the transfers of money. The State’s lack of
capacity for assuring the development of territorial processes affected all regions in
Colombia, and in Amazonia many of its functions where developed by COAMA. But
the first major misunderstanding between ACIYA and the State happened when a group
of governmental functionaries decided to build a primary school near the Yuisi waterfall
(called Libertad by white colonisers). This was one of the unprotected sacred places
outside the boundaries of the Resguardo.
3.5.1 Violation of a Sacred Place
The person in charge of the school’s construction was the police inspector of Libertad, a
functionary of the Governor of Vaupés Department. The school was being built close to
a rock formation near the waterfall called Yuisi by Makuna and Libertad by white
colonisers. This place is of outstanding importance for indigenous peoples from
Northwest Amazonia. According to mythology, it was there that the great hawk was
killed by the four sons of time, the cultural heroes that were learning how to manage the

34
Although the Agreement was not honored by the Governmental Institution that would remain inactive
until they could transfer their responsibility to a Private Organization following a reform in the laws that
was by the time in Parliamentary discussion.

52
world and whose teachings constitute a legacy for the management of environmental
issues to this day. Yuisi was also where they cut down a sacred tree, which is
considered the original event that gave birth to the river. This place is also sometimes
called ‘the Yuruparí of fish’, because it is believed that from there fish spread
throughout the Apaporis and its tributaries.

Isaac Makuna, in the name of the traditional authorities, asked the inspector to suspend
the construction and look for another place. He explained to him that the violation of
this place would have an impact on indigenous life. Sickness and death would not be
controllable by payés if this construction were to continue. Sadly the inspector reacted
violently to the petition. He not only regarded the old man’s knowledge as superstition
but also questioned his authority. He told Isaac that he, as inspector, had the authority to
place the school were he considered adequate and that Isaac’s title was not official.

Finally, after several attempts had been made to persuade the police inspector, the
ACIYA decided to send Isaac and Rondón Tanimuka as representatives of the
Resguardo. They had to make it clear to the Instituto Colombiano de la Reforma
Agraria –INCORA (National Institute of the Agrarian Reform), the institution
responsible for the legalisation of the Resguardo enlargement, that protection for the
communities and their sacred places was needed urgently. They would also have to do
whatever necessary to make national authorities aware that a sacred place was being
violated and that this was of primary importance for the conservation of the rainforest
and the survival of the indigenous peoples of western Amazonia.

Isaac, Rondón and the author worked intensively in the elaboration of a detailed map of
the Tukano territory. Then, in Bogotá, we handed in the map with explanatory
documents. INCORA assured them that the process of enlargement had begun and that
a visit was needed to complete the process.

ACIYA worked with GAIA advisors compiling the information about the primary
school construction and the development of the conflict. In Bogotá, Captain Rondón
Tanimuka presented a safeguard legal action
35
to the Administrative Tribunal of
Cundinamarca. The magistrate Benjamín Herrera called the parties together: The
Governor of Vaupés Department, the traditional indigenous authorities, a group of

35
Known in Colombia as Acción de Tutela.

53
independent anthropologists: Anamaria Ospina and Leonardo Reina, (the second from
the Colombian Institute of Anthropology) who had worked among the Yujup
indigenous community that lived near the waterfall and whose children were attending
the school. The author was called to provide information on the characteristics of
Tukano religion and bring ethnographic information about their cultural beliefs.

The tribunal considered that the rights of religious freedom had been violated. The
tribunal ordered the Governor’s office to cease works and abstain from initiating any
other work in the area (Tribunal Admininistrativo de Cundinamarca - 1995). Until then
it was understood that a Resguardo could be created or enlarged when it was proved to
be in use by indigenous peoples. In Amazonia it is understood that to maintain hunting,
gathering and agroforestry activities in the traditional way there is need for large
extensions of land. The rainforest agroecosystems require the rotation of forest areas,
yet uses may continue for twenty to fifty years depending on the crops
36
. But further
than this economic justification for land, we see in the tribunal’s decision that the right
of indigenous people over their territory was threatened by the fact that the State was
weakening their cultural integrity by violating a ‘sacred place’ and denying the
shamans’ healing powers. Therefore in future cases when an indigenous group could
prove that the action of the State, or a third party, was causing religious damage to the
group, this tribunal decision will serve as a precedent upon which the respective tribunal
can base its judgement.

3.5.2 Forcing an Administrative Procedure through an ‘Acción de Tutela’
There was a second case in which ACIYA, represented by Rondón Tanimuka, through
legal action forced the State to rectify its actions, assuring the right of indigenous
peoples to their territory. ACIYA had made a legal petition (derecho de petición) in
which an inquiry was made to INCORA. Reasons for the delay of the visit to the
Resguardo were addressed
37
. INCORA sent a functionary to the area because failure to
respond within twenty days to the derecho de petición, (as determined by law) would
mean the possibility of facing a safeguard legal action for violating a fundamental right.


36
In Chapter Nine there is a description of how these practices are changing and of the implications of
this changes, as seen by indigenous peoples themselves.
37
Following the legal procedure for enlargement of resguardos, a functionary of INCORA must pay a
visit to the area to be enlarged and determine if the indigenous group soliciting the enlargement can prove
that the area has been used by them.

54
However, the functionary in charge of the visit did not consult with the traditional
authorities. He did not visit the entire Resguardo and committed several administrative
blunders. One of them was that he incorrectly informed some indigenous peoples with
whom he talked, that as the Resguardo straddles the Departments of Vaupés and
Amazonas and two different procedures should be carried out. He claimed he was there
to assure the inclusion of La Playa community within the Resguardo. This corresponded
to the Northern extension of the area solicited by indigenous people, all of which lay
inside the boundaries of Amazonas Department. This would leave the territory enclosed
by the southern extension subject to future legal procedures in Vaupés Department.

Captains Rondón Tanimuka and Isaac Makuna, who had been elected by the ACIYA
assembly to deal with territorial ordering problems had to go to Bogotá again. Captain
Rondón instigated a new Acción de Tutela against INCORA’s failure in the
administrative procedure (December 16 of 1996). It was argued that the delay in the
process of enlargement was affecting the communities outside the Yaigojé Resguardo
and was leaving indigenous peoples without legal tools to protect their sacred places
and, therefore, the rainforest area they wanted to preserve. The tribunal considered that
the INCORA had not followed the correct procedures and that a new visit should be
made (Tribunal Administrativo de Cundinamarca - Dec. 1996). A fundamental proof
was a film
38
that indigenous people had made in La Playa, the only community where
the functionary stopped. It was clear from the movies that the functionary had given
false justification, had a lack of knowledge about the area and the cartographic work. He
had taken a map, elaborated by ACIYA and GAIA foundation, as it was impossible for
him to elaborate an accurate map of the area to be enlarged in one day –the time he had
for the visit. He permitted the testimony of people from outside the Resguardo he had
brought with him, and created a lot of confusion among Gilberto and Jaime, the only
two men in the community at the time of his visit.

Even though the decision of the tribunal did not refer to the cultural damage as the
motive for protection, but to the failure to follow correct administrative procedure, it
should be understood that it was complementary to the previous decisions. Both tutelas
were accepted and the complementary aim was to protect the right of indigenous
peoples to own and manage their ancestral territories.

55

3.6 From Territoriality to Governance
3.6.1 The conflict provoked by different perspectives on ‘environmental
management’
The conception of the world and its management from the Tukano indigenous peoples’
perspective has been summarised by one of the shamans of Apaporis:
“The world”, said Serafín, “this world we step on, this world in which we develop and live
together with the other living things, is not sustained by itself alone. The world is like a big
budare
39
. It is tied by golden laces that are like the magic cords that sustain the life of a thinker
40
.
These golden laces are tied to the four cardinal points and sustain the sitting thinker in his
bench
41
. The same way the world is sustained. The knots of these cords have visible points over
our land: The Araracuara waterfall and the Angosturas stream both in the Caquetá River. La
Libertad (Yuisi) waterfall; the Tequendama fall on the Mirití River; Ñenorika, in Popeyaká
River; the biggest waterfall of upper Pirá-Paraná river; the Axe, a stream of Royeyaká (Taraira)
river, this last one is a connection with Parí Cachoeira in Brazil”.

“The payé has to maintain these knots”, he continued, “Without clean thinking that liberates
them from pollution and dustiness, created by the badness of men, these knots will be loose, the
world would fall down, crash into the endless fire. The world would become ashes and every
living thing would perish.” “That is why”, Serafín said, “the payés have to agree”. (Interview to
Serafín Makuna, 1998, parts of which were presented in Forero 1999; Forero and Laborde 1997)

The management of the environment is holistic and the aim of acts of territoriality is to
manage the world. If indigenous people have presented documents where education,
health, and economy are different chapters, this has been done by accommodating to
State institutions. Healing and agroforestry practices are not differentiated when
performing an act of territoriality or governance. On the contrary, rituals such as that
described in the following chapter encompass medical, religious, sociological and
political activities.

In contrast the State tends to organise administrative institutions based on the
centralisation of governmental functions and specialisation: secretaries of finance,
transport, education, health, environment, etc. This organisation of the State responds to
a rationality that follows the organisation of modern Science, and that allows, at least in
theory, adequate responses in public management. As recorded at the beginning of this
chapter, the principal aim of the State with respect to indigenous people was integration

38
Small World (SW) foundation, form Netherlands, had given training to an indigenous leader on
filming, and donated equipment to the community of La Playa. Chapter Seven develops the events that
took place while the SW project developed
39
Budare is a clay plate on which cassava bread is made.
40
Payés and a kumua are the shamans of the Tukano, also called pensadores (thinkers) meaning
philosophers with power to transform reality through casting spells.
41
The payés usually sit on a little wood bench (kumoro or kumuro) at the ritual place, but it is understood
these benches are a representation of ‘other state’s benches’, that exist in a world visible to shaman only.

56
into the civilised world. The state is trying to accommodate to new democratic
participation schemes in policy making. However, the reform of institutions is slower
than society’s willingness to undertake administrative changes and therefore indigenous
peoples, among other minorities, have to accommodate to existing rigid schemes, in
order to obtain the nation financial resources to which they have a constitutional right.

In respect of environmental management, the State in Colombia has followed legislation
from the USA. In order to protect the environment and avoid the perceived danger of
communal property, legislation appropriates Conservation Areas as State property,
limiting or prohibiting use and management by other parties. This makes it very
difficult for any kind of collaboration between park managers and local communities.
UAESPNN (the National Administrative Unit for the Management of Natural Areas)
have recognised that part of the problem of managing parks has been the preconception
that conservation is only possible without people. In Colombia forty-two of the
conservation areas are inhabited, and in sixteen of them there are extensive process of
Colonisation. Only five areas have no human occupation. There were thirty-eight areas
which needed to accomodate human populations, but by 1998 UAESPNN was focusing
on just twenty of them, attempting to force human populations to move elsewhere
(Ministerio del Medio Ambiente 1998a: 146). Even when conscious of the problem, the
principal measures taken by the UASPNN had been related to the development of
norms and other judicial tools (Ministerio del Medio Ambiente 1998a: 127).

3.6.2 The Colono’s Perspective
In contrast to the State perspective and in opposition to indigenous conceptions, the
colonisers, who have not yet established themselves in Lower Apaporis, but almost
everywhere else in Amazonas, have made a different use of the land. They came from
other parts of the country, frequently having been forced to leave by armed groups or
due to social exclusion. Their knowledge of the rainforest is poor at the moment of
migration and their livelihood strategies are based as those of Andean peasants or cattle
ranchers. Soon the land they clear is depleted, pastures are grown and cattle are
maintained precariously, then a new rainforest patch has to be felled and so the
degradation process continues. Domínguez described that process for the Apaporis
region during the 1960-70s, pointing out that colonisers usually became poor and
economically subjugated by rubber dealers, just as indigenous peoples were
(Domínguez-Ossa 1975a, 1975b).

57

Colonisers that have remained in Amazonas have done so as miners, coca planters,
traders and governmental officials. There have been changes in the life styles of
colonisers: they have adapted to indigenous food, learnt to eat manioc in the forms of
cassava bread and fariña grains, they now use indigenous procedures for transforming,
conserving and consuming seeds, roots and fruits from the rainforest. They are forced to
rely on shamans for healing when affected by sickness in regions where the public
health service is deficient or absent. Intermarriage between indigenous people and
colonisers has occurred and mestizos participate in indigenous rituals and acknowledge
their languages. This process has been called the ‘indianisation of colonisers’
(Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1990: 195)

Despite this assimilation process, there is a basic aspect of the colonisers’ cultures that
has cause conflict among them, the State and indigenous peoples. The colonisers’
families work as independent units, and are not used to communal production of any
kind. Thus, when living among indigenous people inside a resguardo, they express
concern about family property. When living independently, they always need to move
periodically to a new patch of rainforest to make a new clearing and continue with their
survival strategies. Therefore they seek open access to resources and private property
ownership.

Colonisers share with the State a common hate of communal property but for different
reasons, based on equally different misunderstandings of indigenous governance and
territorial actions. While indigenous peoples value the land in a much wider perspective
than that of a means of production, colonisers are locked into economic values, where
open access for an extractive economy is the only feasible possibility they are
contemplating in order to develop and progress.

It is inconceivable for the colonisers that indigenous territorial and governance actions
could be a better way of managing society and the environment. And it is impossible
because part of their proudly held principles are based on the assumption that colonisers
are closer to civilisation than indigenous people. Their identity has been built on their
supposed superiority as members of the ‘civilised society’ that governs the nation.
Therefore they believe that indigenous society should follow and learn form the
representatives of this society in order to develop. Communal property is seen as

58
primitive and, until now, there have not been any proposals of colonisation that have
contemplated the possibility of communal property. But colonisers are not to blame for
the misconception; the State, including financial institutions, does not contemplate these
forms of property when establishing developmental projects. The principles of
exclusion behind the structure of bureaucracy do not change at the rhythm that society
wishes or as provided for by laws.

The State had accepted indigenous communal property, but in terms of environmental
management there is an avoidance of communal property. This results from a different
source than that of colonisers. Erroneously, the State confuses communal property with
open access property. The State sees a risk of the “tragedy of the commons” occurring
in indigenous territories, when managed in accordance with traditions
42
. The State had
assumed that communal property leads to environmental damage. It had assumed a
conservation pattern in which western scientific treatment of ecosystems and centralised
environmental management was the only feasible remedy.

3.7 State Reforms and the Indigenous Territorial Ordering Process
After the Constitutional reforms, with the creation of the Environment Ministry and the
decentralisation of political process, the State searched for new ways of dealing with
indigenous peoples. During the first Latin American Congress of Parks and other
Protected Natural Areas that took place in Santa Marta, 21-28 of May, 1997 (Ministerio
del Medio Ambiente 1998b), there were two symposia in which the participation of
indigenous people was welcomed. A declaration was made in which 650 participants
joined the call from FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations),
IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) for the Ministry of
Environment of Colombia to comply with indigenous peoples’ rights over their
territories:
“The preserved areas, that in any of their types of implementation were superposed over
indigenous territories, must recognise the fundamental rights of local communities, like
territoriality, and autonomous forms of dealing with and using the resources they embrace;

The aesthetic, spiritual dimension, and the capacity of nature to renew the creative and
innovative forces of our peoples, as well as the contribution to the development of individuals,
should be the most prized values in future ” (translation by the author).

42
This proposition will be developed further in the following chapters. Chapter Four provides an example
of traditional management, Chapter Five analyses the premises of conservationists against those of
indigenous peoples, and in Chapter Nine changes in traditional management systems are proposed as
plausible causes of depletion. Contrary to the State vision, indigenous peoples’ explanation of the
problem revolve around the younger generation’s adoption of new ways of life distant from traditional
cultural ways, rather than innate problems with the use of common property resources.

59

A declaration from the symposia “Integrating our Human Environment” emphasised
that natural areas were to assure the recognition indigenous peoples territorial rights:
“4. The complete recognition of territorial indigenous rights, as well as respect for their self-
management process, and in superimposed areas between preserved areas and indigenous
territories, are fundamental conditions for a just and effective conservation policy of
biodiversity” (translation by the author).

It is worth mentioning that representatives from GAIA foundation, UAESPNN,
Fundación Natura –FN (Nature Foundation) and Conservación Internacional Colombia
–CIC signed the declaration. It was stressed that a preservation area would not be
established within indigenous reserves without petitioning from indigenous peoples
themselves. Representatives from the World Wide Fund for Nature - WWF and IUCN
worked on proposing a new category of natural reserves where the two entities could
merge without violating WLO agreement 169.

At the regional level, in 1998 the elected Governor embarked on a large-scale
consultation for the elaboration of the Department’s development plan. All indigenous
peoples from Amazonas had the chance to participate in the round tables set up by the
governor’s office. The indigenous peoples presented maps, surveys and diagnostic
reports on the development of the territorial ordering process in a way never seen before
in Amazonas Department.

3.8 Radicalism and Conflict
The Yaigojé Resguardo illustrates the political complexity of territoriality and
governance problems in Amazonas.

Despite the declaration of Santa Marta, the FN
43
, CIC as well as State functionaries
from the Vaupés Department, through a dubious process, induced ACIYA in Apaporis
to sign an agreement on the establishment of a nature reserve within the indigenous
Resguardo (Forero 1999:194-203, 206-207). The indigenous organisation was divided.
None of the Tanimuka captains signed the agreement. Benjamín Tanimuka wrote a
letter to ONIC (National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia) describing the
circumstances and asking for advice: “Many captains did not understand the document,
which was not translated into Tanimuka language. Captain Julian Tanimuka and I did

43
FN was a signatory of both the general Congress Declaration and of the symposia declaration.

60
not sign the agreement. I want to know your opinion over the validity of the
agreement...”(May-15-1998).

One week later some advisors from GAIA that were travelling up the Apaporis, to the
Pirá-Paraná River, were detained by FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia)
in Bocas del Pirá, the same community where the meeting had taken place. J.M. Fisher
from “Médicos del Mundo”, J. Meurkens from Small World foundation, and all the
members of the GAIA foundation that remained in the area were ordered to leave the
Resguardo.

The reasons for the action stated by guerrillas were varied. They pointed out that the
recent events showed the indigenous people’s lack of capacity to manage their territory.
Also, that the policies of the Resguardos were prejudicial, because they benefitted
indigenous peoples alone and colonisers needed land for development too. Finally it
was considered that all institutions sponsored or receiving international funding
represented a risk to Colombian sovereignty. Some days later they expelled the Defler
44

from the Mujutupia lake area. These events, however, did not stop FN and CIC from
promoting nationally and internationally a project for the new Natural Reserve area.

The Ministry of Environment, once the legal terms had ceased and the Resguardo was
officially enlarged, made a resolution binding the Resguardo reserve to the agreement
made with the radical environmental institutions. This is clearly illegal and constitutes a
violation of Law 21 of 1991, which ratifies the 169 Covenant of the International
Labour Organisation.

The assumption made by the guerrillas was that indigenous people were not able to
manage their territory and that their land was for the use of every citizen. This
assumption is similar to that of radical environmentalists: that indigenous people have
no means to develop their territorial ordering processes, or environmental management
plans. There is a common perversity in these assumptions and the result of this has been
the weakness of ACIYA, and therefore of indigenous ecosystem management.

The Governor of Amazonas was shocked by the intrusion of extremists into the
Department. The right wing extremists called paramilitaries (sometimes associated with

61
the State Army) had also made their presence felt in Amazonas. The Governor made a
declaration condemning the violent acts and asking for solidarity (September 1, 1998).
But there were still more rigid positions to be faced by indigenous organisations and the
governor’s office. After diagnosis of the educational situation in Apaporis and the
request made by indigenous peoples for a change in the educational service in the
region, protests arrived from the Catholic Prefecture of Leticia.

Prior to the reform of the National Constitution a contract between the State and the
Catholic Church called Concordato had been inplace. The National State of Colombia
had delegated the administration of the poorest and indigenous peoples of Colombia to
the Catholic Church. This agreement is illegal under the statement of the new
constitution because it violates the principle of equity for all citizens, be they poor or
indigenous, and because it recognises indigenous languages and aboriginal religious
practices as official. However, the government had not revised the covenant at that time
and the indigenous organisations had not asked for its revision yet
45
. There was a need
for training of indigenous leaders in the management of educational resources, before a
reform in the administration could be achieved.

The proposals of indigenous peoples to the government office in Amazonas
contemplated such training. The Secretary of Education prepared a document that
incorporated such willingness and the desire of many citizens from Amazonas to receive
an education free from religion. Their aim is for children from different traditions to be
together, learning and living in multiethnic communities were everyone receives equal
treatment regardless of his/her ethnic background or religious beliefs. The proposal
presented to the departmental assembly was characterised as an “evil atheist project” by
the Monsignor of Leticia.

The governmental development plan as well as all the other administrative reforms that
were made in 1998 by the authorities of Amazonas Departmental through the
democratic process, were clearly contrary to the interest of all the extremist groups: the
left wing guerrillas, the right wing paramilitary groups, the radical environmentalists
and the conservative Catholic Church.

44
Thomas and Sara Defler worked in a biological station with the help of FN. Dr. Deffler is also a teacher
at the National University of Colombia in the Amazonas.


62

3.9 Conclusion: Amazon and the Complexities of the Territorial Ordering Process

It should be clear by now that territoriality and governance actions are linked. That
these actions have to do not only with the development of productive forces but also
with the ideological and philosophical appraisal of the world. It should be clear that the
acts of territoriality of indigenous peoples enhance an holistic approximation to
environmental management and that such actions encompass economic, social and
political dimensions that suit not only the reproduction of their society but the
conservation of the local environment.

In the search for territorial defence, indigenous people made use of the law. These legal
procedures made them take part in a governance project that aimed to correct the
political failures of past State management. However, a democratic participation process
not only depends on the legal procedures but on the development of institutions and
conceptions of territoriality and governance from other social groups, movements and
organisations.

In Colombian Amazonia some State representatives have made an effort to keep up-to-
date with the territorial ordering process of the Nation through a large scale consultation
and the setting up of round tables for participation of all citizens, whatever their
background. At the same time, some NGOs have also helped indigenous peoples to
keep abreast of the same process, providing them with tools for the organisation and
creation of governmental organisations. The two democratic approaches were politically
and economically costly, and also time consuming. Their success was also partial, as
they failed to foresee the difficulties that could arise when trying to institutionalise the
written constitutional principles and laws.

For indigenous peoples the use of the legal instruments was essential in the recognition
of their rights to territoriality and governance. ‘Civil society’ should learn from the
experience that when a legal procedure is properly presented, and perhaps with
specialised advice, (anthropological and legal in the studied example) there is an
enormous potential for enhancing the organisation of social movements. However,

45
The situation has changed since, the revision has taken place. Chapter Nine reviews the latest
developments concerning Education Services in NWA.

63
political management should accompany the legal instruments in order to achieve
institutional transformation.

The reality today is that the guerrillas and paramilitaries are trying to take control of the
territory by the use of violence. The radical conservationists’ willingness to promote
internationally an illegitimate agreement, and the careless criticisms of the more
conservative factions of the Catholic Church, are political actions that make it more
difficilt for indigenous organisations and the State to negotiate with the armed forces.

It should be learnt from this experience that pre-determining the notion and structure
under which territoriality actions are developed could help to foresee the arrival of
conflicts in governance. It should also be understood that the process of territorial
ordering is far more complex than that of providing political tools for democratic
participation. It is clear that social transformation towards agreed principles is a long-
term process in which bureaucracy and prejudicial practices can easily lead the way to
radicalism and violence.

64

CHAPTER 4: THE MARCH OF THE MANIKINS.
AGROFORESTRY PRACTICES AND SPIRITUAL DANCING

4.1 What this Chapter is About
46

Among the Tukano there are rituals that reflect refined ecological management, among
them is ‘The March of the Manikins’. By analyzing the ritual and explaining the relations
between rite and cultural practices in general, a critique of the ‘sustainability’ concept will
be developed. It will be argued that a re-definition of ‘sustainability’ informed by
indigenous knowledge systems (and not only western sciences) would be fundamental for
the development of a new meta-language which could set new norms for environmental
management practices and policy implementation.

4.2 Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability
Are indigenous management systems sustainable? Conservationists, politicians,
academics, preservationists and indigenous peoples keep debating this issue.
Environmental policies favouring or undermining indigenous rights are justified upon
arguments raised from this debate.

Ethnoscientists have found that human involvement with the natural environment has
developed in accordance with ecosystems functioning. They have found that the distinction
between nature and society seems to be an odd concept for many indigenous societies
(Descola and Pálsson 1996: 2-9). The ways of living of Amerindians and other indigenous
peoples around the globe involve aesthetic and spiritual dimensions that contribute to the
functioning of the environment and society as a whole. In the case of the Tukano from
Northwest Amazonia the location of human beings is within the environment (Reichel-
Dolmatoff 1996b). Tukano and other NWA indigenous ways of living illustrate the ideas
of Rappaport on the relevance of religion and ritualisation for the management and
adaptation to the environment (Rappaport 1999: 438-98).


46
I am grateful to the Society of Latin American Studies (SLAS) that funded my trip to the University of
Hull for the 1999 Postgradute Latin American Student’s Conference where I presented the first version of
this chapter, ‘the Dance of the Dolls’. I must thank the participants of the Conference for their comments
and critics. I have to thank the Yale Center for Comparative Research that invited me to present a second
version of this essay at the 2001 workshop ‘Conservation and Sustainable Development –Comparative
perspective’, and many thanks to all the participants for their valuable comments.

65
Another perspective is that of conservationists, who advocate a specialized management of
the global environment. For this management to be effective, nature must be objectified
and appropriate technology should be developed. In this way, conservationists perpetuate
the ontological dualism nature/society. Conservationists are able to show as effective
results from this approach, that inventory and long-term monitoring have contributed to the
understanding of global environmental problems and to the establishment of verifiable
indicators within environmental management.

Political ecologists have questioned the concept of environmental management as the
administration of places. For environmental or ecological justice to be applicable,
environment must not bee seen as a material entity to administrate, but as shared space
(Low and Gleeson 1998).

Sometimes deliberately and at others unconsciously, indigenous peoples are said to be
ignorant or incapable of managing the environment, not having the scientific or
technological resources required to do so. Behind this argument there is the assumption
that indigenous social systems (consciously or unconsciously) are inherently incapable of
managing their environment
47
. Indigenous peoples may get deprived of their rights,
prevented from managing their own territories and finally be placed in vulnerable
situations that could drive them to cultural and physical extinction (Colchester 1997: 13-
32).

Conservationists defend a position in which protection of natural areas is possible only
when human intervention is controlled. Extreme preservationists want to isolate the
environment from any form of human intervention. At the other extreme of the debate,
there are those called "neo-indigenists" (Agrawal 1995: 414-15), which advocate authentic,
sometimes autarchic indigenous management of the environment. Both groups,
conservationists and neo-indigenists, have arguments supporting management styles that
though differing in methodology both seek 'sustainability'.

Reconciling environmental management, local governance, and indigenous people's rights
might be possible, but the controversy between conservationists and neo-indigenists
continues inspiring contradictory policies. The need to implement effective policy for the

66
environmental management of Amazonia has urged participants to innovate. Efforts have
been made everywhere to develop hybrid environmental management systems based on
participatory approaches
48
. Hybrid management policy is not derived exclusively from the
results of hard scientific research, nor from indigenous knowledge and practices.
Advocates of a hybrid management argue that in the twenty-first century, where the link
between economic development and global environmental problems is recognized
everywhere, it is inevitable to come to agreements for environmental management in
which we all are involved (Posey 1999:6-7; Pimbert and Pretty 1999: 207-211).

The hybrid management operates when there is partnership between the scientific
establishment and grassroots organizations. Ethnoscientists have been promoting this kind
of partnership for many years (Schultes 1991: 264-66). There have been transfers of
information used in the analysis of ecosystems, the development of industries, the
provision of services and the development of legislation. Indigenous peoples have found
this useful as an instrument to assure territorial and cultural rights, and sometimes, to gain
control over their lives and territories.

A political ecology must inform the encounter between global market dynamics and local
environmental management, which should be analyzed in terms of power relations. This
perspective does not promote development of new managerial recipes for development but
the enquiry into the relationship between management institutions and local peoples in
terms of preservation of territories and the evolution of meanings as adaptive responses.

The hybrid model is not easy to implement. There are several questions challenging
scholars, managers and grassroots leaders alike: To what extent can engaged anthropology
promote social change?
49
Are environmental and indigenous peoples' rights
complementary? How do we deliver policy when both rights compete rather than
complement with each other? How do we respond to religious and economic practices that
could be maladaptive, threatening 'partnership' in environmental management?
50
.

47
The discussion was developed by Hornborg, "Ecology as semiotics” (Hornborg 1996). Outlines of a
“contextualist paradigm for human ecology", in Nature and Society, Anthropological Perspectives
(Descola and Pálsson 1996).
48
For compilation of case studies see "The Cultural Dimensions of Development" (Slikkerveer,
Brokensha et al. 1999).
49
Engaged Anthropology also known as Applied Anthropology. See Rappaport 1993, 1994a, 1994b.
50
Following Rappaport’s concept in which maladaptation occurs when special-purpose subsystems take
on general-purpose functions, promoting their own interests but at the expense of a more general welfare
(Rappaport 1993:295-303).

67

These questions reflect confrontation of divergent perspectives and incompatibility of life
styles. This can be illustrated with an example. A few years ago, the Program for the
Consolidation of Amazonia (COAMA) received a visit from an activist interested in
indigenous opinions on property rights. Patents require a specific act of invention, difficult
to prove by someone other than a pharmaceutical company, thus stimulating
commercialisation (Posey 1999: 11-12). The activist was promoting the recognition of
communal property rights as an alternative to individual property rights (patents), which
were seen as a threat to indigenous peoples, who were unable to compete with
multinationals in the acquisition of them. She went to Araracuara and interviewed
indigenous peoples. She asked the elders of some of the ethnic groups what they thought
about establishing communal compensation or payment for the use of products and
services derived from traditional environmental knowledge. The group agreed that this
action was immoral. They explained that knowledge for healing or curing people, (even
when generated locally) should not be patented or sold. They explained to her that they
were not expecting money for a service that everyone should have for free. What they were
expecting was that white people, doctors in particular, would behave within this morality,
providing services and medicines to anyone who needed them.

The ascription of meanings to particular words guides our political actions
51
. The language
we use reflects our perspectives on environmental management. Could we enhance such
perspectives by including non-western meanings within our denominations? Such process
would require re-defining concepts in such a way that it would make it possible to
apprehend indigenous epistemology. Within this dialectic process meanings are re-
constructed rather than replaced.

It is evident that hybridization is not a new phenomenon but the constant of human
adaptation. The resistance to equating western science and indigenous knowledge will
remain as there is political confrontation in which the western scientific establishment
seeks to impose its own myths over those of non-western traditions. The tendency among
conservationists is to manipulate rather than to apprehend indigenous knowledge, which
"is refunctionalized to serve the interests of western style conservation" (Escobar 1998:
61).

51
Following Escobar’s "poststructural" framework, language does not reflect but constitutes reality
(Escobar 1996).

68

In this chapter we will examine Tukanoan practices as agroforestry management systems.
Further on I shall discuss ‘sustainability’ as a principle of environmental management and
whether or not ‘sustainability’ is an indigenous practice, in an attempt to develop the
dialectical process refered to in the above paragraphs.

4.3 Rituals and Myths: there and here
The Tukanoan Indigenous peoples speak of the "Baile de los muñecos"
52
when referring to
a ritual in which a series of characters dance over a three-day period. I will describe how
through this ritual dance and other cultural practices, sacred and profane, Tukanoans
manage their environment, develop socio-political institutions, teach their arts and enhance
their spiritual life.

There is no evidence that the ultimate goal of the March of the Manikins is to manage
freshwater ecosystems but there is evidence, as I will be shown, that freshwater
ecosystems dynamics are a core element for the characterization within ritual performance.

That many aspects of Tukanoan rituals have to do with the intersection between society
and nature should not surprise us. In fact ethno-scientific studies repeatedly show that
among indigenous people there is a tendency to see such intersection as a continuum
(Descola and Pálsson 1996), leaving us the question of the value of such a distinction.
Rappaport dedicated much of his work to the study of rituals demonstrating that one of the
aims of rituals is to facilitate adaptation, assuring the continuance of society and nature as
an integrated whole (Rappaport 1999: 404-37).

The motivation for this chapter is not pure enjoyment, although I have been enjoying the
performances for years. I do not pretend to say the 'last word' about Tukanoan dances, their
art and intentions. Even though the Tukanoan world has been studied with care since the
beginning of the twentieth century
53
, many specialists would agree that there remains a

52
I will refer here to the "March of the Manikins". Kaj Arhem refers to it as the "Dance of the Spirits",
probably following the Makuna "rûmûa sahara" (the entry of the spirits), which is the name given by
them to the first part of the dance. See "Makuna: Portrait of an Amazonian people", Arhem 1998: 124-
149.



69
great scope for further research, a whole universe to learn from. My luck is that the dance
happens to illustrate a particular style of dealing with what we call 'rainforest' management
problems and I happened to be invited by the Tukanoans to participate in the dance
54
.

In the above paragraph I wrote "what we call 'rainforest'". Who is this "we" and why do I
emphasise the noun. Is there any chance of reshaping semantics in this case? And if there
is, for what reason?

In previous work I recorded some of the toponomy used by several indigenous groups in
the Yaigojé Resguardo. Twenty-four categories were distinguished to differentiate areas of
cultural/environmental importance. A group of recognised "payés" (shamans) of Apaporis
let me accompany them in a journey through the Apaporis River to identify the places
ascribed to the defined categories. Three hundred and twenty-one places were geo-
referenced using a GPS, although some of them had more than one name (there were three
hundred and fifty-six names) as they were included in two or more categories. All the
places were of religious importance and had a level of sacredness identified by the payés.
These names where attached to distinguishable bio-geographical natural phenomena such
as saltlicks, waterfalls, rapids, pools, hills, swamp forest, beaches and straight linear river
paths (Forero 1999: 122-30).

Tukanoans also classify their environment with respect to agricultural, gathering and
hunting practices. For this reason ‘chagras’ (gardens) have different names as ‘yucal’"
(specialized in manioc) or ‘frutal’ (specialized in fruits such as pineapple, cashew-fruit,
start-apple,) and ‘chontadural’ (specialized in palms like ‘chontaduro’ (Bactris-gasipaes)
and ‘seje’ (Jessenia bataua). Names also refer to stages of cultivation, differentiating
among gardens that were recently opened, mature ones that have been harvested, or ones
that have been partially abandoned. This complexity has to do with the fundamentals of
their economic activities that, on one hand, humanise the flora and fauna of the gardens,
and defined habitats (Århem 1990: 105-22; Van der Hammen 1992: 334), and on the other,
develops a technology that aims to mimic observed phenomena, such as forest sucession

53
The Tukano of Colombia were mentioned in "Travels on the Amazon and the Río Negro", Wallace
1889; but the first comprehensive study was "Dos Años entre los Indios. Viajes por el Noroeste Brasileño,
1903-1905" by Koch-Grünberg 1995). Numerous geographical, ethnographic and anthropological studies
have been written since then. An on-line reference list is available at www.kumoro.com/bibliografy.htm
54
‘Fieldwork’ involved approximately 40 months between 1993 and 1998.

70
(Forero 1999: 148-52; Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996a: 4-7; Rodriguez and Van
der Hammen 1996b: 264-68,)

Tukanoans do not have 'rainforest'. They do not refer to the ‘rainforest’ as an entity or a
subject. The whole collection of territories is called "the world", and in fact ‘kumua’ (high
ranking shamans) refer to the ‘management of the world’
55
. But these terms are not
equivalent to the western concept of 'rainforest' or 'rainforest management'.
Representatives of western sciences, use this name: 'tropical rainforest' to refer to these
uncertain complexes of relations, that western sciences are still trying to understand.

This semantic incompatibility reflects a political confrontation. By naming the 'tropical
rainforest' we are suggesting a new entity that has to compete with local concepts. This
would not be a problem if local societies had the same scope, amount and extent of power
as western society, or if a dialogue had taken place. Indigenous systems of knowledge are
regarded as cultural traditions while western society produce science. Names do not simply
describe, but qualify. This hierarchy of systems of knowledge leads to unequal bases for
the process of policy making regarding environmental management.

In the nineteenth century, when Comte called for a positive science that was to fight
metaphysical explanations and the superstitions of religion (Comte 1830), he was calling
attention to the need to establish methodologies and procedures for the development of a
renewed western knowledge system. However, through science we do not find the key to
the ‘truth’ but produce plausible explanations. Comte was fighting the obscurantism,
which was the abuse by religious institutions of the Judaic-Christian myth. The power to
search into the semantics of the myth was taken out of the public sphere by institutions that
created a rigorous management of secrecy in order to maintain their privilege as a
dominant group. But the aim of positive science was not to replace one myth with onother.
Unfortunately this message did not get through, and in many cases, positivism has helped
supplant myths or the production of hegemonic myth making.


55
‘Kumua’ are a specialized group of shamans that are dedicated mainly to what is called by Tukano as
‘the healing of the world’ or, more generally, ‘the management of the world’.

71
When a myth is taken away from the public sphere and an organization claims to be the
exclusive interpreter of its meta-language, we face some kind of dogmatism or
obscurantism, or both. To spread the revelation of a unique truth, some institutional
support is required. Thus, ‘revelation’ involves a hierarchical system, and depending on the
structure and the scope of institutional power, myth making may more or less have the
tendency to exclude other myths from the debate (Stott 1999: 8).

It has been shown how through naming the ‘tropical rainforest’, through misreading other
peoples’ landscapes and by replacing their history with our own constructions, we have
created one of those 'hegemonic myths' (Stott 1999: 43-5). Therefore, it could be argued
that hegemonic mythmaking lies at the core of maladaptation. Stott follows Rappaport in
advocating the need to find a new meta-language to explain the complex relations
observed in functioning ecosystems with their ever-dynamic character.

From the political perspective, through replacing myths and rites within the public sphere,
we could promote communication and debate. Nothing can prevent us from providing
semantics in the service of adaptation, avoiding the stasis of ‘revelation’.

The obvious strategy to allow new semantics of environmental management in Amazonia
is participation of indigenous peoples in environmental policy delivery. We know that
indigenous 'environmental management' has some degree of effectiveness. It has been
documented in Colombia for the Tukano and other Northwest Amazonian peoples
56
. A
contestant response to hegemonic myth making is through the empowerment of indigenous
peoples. The responsibility of environmental managers, ethnoscientists and engaged
anthropologists nowadays is to act as facilitators of a dialectic process in which the
fulfillment of rights established by national and international laws is ensured.

The hybrid model is not possible following the canons of positivism and instrumentalism
within science. From the positivist perspective nature is an object of study, while
instrumentalism sees environmental management as a matter of developing adequate
technology. From those perspectives human participation is purely mechanistic. Here it is

72
argued that indigenous ways of living, reflected in the March of the Manikins and other
ritual performances, offer western society an alternative perspective. Through examining
the propositions of the ritual semantic we might enhance our perspective on ‘sustainable
practices’. This will require managers and politicians to incorporate the arts and humanities
into environmental management practice.

4.4 The Place and the Peoples
The Colombian Amazon borders with Venezuela, Brazil, Perú and Ecuador. In the
Northeast of the Department of Amazonas lies the Taraira or Royeyaká River, which for
one hundred and fifty kilometres marks the national border with Brazil. The
Royeyaká/Taraira is a tributary of the Apaporis River, which serves as the national frontier
for a further forty-three kilometres, until it reaches the Caquetá River at the Brazilian fort
of Villa Betancourt. Caquetá is a tributary of the Great Amazon. One of the principal
tributaries of the Apaporis is a black torrential river called Pirá-Paraná. The geography
through which this river and the Apaporis flow encompasses most of the Tukanoan
territory, which extends further north to the Vaupés River.

There are three main linguistic families in Apaporis: Arawak, Eastern Tukano, and Makú-
Puinave. The first classification of linguistic families was made by Koch-Grunberg
57
, who
made a careful description of the Tukano-speaking ethnic groups, some of which have
already disappeared. The Makunas, Tanimukas, Yahunas, Letuama, Barasano and Itana,
with whom the author lived and to whom the present chapter refers will be called by the
generic name Tukanoan / Tukano.

Today, Tukanoans live in communities of forty to three hundred people who usually
belong to one ethnic group. In these communities there is one or a few ‘malocas’, the
communal houses where extended families live. Tukano kinship is patrilineal and
residence has virilocal patterns. The ‘maloca’ is inhabited by the ‘maloquero’ (male head
of the communal house) with his wife, the ‘maloquera’ (female head of the communal

56
See Arhem 1998: 94 - 123; Hugh-Jones, C. 1979; Hugh-Jones, S. 1979; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1975, 1976,
1996b, 1997; Reichel-Dusan 1997; Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996a, 1996b; Van der Hammen
1992; von_Hildebrand 1983; von-Hildebrand 1983.
57
German voyager that travelled during 1903 - 1904. Koch-Grunberg did classified languages but also
collected artefacts, wrote on indigenous music, took data on rain, temperature, rivers volume, took
photographs of the rituals, spoke to shamans, called attention to the political problems, wrote about
inequalities among mestizos and indians, and opened up the Northwest Amazon to ethnographic studies.
More on his work will be added in Chapter Six.

73
house) and the families of their sons. Also, there are always visitors. Nowadays the nuclear
families tend to live separately, in small houses, but the maloca remains the meeting
point
58
. In the maloca people organize their daily activities and men meet each night to
make and take the mambe (coca powder), to heal, to transmit oral history and to plan
communal and ritual activities. The maloca is constructed to resemble the Tukano universe
and it is used as a calendar and a clock. Furthermore, it is the place where ritual dances
take place. The space inside is divided in family quarters, female and cooking spaces,
‘mambeadero’ (male ritual space), and communal dancing and eating spaces.

The Tukano territory is mythically conceived as a big round plate with several upper and
lower layers. This big plate is said to resemble a "budare", a round clay plate used to make
the manioc bread called "casabe" (cassava). "This plate is held together by some laces. The
knots of these cordons have visible points on the surface of the earth, all which are
waterfalls of Northwest Amazonian rivers (Forero 1999: 97). From mythology we also
know that this territory was divided and each ethnic group had its own fraction.

The Tukanoans reconsider the management of their environment continually. They have to
if they want to continue their fishing, hunting, gathering and agricultural activities. Species
may diminish considerably and can even be driven to extinction without hunting and
fishing regulations. Tukanoans have rules for hunting, gathering and fishing. Most of these
activities were, and still are to some extent, regulated through shamanism
59
.

We do not know the extent to which these regulations were effective when clans and
ethnic groups were actually forced to share the territory. The Tukanoan practice linguistic
exogamy and alliances were made through the exchange of women
60
. There were ethnic
wars during the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, and it is possible

58
For extended discussion about the maloca - kinship relationship see "Inside-out and Back-to-front: The
Androgynous House in Northwest Amazonia", Hugh-Jones 1995.
59
Although, some of the shamanistic practices are becoming unpopular among the younger generations,
the indigenous peoples of Apaporis maintain the cycle of rituals (This transformation is discussed in
Chapter Nine). The environmental rationality of this cycling could be summarized as follows: In order to
control the use of the resources and therefore the amount of energy to be used by each species there are
several negotiations with spiritual owners of the animal subjects of hunting. Like in the case of fish-
people there are myths and cultural practices that Tukano culture has elaborated in order to maintain
reciprocity with each species, which are conceptualized as tapir –people, deer-people and sometimes
animal-people in general.
60
See " The Fish People. Linguistic Exogamy and Tukanoan Identity in the Northwest Amazonia",
Jackson 1983.

74
that the need to expand territories was one of the causes of these conflicts (Van der
Hammen 1992:22). However it has also been argued, that through their complex politico-
religious practices the Tukanoans made a system to control population size, use resources
and avoid ethnic conflicts (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1976: 107-118).

Politico-religious practices involve shamanism and the performance of rituals. This chapter
focuses on the March of the Manikins, one of the rituals carried out by Tukano people
every year. On several occasions, during the 1990s the author would observe or participate
in the ritual. Additionally, interviews with shamans about the importance and significance
of the March of the Manikins were carried out during this period. All these activities
happened within the Yaigojé Resguardo Reserve on the Apaporis River. (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: Map of the Yaigojé Resguardo


4.5 The Origins
The ancestral journey of the Tukano heroes is part of the shared Tukanoan mythology. The
rivers, with the rest of the territory, were not something presented or given to these peoples
without purpose. In their everyday life as well as in their mythology, nothing is received
for nothing, there is nothing created from nothing. Within Tukanoan cosmology, the world
is in a permanent state of change. Tukanoans did not received material gifts from their

75
cultural mythological heroes; instead they received knowledge and instructions on how to
respond to challenges.

The cultural heroes, called "Imarimakana" (the four sons of time) by the Tanimuka,
acquired the essence of things, alive or inert, and placed them in the Tukanoan territory as
concrete beings. Each plant, each animal, and each artifact has a spiritual owner who has
the power to release the species, the thing or the knowledge he protects and manages, and
does so when asked in the proper way. During their journey the Imarimakana had to
struggle and resolve problems in order to obtain what they were looking for. By relating
the story, the present day Tukano have the possibility of resolving problems that still
challenge them in every day life, such as the use of resources and the management of
conflict and disease.

The cultural heroes placed the rivers over the territory by cutting down trees, which fell in
a direction contrary to the direction of the flow. The Apaporis was a tree situated at the
point called ‘Yuisi’ (also known as the waterfall of ‘Libertad’). When it fell down its roots
got extended to the Caquetá (another tree previously cut down) and the trunk pointed
Northwest, therefore the River and its tributaries, which correspond to the tree branches,
run towards the Southeast:
“Then the gods cut down the tree using a guard stick. They made it fall and the Apaporis river was
running towards the Caquetá river. The tree headed towards the north where the sun sets down, its
higher branches laid down at Jirijirimo. There, they felled another tree to give continuity to the
Apaporis. When that tree fell down it carried a vine we call Weria, forming the river Weriyaká that
white people call Cananarí…” (Fragment of a myth related by Jaime Tanimuka, primary school
teacher from Apaporis).

As the tree was being cut every splinter became a fish species. The smallest splinters were
‘sardinas’, (sprats) offspring of new species that would populate the river. The different
trees which were felled produced splinters that turned into the particular species of fishes
that now populate each river
61
. Indigenous people know that some species are present only
in certain rivers or just at particular places along the course of a river. Generally a waterfall
marks the limit for certain fish species. The giant catfish, ‘lechero’ (Brachyplatystoma
fylamentosum) and the ‘dorado’ (Pseudoplatystoma-flavicans), for example, cannot reach

61
The tree of life, is a leit-motif of many Amazonian myths, the felled tree is usually a ceiba (Ceiba
pentranda), probably the tallest tree in Amazonia. It has been pointed out that such trees express “the
fundamental characteristics of the Amazon ecosystem” (Rival 1999: 360).

76
Jirijirimo. They only get as far as Iañakopea waterfall, which marks the limit of the Tukano
territory in Apaporis.

All freshwater species have been identified and their territory marked and encoded in
mythology. Also recorded are the times at which they reproduce, where they migrate from
and to, and the nursery places for fish and crustaceans. All of which is vital information for
freshwater resource management.
4.5.1 The Lake of the Manikins
In the Lower Apaporis River there are three main lakes. The first is near the mouth of the
Royeyaká/Taraira River, and is called Mujutupia (by the Tanimuka) or Mosiro Itajura (by
the Makuna). The second is located at 7.5 km south of the mouth of the Ugá river and is
called Wîsõbo boraitara. The third is Lake Kariaka, 8.7km south of popeyaka river. All
three lakes have cultural importance and people refer to them as sacred places. The first is
said to have a cricket as its spiritual owner. It also has a rock formation, which indicates
the point of origin of masãjiwiri people, the place where the ancestral anaconda Añapaki
(father-anaconda) started looking for the course of the Apaporis River, and finally, there is
also the place where kuruyai (Paleosuchs spp.) originated in Apaporis. Fishing in this lake
is restricted and can only be done after shamans have asked the spiritual owner.

The second lake is also of great importance and similar restrictions are placed over the use
of resources at this site. There, not only fish and game, but also the giant grass and
surrounding plants have to be protected by Tukanoans. There are several sacred places
within the lake; the beach is called Bijo-masã meaning ‘the people that own the thunder’.
The lake is said to be the shelter for the fish people Wai-masã. Meorosa, which is the name
of a river that feeds the lake, is recited by shamans to alleviate the pain of people that have
been bitten by a snake.

The Wîsõbo boraitara lake is also called "Lago de Muñeco" (Lake of the Manikin) because
it was there that the mythical heroes invited the Wai-masã (fish-people) to dance for the
first time. To understand the significance of this, it is important to note that the dance
represents an act of revelation. Each character sang their stanzas and in doing so
established the ritual order. Therefore, Tukanoans have to sing the same sounds in the
same order at the same times during every enactment of the dance.

77

4.5.2 Who are these characters and what do they sing about?
Through these sounds characters praise the act of occupation that took place in Apaporis
when the Tukano first arrived. Some characters like the hawk, the deer, the wood-eating
ant, the frogs, and other animals and deities, are (within Tukanoan mythology) descendants
or relatives of fish-people. Other characters represent different groups and families of fish-
people.

The narration talks about the adventures they have while going up the river: where they
mate, where they migrate from and to, and the place where they spawn. It also relates their
rank or importance within their group. It should be remembered at this point that from the
Tukano perspective, fish people are much like Tukano people, with the same social
structure. Fish people as well as the Tukano had to obtain territories, they have allies and
enemies; they select their wives from an allied group and maintain reciprocity among these
groups. Fish–people, like animal-people and humans, will return in essence to their point
of origin, or “the maloca of their breeding”. And all of them have to establish alliances and
regulate their inter-species trade, which involves life itself.

The fish people can become ill or perish if they do not enjoy the protection of their
spiritual owners. Shamans are responsible for the protection of their own people and,
through trance and meditation, they communicate with their spiritual owners. Therefore,
through the ritual, Tukanoans meet with the spiritual owners of the fish-people, establish
and reinforce their alliances and maintain the energy flow necessary for both of them to
survive.

4.6 The Performance
The March of the Manikins takes place in February when the fruit of the ‘Chontaduro’
(Peach palms: Bactris gasipaes) are harvested. The fruit are collected, cleaned, cooked,
mashed and placed in containers sunk into the ground to a depth of 50cm and rise above
the surface up to two meters. The palm fruit ferment and with them a drink called "chicha"
is produced, which is used by the maloquero to pay the dancers, the mythical characters
who enter the maloca for the three days and nights of the dance.


78
Before the dance there is intense preparation by both the maloca group and the dancing
group. The former, besides preparing the chicha, has to send invitations to the singers and
dancers. These invitations are made in person, the maloquero either goes himself or sends
a secretary with mambe and tobacco as presents. The men of the receiving maloca have to
hunt and fish. All these activities are ritualized as Tukano consider that they are
‘harvesting’ the prey rather that hunting. Before the expedition, the ‘harvester’ and the
shaman of the group have already asked their spiritual protector and agreed with him on
the pay (made in coca and tobacco) and the quantities to be picked. In order to prepare for
hunting, men usually have to follow diets and practice sexual abstinence. The maloquera
has to organize women to collect manioc and make the cassava in sufficient quantities to
feed the hundred or so people who will be attending the dance. Women also have to clean
and smoke the fish and game obtained by the men. The maloquero and his secretaries and
sons have to pick coca leaves and tobacco, and prepare mambe, snuff and cigars.
Everything has to be ready before the dancers arrive.

For the dancing party there is much work to do too. Their shaman asks the spiritual owner
of the marimá tree for the fiber used in the construction of masks and shirts. They also
have to ask and obtain other fibers for the ‘sayas’ (skirts) they use. To paint the masks they
have to look for clay of different colors: red, yellow and white. The masks are made of
balsa wood and then covered with ‘brea’, a sticky black glue or pitch obtained by burning
wood. The making of the dance dresses and masks is demanding and usually takes two or
three weeks. Besides that, the principal singers, usually two, select their companions and
prepare for the dance.

On the day of the dance the maloquero receives the payé that will be ‘healing’ the dance.
This payé is responsible for communicating with the spirits that come into this world to
meet Tukanoan people during the ritual. We shall return to this later when referring to the
importance of the dance, but for now we should stress that the ritual, even though space is
given for improvisation while the performance is being carried out, does have a structured
order. This liturgical order and the relevance it has when celebrating was described by one
of the shamans interviewed:

“The origin of the manikin spirits is where the sun rises. There was Riabitisanirõ whence Manakarú
was born. This happened by the Caquetá River. After that, came Boraitára, up from Yuisi (Libertad)
waterfall. Then Maniitara, near Bella Vista where the eagle lives was begun. Then came (Itoñani)
Ideña, the owner of that place. He is an Anaconda. His son is Meneyawiri and his companions are
Idera and Sotó.

79

Next there was Imanakariki, the first peach palm [Bactris gasipaes] under whose fruits, there is a
kind of white colored plant, Idejatañõ otebojoñõ, yabinog otobojina. Then Iamojotañõ, another plant,
was originated. From those two plants singing originated. Plants are the owners of the sounds of the
manikin spirits. They figured out the sounds, so they could dance.

The first payé – because in the dances there is always one payé who heals the dance – conducted his
work with caution. The first singer was Minayabiri. The sound of the marimá spirit was born; this is
the sound of food related manikins. Then came the Letuama people. The maicero [Cebus apella)]
manikin started first. Then came the bees singing. Other sounds came and then little Nõkõrõ.

Another stanza went and big Nõkõrõ appeared. This opened the way to the fish people. After that
came copay for the protection of the maloca. Ümãwãrêrûmû, the lighting one, was born. With the
light, sickness is kept away so no harm will come... There are hundreds of manikin spirits and each
one has its story. Depending on the sickness, each payé takes from them, so he is able to heal.

There are many important stanzas when puño [Serrasalmus sp.] and the other fish come, one by one,
all of them. Each fish describes its journey up the Apaporis, the path he took… Everyone sings, the
tiger, the white ant, each one sings his story. Then they sing about the way back to their place of
origin, and how they are born again in riapirimi, from whence they go to manacarú, in the Caquetá
river. Then they go to the lakes Borairara y Manitara. Then they travel to waiyajido, near Bocas del
Pirá.

From the mouth of the Pirá-Paraná River, they travel to Jirijirimo, that is the place where they finish.
This is everything that was heard. Our grandfathers received this knowledge, each ancestor of each
tribe. From there the dance ceremony began. They danced with every stanza and then they went
out
62
to finish the dance. That was when Mereyabiri danced, he is the Kayarí. That was the last night
of the ritual. That was what happened during the first march of the manikins, and the maloca was
purified, without harm, nothing bad could happen. Snuff was shared, coca was shared, and
everything was given.

The march of the manikins is performed only in one season, during peach palm season, that is the
time when they come. That is the reason, we, the payés, heal the maloca. Once we start dancing the
manikins, we have to finish. The dance starts form the malocas down the river and continues to the
next one up the river, without stopping, until the right time to finish dances comes. This dance is not
a game, it is not a party, it should not be played with. It was originated so indigenous peoples could
defend themselves. The Manikins where not born recently but at the beginning of time. If payés do
not cure and heal during this season, much sickness would come. That is why we must heal, we have
to cure for each person. The companion of the dance is the short "carrizo" (panpipe musical
instrument). I am telling you part of it, but not everything can be said. These things I am telling have
to be developed with care, not everybody should be told. That is the reason we are going to dance
tomorrow. As our grandparents hear and learned, so shall we dance. With this dance we can perform
everything we need --for good hunting, to make good deals, for each activity we’ll do. It is the
Manikins that make everything. These words I am saying to you are serious, and they do not come
easy into my mouth, they have great value”. (Isaac Makuna, 1994)
63
.

The liturgical order of the ritual suggests that the dance contains important and precise
messages for the Tukano, and payé Isaac's narration was reinforcing a message about the
sacramental character of the dance. In support of this he said that after the dance is
performed, the dancers and all of those who attended the maloca, become pure, free from

62
Getting out means out of the maloca. When dance is finished, the payé followed in order by singers, the
dancers and everybody else, go out. The Payé spreads incense while the rest of the people dance, each one
grabbing with a hand the shoulder of the person in front. Once outside, this tail of dancing people
surrounds the maloca like a serpent whose head, the shaman, casts spells and sings, healing the place and
saying ‘good-by’ to the manikin spirits.
63
This interview was carried out in the mambeadero, the ritual male place of the maloca, while taking
mambe and snuff.

80
sickness, free from envy and aggressive behavior. They are full of joy and covered with
the protection they will need until the next dance season.

There are some particularly interesting points to note from Isaac's narration. We know that
there were spiritual characters preparing the sacrament at the time of creation, and that they
were present from the moment the Apaporis River was formed. We also know that the
ritual and narrative are based on the myth of a structured web or chain of life; the palms
and their fruits provide food for other species. Many mammals, besides humans consume
peach palm, but more importantly, it is the palm trees that are elevated here, in a way that
makes their presence indispensable for the origin, diversity and continued presence of fish.
Isaac expresses it poetically: “they made the sound up, so they could dance”. The spiritual
owner of palms release its power to allow fish people to come and reproduce into this
world, just as it is the peach palm fruiting season that maintains fish people today.

The sacramental character of the Dance, which implies that the present world and its
people are overtaken by another people from another order of reality (or in Tukano
mythology, another layer of the multi-layered plateau) and that, for a moment the origin
and the present time come together, is explicitly marked by payés:

“These characters are ‘the sacred’. One is coming in, but what really happens is that they come into
you. Their spirit comes into oneself. This is a serious matter. You can see the singers coming in and
out; they sing one stanza after the other and never make mistakes. They go out straight away and
when they come in again they bring other characters with them. If you are inside the maloca you
could say: "this one already came in. I gave to him so I won’t give to him anymore"
64
. But that is a
mistake, you have to give to him too, because he is someone different from the one that came in
before. It is a different spirit coming into the same person. – That is the reason they [the singers]
must not make mistakes. If one of them gets it wrong sickness comes to the children, women, boys
and girls. This dance, the elder said, is sacred, and we treat it as sacred. This is the word of the
payés.” (Octavio Makuna, 1994)

After all the fish people have visited, the alliances are affirmed through the sacrament and
then the light comes. The ‘copay’ metaphor used by Isaac is remarkable as this tree, whose
bark is very easy to peel off, like many species of birch (Betula spp.) ignites even when
green. It does not need to be dried and is therefore used for lighting the maloca. It provides
the users of the mambeadero with comfort. The bark is also used to start fires quickly and
is therefore an essential source of protection.


64
‘Come in’ means inside the maloca. The payment to the manikins is in food, especially peach palm
‘chicha’ (beer), but also smoked meat, fish, cassava bread, coca and snuff.

81
The light from the copay has an additional symbolic meaning. For Tukanoans all energy
comes from the sun and it is distributed among all things living and inert. The management
of this energy in terms of lightness, color, brightness and heat is the business of shamanism
(Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b: 32-37). It is through the adequate use of light and heat that
human and other living things can keep fit and alive. We could imply that it is failures in
the use of energy that cause disease. When someone is ill, physically, mentally or
spiritually perturbed, the shaman tries to restore the equilibrium of energy flow that was
somehow disturbed. The payé listens to the patient and their family, then establishes the
moment when the energy flow was broken, which could have occurred through eating a
prohibited fish species during dance times, by hunting without permission or due to
improper behavior with relatives or allies. The shaman then treats the patient and also their
family, placing them on diets and prescribing sexual abstinence. After this, he talks with
the spiritual owner and tries to reestablish the alliance. This is done by assuring the
spiritual owner that his group will follow certain patterns of abstinence and by promising
to send the souls of those who will die to the ‘maloca of origin’
65
. The alliance is
reestablished through reciprocity as inter-ethnic relations are established and reinforced.

4.7 Discussion
The importance of the dance from the Tukano’s own perspective is emphasized by the
shamans, who point out that this celebration is not a game but a sacrament. Its importance
lies not only in its character as a joyful celebration but its value as a tool that allows them
to reestablish alliances with the spiritual owner of trees, fish, animals and all beings that
share the territory. Although from an etic approach we could say that the dance represents
the Tukano belief that ecosystem processes are susceptible to management. In this respect
Tukano gathering, hunting, fishing and religious ceremonies, aim to control the amount of
energy that is used by humans and thereby allow for the survival and reproduction of the
other species, with which they share the world. We could also point out that there are
socio-political and religious processes that are managed at the same time and with the
same tools, which aim to preserve health, and to avoid conflict within the group.


65
The maloca of breeding or the maloca of origin: It is believed that all species, including humans, came
from the same original place-state and that all of us will be returning there after our deaths. The exception
to this had happened, it is said, to extraordinary powerful and helpful kumua that have escaped this circuit
and cease to come to this life again. It is also believed that some shamans have gone to this maloca of
origin without dying. If someone from the group of the healing payé has broken the norms of exogamy or
reciprocity s/he should be the one ‘killed’ or ‘punished’ in shamanistic ways. By this process the payé is
said to restore the energy that had been taken away from another being.

82
In terms of environmental management the March of the Manikins, among other Tukanoan
practices, covers several aspects: ecological, economic, socio-political, religious and
aesthetic. Indeed, it is difficult to find such a sophisticated mechanism of environmental
management in the Western world and it seems inappropriate to label such practices
‘sustainable’, because even if the term could embrace socio-political equality and
ecosystem management, it certainly does not encompass the sacred and aesthetic
dimensions managed by the Tukano.

It could be argued that something is being sustained: the ritual practices. And
'sustainability' comes into question again. The noun 'sustainability' has been translated into
Spanish in two ways: "sostenible" (sustainable) y "sustentable" (suitable). The first refers
to a condition where something endures for a defined period of time. To illustrate this,
economists talk of ‘economia sostenida’ (sustainable economy), the maintenance of
economic conditions, or of ‘redimiento sostenido’, maintenance of profits. "Sustentable",
the second noun, refers to a condition of self-sufficient systems. In this case,
accomplishing sustainability is a matter of homeostasis and the maintenance of energy
efficiency. "Sustainability" is associated with ‘balance’, ‘harmony’ and ‘stability’.
Therefore, the concept of sustainability is preferred by conservationists and
conservatives
66
. Is it possible to contest the static nature of the concept? Could we attempt
a counter-hegemonic response to conservationist conservatism?

The Foucauldian notion of discursive formation serves to unveil sources of power. And,
from there, political ecology gains the methodological tools for deconstructing hegemonic
concepts like 'development', 'rainforest' and 'sustainability'
67
. But what about attempting
the re-appropriation of concepts so as to place Utopia
68
at the core of the environmental
management practice. Is it possible?

If we were to make a mechanical operation, replacing nouns like ‘sustainable
development’ with ‘management of the world’ we would only put indigenous knowledge

66
See "Tropical Rainforest: a political ecology of hegemonic mythmaking", Stott 1999:22-42.
67
For 'discursive formation see "The order of things", Faucoult 1973; Foucault 1973. For the
deconstruction of the ‘development’ concept see "Encountering Development. The making and unmaking
of the Third World", Escobar 1995. For deconstruction of "rainforest" and "sustainability" concepts see
"Tropical Rainforest: a political ecology of hegemonic mythmaking", Stott 1999.
68
"Utopia is what connects philosophy to its epoch…it is with utopia that philosophy becomes political,
carrying to its extreme the critique of the epoch" (Deleuze and Guattari 1993, 101; cited by Escobar 1995,
246). More on the ‘location’ of ‘utopia’ within ‘sustainable development’ (concept and practice) is
discussed in Chapter Eight.

83
at the service of conservatism by evading the dialectics. Instead we could follow an "eco-
logic" in which we no longer attempt the resolution of opposites but the involvement of all
members of society towards environmental actions (Guattari 2000: 52). In summary, if
environmental management could have a place it would be by helping the reinvention of
social practices and not by supporting modern hegemonic scientific myth making.

We could not replace the western concept of 'sustainable development' with the indigenous
concept of ‘management of the world’. We could not do so because ‘management of the
world’ comes from a non-western epistemology while ‘sustainable development’ is a core
concept of modern scientific mythology.

The epistemology from which ‘management of the world’ comes has been partially
unveiled by the analysis of the Tukano March of the Manikins. If we want to engage in
hybrid management we must construct a new semantic, which must include the aesthetic
dimension within 'sustainable' practices. This is part of a process of appropriation of new
meta-language that avoids from the beginnings the dichotomies of nature-society,
sciences-arts, divine-human and other alike.

4.8 Conclusions to Chapter Four
"Are indigenous managment systems sustainable?" The debate between preservationists
and neo-indigenists has developed around this general question. A debate based on such
premises is irrelevant because, as we have discussed in this chapter, the examination of
different epistemologies is necessary to make an 'eco-logical' response.

The Tukanoan ‘management of the world’ endures into the twentieth first century.
Tukanoan knowledge and ritualization remain active in the Yaigojé Resguardo today. This
fact could not be immediately translated as "Tukanoans have accomplished sustainable
environmental management" or "Tukanoans live in harmony with nature" or "Tukanoans
possess the system of renewing energy with lower entropy cost". May be all of these things
have been accomplished, but such translation could only be possible through the creation
of a meta-language that reflects the differentiated epistemologies.

We have partially examined the Tukanoan way of constructing their environment in an
attempt to apprehend Tukanoan epistemology. As we have seen, for the Tukano

84
(paraphrasing Reichel-Dolmatoff) ‘the forest is within’; while the image of rainforest (a
construction of instrumental science), views the rainforest as an object of concern, in need
of preservation.

Environmental managers may replace nouns, claiming that a process of participation of
stakeholders had been accomplished. This, of course is the rhetoric of participation and in
the case of the Northwest Amazonian indigenous political confrontations, could be easily
identified: indigenous knowledge would be reported as something present in the minds of
shamans with respect to external objects.

From the examination of Tukanoan practices, we can realize that something is escaping
from us when we rely on western environmental managerialism: we are ignoring the
spiritual dimension and things do not make much sense without it.

85

CHAPTER 5: THE SEMANTICS OF HUMAN SECURITY IN
NORTHWEST AMAZONIA: BETWEEN INDIGENOUS’
PEOPLES’ ‘MANAGEMENT OF THE WORLD’ AND THE USA
STATE SECURITY POLICY FOR LATIN AMERICA

5.1 ‘Human Security’, Security for Whom?
69

‘Security’ is a contested concept. A variety of political actors seek to legitimize policy
and practice in the name of national or human security. They have found support
among a diverse audience of governments and NGOs seeking to defend human and/or
environmental rights, which not coincidentally, aim to guarantee some form of security.
In response to national and international policy, various social movements and actor
networks have developed counter-discourses to support grassroots activists in their
struggles to win political reform.

On 1st October 1995, the French government detonated an underground nuclear device
at their Mururoa Atoll test site in the Pacific Ocean. The event was justified as a
necessary component in the development the French national security system, which
was perceived to be too dependent on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-NATO
capabilities. Environmentalists claimed that the risks associated with nuclear explosions
under the Mururoa Atoll were too high and that testing should be abandoned.
Greenpeace activists attempting to disrupt the test were arrested and their ships and
helicopter confiscated.

As an immediate result of the tests, the Mururoa lagoon turned white as the blast heaved
up the ocean floor and loaded the water with sediment (One_World_News_Service
1995). Scientists are divided with respect to the long-term effects, but it is obvious that
the powerful nuclear explosions increased the vulnerability of marine ecosystems and
human health to environmental risks. The political instability that the action brought

69
A previous version of this chapter, written in conjunction with G. Woodgate has been published in
“Human Security and the Environment” (Page and Redclift 2002). The chapter has been revised to
include the latest developments concerning the implementation of USA security policy in Colombia and
Northwest Amazonia.
I would like to thank SLAS for the grant given to me to attend the 2002 Annual SLAS conference were I
presented this work; some of the changes in the chapter reflect the criticisms made by some of the
attendants to whom I am very thankful.

86
was expressed in an international declaration condemning the action of the French
Government.

The US and British Governments claimed that the bombing of Baghdad on 16 February
2001 was necessary to diminish the threat of military attack by Iraqi armed forces. The
attack on the Iraqi nation was justified as ‘foreign collaboration in the country’s process
of democratisation’. It was carried out, however, without the consent of the United
Nations Security Council and was condemned even by supporters of the 1991 attack on
Baghdad (McReynolds cited by Koehnlein 2001). International political tensions
ensued: Turkey and France demanded an explanation, while China and Russia rejected
and condemned the unilateral action of USA-British forces. The environmental
implications of the attack did not, however, receive a mention despite clear evidence of
the ecological devastation wrought by the so-called ‘Gulf War’.

The 11
th
of September 2001 attack to the World Trade Centre has become an
international icon used by the White House to justify unilateral action. At present
(November 2002), the USA has initiated a new campaign to bomb Baghdad and the
British government has stated that they will support the USA no matter what the
European Union thinks. In fact the French and German Governments have put the
brakes on the war against Iraq. And part of the success of German Chancellor
Schrder’s re-election is due to his opposition to the USA-British war against Iraq
(Schneider 2002). President Bush has been authorised by the USA Congress to take
unilateral action against Iraq regardless of UN activities (News 2002). Which implies
that the sovereignty of the USA is been enhanced alone at the expense of any other
nation, with the UN Security Council becoming little more than a decorative institution.

US foreign policy is aimed at enhancing the security of US citizens and promoting the
development of liberal democracy around the world. To these ends, within carefully
selected ‘friendly’ countries, official US support may even be provided for military
expansion, justified for example as an authentic effort to control international drug
trafficking. The third case mentioned, and the one upon which this chapter will focus,
provides an example.

As will be demonstrated, the pursuance of human security in Colombia involves a
complex and contradictory mixture of local, national and international initiatives all of

87
which seek to promote various aspects of human and environmental security. The
actions specified under ‘Plan Colombia
70
’ include eradication of coca plantations
(Chapter 5, Plan Colombia). This is being achieved by the aerial application of
herbicides, leading to the degradation of large swathes of the Amazonian environment;
an action that has been repeatedly denounced and rejected by farmers and
environmentalists in Colombia and abroad (Vargas Meza 1999). Plan Colombia also
sanctions military action within drug producing areas, where indigenous forest people
are caught up in growing coca for the illicit cocaine processing and narcotrafficking
industry. This case deserves particular attention, as Amazonia and its people are both
highly symbolic icons employed by industrialised countries and institutions of global
governance in developing international policies aimed at promoting environmental
security.

Images of ‘rainforest’ vulnerability have long been used to promote western
environmental policy (Stott 1999), while forest people have been seen as guarantors of
its conservation (Hemming 1995). Ethnoscientists have corroborated that indigenous
peoples strategies have outstanding significance for Amazonian environmental
management and their translations of indigenous ecological classification systems have
contributed to a dialogue between indigenous knowledge and western sciences,
promoting partnerships between scientists and indigenous peoples for environmental
management and biodiversity conservation (Schultes 1991, 1992b, 1994b).

If the implementation of security strategies in South America, Plan Colombia being one
of the most notable
71
, is placing the conservation of Amazonian biological and cultural
diversity at risk, why is the USA involved? Is it that there are strong vested interests in
promoting such outcomes? Mairovich (ex-secretary on anti-drug policy to the Brazilian
Government) has stated that the most direct beneficiaries of Plan Colombia will be the
weapons and drugs traffickers themselves and the associated criminal economy (CBN
2000).


70
‘Plan Colombia’ is an anti-drug trafficking strategy. The Colombian Government has claimed that:
‘Plan Colombia is made by Colombians for Colombia’. However, the strategy was designed in
accordance with the USA State Security and Anti-drug Strategies. Before being ratified by the
Governments of Colombia and the USA it was approved by the USA Congress. However, the Colombian
Congress and public only became aware of the details of the strategy once international agreement
between the two countries had been reached.
71
Colombia is already the third largest recipient of USA foreign aid, after Israel and Egypt (Sweig 2002:
135)

88
It is likely that drug prices will increase with the implementation of Plan Colombia, and
this is already occurring in Bolivia (DCRNet 2000) and drug production is also being
pushed into other parts of Amazonia, notably Ecuador and Peru (Jones 2001; Lama
2001). It is unlikely that military action in Amazonia will do anything to stop money
laundering activities in US and European financial markets, nor that it will affect the
export of chemicals employed in the processing of coca leaves into narcotics from the
European Union (EU) and USA (V.G. Ricardo 2000 - Colombian Ambassador’s speech
at Canning House 27-11-00).

The European Parliament voted 474-1 against Plan Colombia: “Stepping up military
involvement in the fight against drugs involves the risk of sparking off an escalation of
the conflict in the region” (European Parliament 2001). If, despite objections based on
the observed outcomes of Plan Colombia and similar initiatives, the militarist policy
continues successfully to be justified on the basis of ‘security’ gains, there must be
some strong ideological grounds that render this official discourse acceptable to a
significant proportion of ‘civil society’. This chapter seeks to tease out these ideological
underpinnings and also to explore the grounds upon which counter narratives are
constructed. To do this I shall attempt to answer two questions. First, what does security
– human and environmental – mean for the indigenous peoples of Northwest Amazonia,
and how are they responding to international policies and official discourses? Second,
what are the ideological grounds that allow significant elements of civil society to
accept international policy and official discourse?

5.2 The ‘Nation State’ and ‘Human Security’
There are good reasons for citing national governments as the main instigators of human
security policy in Northwest Amazonia, this argument will be explored in the context of
the Colombian Amazon. Before this, however, a word must be said about the role of
national governments in human and environmental security in general.

Governments in the twenty-first century are highly dependent on international finance
capital and the private sector. Their economic policies are tied to the development of
international markets and they do not have the same degree of autonomy in national
security policy making as they did prior to the Second World War. In this sense, the
sovereignty of nation states is called into question. Private finance capital seeks out

89
opportunities in locations with limited risks and fewer environmental constraints;
national policies respond accordingly. The welfare of the labour force, natural
environment and public health – all customary concerns of nation states – have to be
developed in ways that are not perceived as threats to free markets or foreign investment
(Beck 1998; Castells 1999).

In less industrialised countries this dependency is even greater. Often reliant on the
financial support of global institutions such as the World Bank (IBRD), the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), any
attempts at independent development planning or monetary management are restricted
by international economic imperatives. Many Latin American countries find themselves
caught on the horns of a dilemma; on the one side pressured to comply with structural
adjustment policies, on the other, struggling to cope with the social unrest prompted by
the economic liberalisation and reductions in government spending, which such policies
demand. This was the case in the Bolivian insurrection (April 2000) against
privatisation of water services, the two-year conflict for the exploitation of oil in the
Uwas lands of Colombia, and in the indigenous rebellions of Ecuador (January 2000).

“The National Government, conscious of the existence of historical conflicts not resulting in
[good] relations between the State and the Indigenous People, and that the process of structural
adjustment impacts the indigenous people and poor sectors of the country, ... aims to generate
state policies to overcome the historical exclusion of the people and the inequalities created by
the [economic] adjustment.” (Extract from the Agreement Between the National Government
and the Native, Social, and Farmer Organizations of Ecuador, signed by President Gustavo
Novoa 9-02-01)

This is to say that local governments are located at the centre of divergent perspectives
about environmental and human security. National policies, if successful, legitimise
government action. But, nation states find achieving the right balance between
local/indigenous people’s aspirations and global corporate demands ever more taxing.
To make things worse, less industrialised nation states are now experiencing pressure to
confront drug trafficking. In the case of nations with territories in Northwest Amazonia,
stopping the illicit trade in narcotics has been an impossible task, largely due to the
close yet clandestine links between the global criminal economy and legal financial
markets (Castells 2000).

Having said something about the context in which national governments must define
and deliver human and environmental security policy, we shall now turn to the first

90
question, which concerns the meanings of ‘human’ or ‘environmental’ security for
indigenous people in Northwest Amazonia.

5.3 Exploring the Local Perspective in NWA
The indigenous peoples of Northwest Amazonia have been establishing and modifying
their territories for centuries. According to Reichel-Dolmatoff the Tukano have social
memories of their historic journey along the Rio Negro as they moved north from
present day Brazil into what is now Colombia. When they entered the Department of
Vaupés (to the north of Amazonas) they intermarried with the Arawak. The Tukano and
Arawak shared their different experiences of what we might call agroforestry.
Apparently, the cultivation of manioc and a more sedentary pattern of life were acquired
by the Tukano from the Arawak. This encounter also prompted social transformation
among the Tukano: from uxorilocal residence and matrilineal affiliation to virilocal
residence and patrilineal affiliation (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b).

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Tukanoan Makuna were living principally
along the Pirá-Paraná River, but oscillated between there and the Apaporis. As they
journeyed along the Apaporis they entered the territories of Yahunas and Letuama.
Tukanoans also interacted with the Yujup-Makú that were moving around throughout
the area between the Pirá-Paraná and Ugá Rivers, and further east into Brazil.

The Yujup were said to be people of the forest, while the Tukano were said to be river
people. While Tukano have been described as sedentary agriculturists, the Yujup had
been described as nomadic (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b). However, we now know that
the Yujup were used to the manipulation of plants and did not rely exclusively on
gathering and hunting. The Yujup share with the river people (Tukano and Arawak) a
form of territorialisation that maintains the ‘environment within’. The management of
society and environment is integrated in what they call the ‘management of the world’.
According to them, the wellbeing and health of indigenous peoples depends on taking
care of their ‘trade’ with other beings, the spiritual owners of the ‘fish-people’, game-
people’, ‘palm-characters’ and spiritual protectors of sacred places. This ‘trade’ is
accomplished through shamanism
72
.


72
See previous chapter for more explanation and references on the subject.

91
We know quite a bit about indigenous management of Amazonian environments.
Arawak and Tukano have developed sophisticated management systems for chagras
(gardens planted with diverse crops), rastrojos (old gardens where particular species are
preserved as elements of secondary and tertiary forest) and trochas (linear gardens
along the footpaths that connect different habitats and indigenous settlements).
Management is carried out in accordance with multiple agroecological factors (Forero
1999; Van der Hammen 1992). Similar patterns have been found in Brazilian Amazonia
where Kayapó have been found to have knowledge of micro-climate and habitat, and
refined systems of management to improve the productivity of local ecosystems (Posey
1985: 139-158). The same was shown for the Ka’apor speakers of Tupí-Guaraní (Balée
and Gély 1989).

Indigenous management does not simply relate to subsistence production or the material
growing of crops; spiritual and aesthetic dimensions are also involved. All these spaces
(chagras, rastrojos and trochas) are ‘humanized’ and, from an indigenous perspective,
plants and animals are treated as ‘types of people’. The distribution of plants is therefore
managed and controlled, river ecosystems are carefully observed and there are open and
closed seasons for certain fish and game species. The agricultural practices are linked to
shamanism: the system that deals with the trade in energy among forest beings.

Rapids and waterfalls have special sacred importance for indigenous people; this comes
as no surprise as these places are also ecologically important. Rapids and waterfalls
prevent some fish species from spreading up stream and therefore affect species
distribution. The changes in humidity produced by the water vapor that surrounds
waterfalls affect vegetation composition. When these changes combine with differences
in soils the changes are even more marked: this is the case at Yuisi. Tukanoan
mythology refers to this waterfall as the place where the river was born. The myth says
this was the place where the Imarimakana, ‘the four sons of time’, felled the tree whose
trunk and branches, once on the ground, formed the Apaporis and its tributaries. The
place is of sacred importance to all indigenous groups in the vicinity of the Apaporis,
Pirá-Paraná and Mirití Rivers.

Iañakopea waterfall, on the Apaporis near the Tanimuka community of La Playa, is
another important place within Tukanoan mythology and shamanistic tradition.
Iañakopea, not surprisingly, is also of significant relevance to ecological structure. It

92
demarcates boundaries in terms of fish species distribution, while the height of
vegetation decreases up river from the waterfall. There are numerous rapids, islands and
undulations up stream of Iañakopea until the river encounters Jirijirimo waterfall. If
ecosystem changes are marked at Yuisi and Iañakopea, they are outstanding at
Jirijirimo. The site surrounding the waterfall is full of orchids and epiphytic plants. The
mixture of vegetation provides a special niche, which is found nowhere else along the
Apaporis.

The complexity and refinement of the growth, distribution and use of plants, and the
management of the forests, mark these indigenous peoples out as accomplished
agroecologists. However, they go beyond what we might consider agroecology when
we take account of the spiritual and aesthetic dimensions of management discussed in
the previous chapter.

Our description of indigenous ‘management of the world’ here is brief
73
, but when
studied in greater detail it reveals a way of living through which Northwest Amazonian
indigenous peoples have created a form of territorialisation in which individual well-
being relies on a close integration within both the social group and the environment.
The integration of environmental, aesthetic and spiritual dimensions within the lives of
Amazonian indigenous people has been referred to as ‘ecosophy’ (Århem 1990) and has
led ethnoscientists to write about the ‘humanized rainforest’ (Correa 1990). In this
context, it does not make sense to attempt to distinguish between human and
environmental security. The reluctance of indigenous people to separate nature from
society may explain why, after years of continuous contact with western society, there
continue to be numerous specialized roles associated with the health and well-being of
communities and providing instruction on how to follow an indigenous way of life:
shamans, healers, singers, etc.

5.4 The Management of the World and the Challenge of Extractive Economies
Extractive economies have affected the lives of hundreds of different indigenous groups
throughout the Amazon. Throughout the twentieth century, there were several intrusions
by white people into the Apaporis region. There were the infamous rubber camps;

73
For more detailed description and analysis see Arhem 1990, 1996, 1998; Correa 1990; Forero 1999;
Hugh-Jones, C. 1979; Hugh-Jones, S. 1979; Hugh-Jones 1999; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b, 1997; Reichel-
Dusan 1997; Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996a, 1996b; Van der Hammen 1992; von_Hildebrand
1975.

93
prospectors looking for gold and traders who attempted to build cold stores for the
fishing industry. The forms of territorial expansion and territorialisation used by the
white people working in extractive economies were very different to those of
indigenous people and these differences resulted in conflict.

The rubber camps that were built in the area around the Caquetá, Apaporis and Mirití
Rivers, and the Catholic internee schools, enforced the treatment of indigenous peoples
as a generic class of people – ‘indians’ – who were denied some of the fundamental
rights that white people enjoyed. Their shamanism was considered superstition, they
were forbidden to speak their languages and they were considered minors under civil
law. The objective of the Colombian Republic was to assimilate them by eliminating
their identities (Correa 1992). Indigenous peoples were driven to make new alliances in
order to preserve their territories and their ways of living. Indigenous groups offered
different forms of resistance. In this area of Northwest Amazonia they have always
demonstrated their intention of maintaining socio-political practices, especially
shamanism, which they see as fundamental to their security. Today, the peoples of the
Yaigojé Reserve continue to believe that without their ‘management the world’ they
will be driven into extinction.

The twentieth century witnessed the development of indigenous rights. In Colombia,
following the Constitutional reform of 1991 the law now recognizes their languages,
their territories and their right to govern themselves. All citizens are equal under the law
and have the right to exercise their religious and cultural traditions. However, advances
in legislation do not imply that the territorial conflicts have ceased. In the Yaigojé
Reserve, conflicts still arise and need to be resolved among indigenous groups and, as a
generic group, indigenous people have conflicts to resolve with the ‘white people’.

In 1905, Koch-Grünberg reported the presence of a camp made by Colombians (‘white
people’) in the Apaporis. He took a photograph of this camp called ‘Libertad’, which
was located in Apaporis. The camp was situated where the pathway that connects the
Apaporis with the Caquetá/Japurá begins. The path leads to the Catholic internee school
of the white colonisers’ town of Pedrera. Today the Yuisi (in Makuna) waterfall is
known as Libertad after the first rubber camp of Apaporis.


94
In 1997, indigenous people from the Yaigojé Reserve received the support of the
Colombian judicial system, when a tribunal endorsed their entitlement to protect their
cultural and religious rights. The tribunal ruled that buildings, which had been
constructed by the local government of Vaupés at Yuisi, constituted a violation of the
cultural and religious rights of the indigenous people. The tribunal ordered the
government to rectify this. Later on, the same tribunal supported the indigenous
people’s territorial rights, by forcing a governmental institution to correct failures in
administrative procedures and proceed with the enlargement of the Yaigojé Resguardo
reserve
74
. Yuisi waterfall (La Libertad) was to be inside the extended boundaries of the
reserve.

5.4.1 White peoples’ ways of living compete with traditional indigenous ways of
‘Managing the World’
To date, there has not been any marriage between ‘white’ and indigenous people within
the Yaigojé Resguardo. There are, however, indigenous people from the Yaigojé that
have decided to live among white people in their towns. The older generation perceives
this migration as a threat to their group’s survival. The youngest generations are willing
to grab whatever opportunities may come their way. ACIYA, a local organisation of
indigenous authorities, is looking for help from government and NGOs to provide
education and employment for new generations as a way of limiting out migration.

The ‘white people’ with whom indigenous people associate are visitors to their
territories. The relationship between them reflects indigenous notions of ‘white people’s
power’. In the past, ‘white people’ ordered them to work and had the means to enforce
such orders. It is through documents written in the language of white people that they
are now recognised to have a territory of their own, it was ‘white people’s institutions
that determined the procedures for recognising indigenous territories. From the
perspective of ACIYA, indigenous people do not interfere with the government of white
people and they should be accorded the same respect:

"Many times we have been tired of white people’s government, a government that has been
imposed over our lands and our lives. But we could not go to Bogotá, to demolish the
building where the congress and the president work, and start ruling on our own. We could
not build a maloca there, to start managing white people in our way. How could we manage
the industry, markets and other things that belong to white peoples? The white people would
not let us manage them. You want to knock down our ‘maloca of thought’. How could you
take care of the world, so that sickness and evil would not visit us? …You want to take our

74
All of which has been described in Chapter Three.

95
land from us; this is like erasing our inherited line of thought, leaving us without means to
defend ourselves. It is as if we were attacking you, destroying the congress and the
president, the defenses of white people” (Extract of a letter sent by ACIYA to the
Administrative Director of Protected Areas - October 26 1996).

Traders, missionaries, armed groups, doctors and nurses, researchers and occasionally a
government functionary visit indigenous peoples in the Yaigojé Reserve. The way these
people relate to them varies from violence to paternalism and, from there, to real
recognition. It is very difficult for the inhabitants of the Yaigojé to deal with the
contradictions of ‘white people’s rule’. The conservation of indigenous peoples’
territories, the autonomy of local authorities within these territories and the right to have
an education that would allow them to enjoy the same opportunities as the rest of
Colombian society without loosing their identity, are the aims of ACIYA.

A great deal of political negotiation has taken place since the formation of ACIYA in
the mid-1990s. The complexity and long-windedness of the bureaucratic process that
ACIYA has had to follow in trying to secure their territory has dumbfounded
indigenous people. They waited years for the Yaigojé Reserve to be legally enlarged
and hoped that the enlargement would lead to governmental protection of their
fundamental rights, but ACIYA had to fight a separate battle for judicial protection of
their rights. Yet, even now they have won it, the management of their territory and their
future is not entirely in their hands.

The functioning of trade and extractive economies: wildlife trading, timber, mining and,
more recently, the production and trafficking of drugs, usually occurs outside the law.
The groups of people directing these activities escape the control of the Colombian
State. Indigenous groups, like the Tanimukas from La Playa have refused to work for
narcotics dealers but they have no means to prevent anyone entering the Reserve. They
fear the armed groups that cross their territory and know themselves to be vulnerable to
any attack. To complicate matters further, some indigenous families are willing to get
involved in the business: something that has already happened in the indigenous
reserves of the neighbouring Department of Vaupés. Young single males are likely to be
lured by the money to be earned by growing coca and this seems to be the case in a
number of communities in the Yaigojé.

ACIYA perceived a major risk when dealers offered substantial financial inducements
in exchange for the clearing of an airstrip in Apaporis. Yet, when appraised of ACIYA’s

96
concern in 1994, the Colombian authorities ignored them and their plea for protection of
their territories and peoples. Even though ACIYA refused the offer, they know that a
single family or small group of people could turn their backs on the organisation and
accept the money at their own risk. This has happened in other parts of Northwest
Amazonia.

5.5 Diverging Discourses Surrounding Amazonian Territorial Ordering and
Indigenous Peoples

Besides those working in extractive economies, there are other kinds of ‘white people’
that visit the Yaigojé Reserve. They come from academic institutions, NGOs, Christian
churches, and occasionally, the regional government. However, there is little coherence
among such groups, except for the fact that they are all considered visitors by
indigenous peoples. They have diverse political ideas and different perspectives with
respect to cultural and biological diversity.

As explained in Chapter Three, the conservation institutions working in NWA hold a
concept of ‘rainforest management’ contradictory to indigenous organisations’ political
aims
75
. In respect of environmental management, the State in Colombia has copied
legislation from the USA and even the more recently adopted reforms that are in tune
with USA security policy guidelines. In order to protect the environment and avoid the
perceived danger of communal property, legislation appropriates conservation areas as
State property limiting or prohibiting use and management by other parties.

There is ambiguity with respect to indigenous management of rainforest. Extreme
preservationists still aim to create and maintain natural reserves without people and
undertake enforcement to safeguard ‘natural environments’. And, although excluding
indigenous peoples has been tragic for all: governments, local authorities,
conservationists, wildlife and indigenous peoples; there are still some conservationists
advocating a radical political position, that of protection of nature from human
interference.

New agreements between conservationists and indigenous peoples need to be made.
Indigenous peoples’ supporters and indigenous peoples themselves are calling the

75
This discussion could be followed from Forero and Laborde 1997; Forero, Laborde et al. 1998.

97
attention of conservationists to the fact that decisions cannot be taken form the top-
down anymore. Indigenous people have had a long and painful experience of dealing
with political conflict and, usually, are willing to make allies with other groups.
Conservationists could gain much from good partnerships with indigenous peoples, but
for now there are still huge groups of environmental radicals that prevent a general
alliance between the two.

In the Yaigojé, as explained in Chapter Three, Fundación Natura and CIC became
involved in a dubious agreement with some members of ACIYA for the establishment
of a Conservation Area that divided the indigenous authorities of Apaporis and
weakened their political institutions. One of the main points of the agreement was that
no human intervention was to be made in the area between the Mosiro-Itajura lake and
the Ugá river. This territory is of particular importance for the Yujup group inhabitants
of the Apaporis. While Omar Yujup was repeatedly saying ‘amombea’ (I do not want),
‘kenambea’ (It is not good) in the Tukano language, the CIC were happily taking
pictures. Not surprisingly the Yujup have decided to go back to Ugá, their place of
origin, ignoring an agreement they were signed up to by the Tukano.

When the FARC invaded the Yaigojé and imposed their eviction policy (Chapter Three)
they argued that the establishment of the conservation area demonstrated indigenous
people’s inability to manage their territory. It is an unjustifiable argument, a cover up
for the territorial expansion campaign of the guerrillas, which is more evident now than
the FARC is making the resumption of peace negotiation contingent on the withdrawal
of military troops from Caquetá and Putumayo, an area the size of France. What is
surprising is that these events never stop CIC from promoting the Conservation Area
internationally. It is not surprising that no trust has developed between CIC and the
indigenous peoples of the Yaigojé
76


The reason that representatives of different ideologies present similar discourses is
explained partially by the fact that both aim to control the territory. Biodiversity
conservation NGOs usually establish links with grassroots organizations under the
rhetoric of participation but maintain a top-down managerial approach, facilitating the
incursion of global environmental agencies. A very similar situation has been reported

76
The evolution of discussions between Indigenous Peoples, Conservationists and the Catholic Church
will be revisited in Chapter Nine.

98
for Cameroon, where the discourse of ‘participation’ provides a lens through which the
environmental state can extend its gaze over natural resources and into the life-worlds
of forest margin communities (Ambrose-Oji et.al, 1999).

Another perspective is that of the Churches. Catholic and Evangelical Churches have
competed for missionary territory in Amazonia. Until the 1980s the USA Government
financed the Summer Institute of Linguistics. The guerrillas attacked the group and they
were expelled from NWA at the beginning of the 1990s. On 9 March 1999 the FARC
killed three USA citizens belonging to one of these religious groups working with
indigenous peoples in Colombia. That put an end to any Washington support for the
peace process (Héndez 2001; Sweig 2002:129). The relationship between religious
groups and the US Government has a strong influence on USA security policy, which
should not be underestimated.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church has maintained an unconstitutional agreement
with the Government of Colombia for the administration of education services among
indigenous peoples. The desire of indigenous people’s organizations to manage their
own education services has been perceived by Catholic educational institutions as a
menace. There is an historic relationship between the Catholic Church and the
Conservative Party, the party of the outgoing President Pastrana, stemming from the
Church’s support for the conservative parties during the ‘Violence’ of the 1950s.

However, since the 1960s Catholic priests, influenced by liberation theology, have been
involved in the conflict on the side of the poor. Yet, the Church is institutionally
conservative and its influence among state officials is pervasive, such that it has been
very influential in the formulation of security policy in Colombia.

5.6 Is Indigenous Territorial Policy Plausible?
In these multifaceted circumstances, indigenous organisation has emerged and continues
to operate. It seems, however, that the groups involved, especially indigenous
organisations and the NGOs that support their political aims, have yet to understand
that, like ‘sustainability’, ‘territorial ordering’ is best conceived of as a continuous
process of re-construction.


99
It is unclear whether indigenous organisations in Amazonia have realised that obtaining
legal protection, based on national and international legislation, does not guarantee
indigenous control over their territories. Indigenous peoples organisations would like,
but cannot expect, to have a single interlocutor in pursuing their legitimate interests.
Furthermore, the various institutions with which they do interact vary their policies
toward, and treatment of, indigenous organisations in function of their changing
perspectives with respect to the rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants.

Images of Amazonia and its indigenous people change depending on the observer and
the moment of observation. The Europeans of colonial times and then mestizos from
American Republics modified their legal treatment of indigenous peoples depending on
these changes of perspective. The Amazon has been seen as an impenetrable jungle, a
storehouse of resources and more recently as a fragile ecosystem in need of protection.
Indigenous peoples have been considered sub-human animals, free sources of labour,
legal minors, ‘ecologically noble savages’ and even primitive communists that threaten
the security of the world’s most powerful nation. Similarly, shamanism has been seen as
witchcraft, vernacular medicine or agroforestry practice, depending on the interests of
the observer at the moment of observation. Depending on who is referring to indigenous
peoples they may be guardians of biodiversity or a menace to the environment and
society at large. In summary, indigenous peoples ‘have been’ what outsiders ‘have
made’ of them.

With respect to national and human security, state policies directed at indigenous
peoples often deal with territorial conflicts. These policies reflect the temporary pictures
that nations (e.g. Colombia and Brazil) have of indigenous peoples and their territories,
and regulations and codes are devised to assure the desired policy outcomes. However,
in accordance with Agenda 21, the democratic systems of the twenty-first century
should take note of the rights and responsibilities of all citizens and thus complex
processes of territorial ordering should be subject to continuous political negotiation.

When I was first developing this chapter the Government of Colombia was holding
separate peace talks with the FARC (18,000 members) and the National Liberation
Front (ELN – 2000 members). Now (2002) both processes have collapsed. The Pastrana
Administration of Colombia had pleaded for foreign help but only when it was too late
did it allow foreign governments to serve as intermediaries.

100

Only the USA has agreed to support Plan Colombia as an initiative to combat drug
trafficking. For the USA, peace talks and territorial ordering in Amazonia impinge upon
their own interests and they are willing to fund an initiative derived from their own
security policy in order to resolve the problem. For the European Community Plan
Colombia is excessively militaristic in complexion, and leaves out vital socio-political
components. Europe is therefore following a different policy towards Colombia.
Colombia’s neighbouring states, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Venezuela, do not have a
common stance towards the Plan. They do not want to get involved in an armed conflict
like the one that has plagued Colombia, but it is obvious that the problem of the
narcotics trade affects them all and that sooner or later they must reach some agreement
if human security in the region is to be achieved and the rule of justice re-established.
Without an internationally agreed system of justice with the power to enforce human
rights, including environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights, it will be impossible to
resolve the complex issues related to the functioning of extractive economies that do not
comply with national regulations or international agreements.

5.7 The USA and Counter-Insurgence
Plan Colombia, now re-launched by the Bush Administration as the Andean Regional
Initiative represents one of the most recent phases of a long-running strategy to protect
USA economic and political interests in Latin America. Direct involvement of USA
troops in a guerrilla war is difficult to justify to the USA public since the Vietnam War.
Only now, after the attack on the World Trade Centre has the American public
swallowed USA Special Forces deployment to Georgia and the Philippines. However
the training of right wing and mercenary paramilitaries has been a common USA policy
for Latin America.

In the 1970s, during the presidency of Richard Nixon, the USA was being encouraged
by multinational corporations with interests in Chile to fight against the election of
Salvador Allende. Henry Kissinger created a covert unit within the US Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) whose subversive mission was to prevent Allende’s election
and, when this failed, to destabilise the Allende Government. The unit was eventually
implicated in the assassination of General Schneider and subsequently fostered the
conditions for the military coup led by General Pinochet in 1973 (Hitchens 2001).


101
Perhaps the most widely cited example of USA security policy in action occurred in
Nicaragua in the 1980s. In 1986, Colonel Oliver North, under instruction from high-
ranking members in the Reagan administration, arranged for the sales of arms to Iran in
direct violation of existing United States laws. Profits from the US$30 million arms
sales were given to the Nicaraguan, right wing, ‘contra’ guerrillas to procure arms for
their struggle against the democratically elected Sandinista Government of President
Daniel Ortega. Although the International Court of Justice determined that this was a
direct violation of International Law the USA veto in the United Nations Security
Council was used to reject a resolution that compelled all States to obey international
law.

Another example was the invasion of Panama and arrest of General Noriega in 1989
under the authority of the first Bush administration, after which the newly elected
Panamanian Government facilitated the operation of financial markets favouring USA
banks and investments. The General Assembly of the UN condemned the invasion, but
the USA and Britain used their vetoes to block another resolution of the UN Security
Council (Chomsky 1997). By this time, anti-drug rhetoric was already in use. However,
despite the indictment and conviction of Noriega in April 1992 on eight counts of
cocaine trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering, there was never any serious
attempt to control the financial markets implicated in money laundering.

There are many other examples that there is not space to mention here, but what they all
indicate in that USA security policy is regularly enforced in Latin America through the
financing of military coups, paramilitaries and corrupt national leaders that are all
portrayed by US governments as allies in their fight for ‘justice’ and the enhancement
of ‘human security’. Without the assistance of such groups and individuals the USA
would be unable to enforce their policies, which are often prosecuted in direct
contravention of international law and even, their own national law. Recognition of this
state of affairs is important to our understanding of the semantics of official security
discourses.

In Colombia there are also right wing paramilitaries. Initially these arose as people who
suffered extortion at the hands of left wing guerrillas organised themselves and
employed military trainers in order to fight back. Human Rights Watch and other
human rights organisations have denounced the links between the Colombian armed

102
forces and these paramilitary groups (Human Rights Watch 2001). The USA Congress
mindful of poor record of Colombian Army in human rights and aware of the links of
paramilitaries with the Colombian Government conditioned the release of funds of Plan
Colombia to USA president certification. The USA have monitored and confirmed links
between paramilitaries and army operations but the certification has continued to be
issued (Sweig 2002:130).

The Pastrana Administration pursued a process of reforms to clear the army’s name and,
in a very important political gesture, a military court convicted J.H. Uscateguí, an army
general who permitted the massacre of 49 peasants by paramilitaries in 1997 (Vargas
2001). Later Pastrana fired General Rito Alejo del Río, (a graduate of the School of the
Americas), due to his paramilitary ties. Unfortunately, the new president hired Río as a
campaign adviser, which certainly shows Uribe’s commitment to justice.

Paramilitaries begun by selling their ‘security services’ to cattle ranchers and other
wealthy groups of people, some of whom were involved in the trafficking of narcotics.
However, the mercenaries soon realised that they themselves could take control of drug
trafficking and they have since become renowned for employing the most brutal forms
of coercion. In 1999, paramilitaries were considered responsible for 78 percent of the
total number of human rights and international humanitarian law violations in
Colombia, according to the Comisión Colombiana de Juristas --CCJ, (Colombian
Commission of Jurists cited by HRW - Human Rights Watch 2001). According to the
same source, the paramilitaries were linked to deaths of 3 journalists and 11 human
rights monitors. The Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia –AUC (United Self-defence of
Colombia), as the paramilitaries call themselves, are responsible for the majority of the
201 assassinations of trade unionists. Worryingly, the new President, when Governor of
Antioquia helped to create ‘civil defence units’ which would become the AUC fronts;
now as President Uribe have started to pay civil spies that denounce suspects of
terrorism. The AUC claimed to have gained 30% of the Colombian Congress seats in
the last Elections. One does not need to be very smart to notice that the dirty-war
military strategy of the Reagan-Bush era has been re-created and enhanced by the Uribe
– Bush Jnr administrations.

For their part, guerrillas were credited with twenty percent of Human Rights’ violations.
They concentrate on attacking representatives of the State, such as Ministers, Senators,

103
Governors and Mayors of cities and towns. The Colombian State forces were linked to
two percent of the Human Rights’ violations. However the condemnation of the USA
Government and media is usually reserved for the left wing guerrillas called narco-
guerrillas by Colombian and USA military officers (Human Rights Watch 2001).

Yet, what would happen in the hypothetical case of the State succeeding in its war
against the guerrillas? The former peace commissioner, V.G. Ricardo, Colombia
Ambassador to the UK said in a recent speech to the Colombian Society of the London
School of Economics (2-27-01) that if peace is achieved with the guerrillas, the raison
d'être of the paramilitaries will cease to exist (Ricardo 2001). Yet we must question
whether an armed force of 12,000 people, which has influence over large parts of the
national territory, would simply abandon one of the most lucrative enterprises of our
time. The political raison d'être might disappear but economic motivation will remain.
Not only drug trafficking, but also war itself is a lucrative business, which can pay off
in political as well as financial terms. When the leader of the paramilitary AUC, Carlos
Castaño, was interviewed by Y. Amad, a renowned Colombian television presenter,
subsequent opinion polls reflected growth in the number of paramilitary sympathisers
and political voices started to be heard calling for political talks with the AUC.
Something that was reflected in the recent congressional elections.

Castaño has been implicated in the murder of numerous human rights activists. He
imposed a reign of terror over the Colombian city of Barrancabermeja. The public
attorney claimed this reign continued, even after the arrival of Government troops in the
city. Furthermore, Castaño has opposed the setting up of demilitarised zones aimed at
encouraging the development of peace talks and he did ‘warn’ expresident Pastrana that
he will not tolerate demilitarisation in the Department of Bolivar, where the government
planed to hold peace talks with the Ejercito de Liberación Nacional –ELN (National
Liberation Army), another insurgent group of about 4,000 members (Molano Bravo
2001). When the current president was campaigning, Castaño openly made a
sympathising gesture by saying that he would not support any presidential candidate
that attempted to resume peace negotiations with the guerrillas.

5.8 Conclusion: Plan Colombia or the Closing of a Vicious Cycle
While George Bush Senior was enforcing US security policy in Latin America his son
became a consultant for the Harken Energy Corporation, a company that benefited

104
greatly from the events and aftermath of the Gulf War. The Bush family still owns a
majority share in Harken, whose principal investment is in Colombian oil enterprises.
The company is part of the US-Colombian Business Partnership that started lobbying
the US Congress for the approval of Plan Colombia. In 2001 the USA Congress was
seeking President George W. Bush’s advice on the implications of Plan Colombia for
USA security policy and North American investments (Revista Cambio 2001).

Not by coincidence the Bush administration has been seeking Congressional approval of
a US$98 million budget to train the Army Brigade that will protect the Occidental
Petroleum run Pipeline Caño Limon (2003 Foreign Aid Appropriations Bill). The
independent “Witness for Peace” group has already sent a report to the USA Congress
warning of the links between paramilitaries and the Colombian Army in Arauca (where
the pipeline is located) and had warned that the funds to be provided will only serve to
cement such links, contributing to the escalation of the conflict. Additionally, the
group’s report questions why US tax payers should pay for providing security to the
corporation’s operations, something that would be untenable in the long-term anyway
(Witness_for_Peace 2002).

The distinction between state security policy and corporate business strategy has never
been clearly differentiated by USA governments, and therefore it is unlikely that the
Congress will object to continuing US support for Plan Colombia. Thus the militarist
project is likely to expand. But this would not happen if the USA did not enjoy the
support of conservative forces inside Colombia or if the ‘rhetoric of the fight against
drugs’ were to be exchanged for real political action towards the regulation of financial
markets.

National and international support for environmental NGOs such as CIC, when their
projects seek to enhance environmental security by preserving pristine environments
and excluding people from natural reserves, threatens indigenous peoples’ security by
undermining their ability to ‘manage the world’. The key point here is that for
indigenous peoples such as the Tukano, we cannot distinguish between environmental
security and human security. They do not see themselves as distinct from the
environment in which they live, they are part of the ‘world’ and in managing it they
instinctively manage themselves. Thus, rather than translating the unipolar globalised
security discourses on security into scientific, environmental terms for the world at

105
large, we might do better to consider informing international discourses on
sustainability with the Tukano concepts involved in the ‘managing the world’.

Unfortunately, the future of the rainforest and its inhabitants is not in the hands of
indigenous peoples: it has not been for many years. They have influenced our way of
seeing and treating the forest but had no power to protest against the international
security policies that have been developed so far away from their reserves. To talk of an
autonomous indigenous territory, even when assured by international and national laws,
is at present an illusion. Wars in Latin America are directly linked to the expansion of
profitable businesses, the majority of them illegal, and none of them delivering any real
benefits to the peasants or indigenous peoples of Northwest Amazonia.

Thus, how might indigenous and peasant communities, environmentalists and other
grassroots and wider social movements mobilise in sufficient strength to prompt
transnational corporations, Latin American governments, the USA and the EU to
engage seriously in processes and agreements that would allow indigenous peoples to
participate in the formulation and implementation of ‘world security’ policies that affect
their traditional territories and the global environment? The answer, many think, is the
networking of civil society through information and communication technology:
however, in a world where less than 1% of people have access to such technology this
remains a pipe dream. When they are granted no more than rhetorical ‘participation’ in
the governance of their own territory, the chances of the Tukano’s and other indigenous
peoples’ perspectives influencing a new global semantic of ‘security’ seem very limited
indeed

106

CHAPTER 6: INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE AND THE
SCIENTIFIC MIND: ACTIVISM OR COLONIALISM?

6.1 Introduction
77

Working as an ICT tutor on a course named "Principles and Methods of Environmental
Management"
78
, I had to review the concepts involved behind “principles of
environmental management”. After a decade of fieldwork in Northwest Amazon
(NWA)
79
my mind was always focused on political interfaces –governments, NGOs,
Churches, indigenous organisations, conservationists and the armed groups that struggle
for control of the territory. I never bothered to produce a checklist of the principles that
should be reflected in “fieldwork”. Fieldwork meant helping indigenous organisations
to secure their territories and, working with governments, NGOs and indigenous
organisations in the territorial ordering process.

Many of the researchers that have worked in NWA have referred to indigenous
transformation of the environment. I was aware that indigenous ‘management of the
world’ had much to do with ‘environmental management’ or ‘sustainability’. It seemed
obvious to me that indigenous people had the most to say about the management of their
territories. They were trying to secure their ways of living and their right to manage the
environment. Thus, it should come as no surprise that principles such as empowerment,
social learning, intergenerational and gender equity, never caused me a second thought;
my fieldwork activities reflected them in an automatic manner. I never stopped to think
about the source of these values. Later, while maintaining a discussion forum on the
Internet, I had to make explicit to the students that these principles came into being
through historical processes.

To engage in the process of territorial ordering required me to understand the values of
indigenous peoples and the foundations of such values. I was less interested in
understanding the foundation of my own, which were very close to those studied during

77
Many thanks to the History Department of the University of Columbia for the grant that allowed me to
attend the 2001 conference ‘History of Activism - History as Activism’, were I presented the first draft of
this paper. Also I wish to thanks the participants of the ‘Environmental Activism’ pannel which made
valuable suggestions for the reform of this chapter.
78
ICT stands for Information and Communication Technology. The course mentioned is offered by The
External Program - Imperial College at Wye (1999/2002).
79
See Annex1: Northwest Amazonian Boundaries.

107
the course
80
. ICT tutoring for environmental mangers forced me to re-think the ‘nature’
of the operations through which ethics come into being.

Through which processes do we naturalise our values? Our values become evident to us
when contrasted or reflected. By constructing the ‘other’ we define our values, and by
interacting with that ‘other’ we slowly change them. This is what anthropological
methodology has been designed to do: de-construction of the self.

In the ICT discussion forum of the course, I put into question the conceptual distinction
of IK (Indigenous Knowledge) and WS (Western Sciences). I related this discussion to
a colleague
81
. She was interested in the role that ICT could play in local scenarios of the
developing world. My own interest was on how the distinction IK – WS served as a
foundation for environmental management practices and the establishment of principles.

The discussion in the current chapter has two parts. In the first part I consider the values
that allowed the emergence of ethnosciences
82
. I will refer to some of the political
implications of ethnoscientific practice. Producing a summary of this historical process
gives us clues to the formation of the distinction IK - WS. In the second part I attempt a
de-construction of my own fieldwork (1994-1998) in Northwest Amazonia. My
justification is that any transformation of the values of natives and foreigners in
Amazonia has implications that should be examined if we want to construct a political
ecology of NWA.

It has been the tendency to think of ethnosciences as the invention of anthropology, a
way of localising the others’ discourses while retaining scientific status for the
discipline; “Anthropology is part of a long tradition in which science was an intrinsic
part of what we did. We produced ethnoscience, in which the others had the 'ethno' and
we had the 'science'” (Martin 1996: 98). In this chapter I argue that the boundaries
between IK and WS are apparent and that the extent to which indigenous knowledge has
been inserted into the sciences is broader than is commonly recognised.

80
The principles stated in the course are: duty of care, precautionary, social learning, subsidiarity,
sustainability, intergenerational equity, empowerment, transparency/procedural equity, aerial equity,
polluter pays (Smith 2000).
81
Aragones wrote "‘Idigenous Knowledge’ – ‘Western Knowledge’. Is this conceptual division still
relevant to sustainable development?”, Aragones 2001.
82
Ethnosciences aim to analyse the relationships between people and the environment by giving account
of non-western orders of classification, thus attempting epistemological translations of indigenous
systems of knowledge.

108

The reports, descriptions, affections and theoretical developments of ethnoscientists
contain large chunks of indigenous peoples' explanations of the self and the world.
These materials provide valuable portraits of the constructions of the self and the other.
For their part, indigenous people of NWA took every opportunity to make alliances
with foreigners once they were seduced or forced into contact. The researchers that
made the alliances with indigenous people contributed most to the formation of
ethnosciences

I am not certain that ethnosciences have accomplished epistemological translations, but
they have at least provided valuable translations of orders of classification of the
environment. Ethnosientists, consciously or not, have been involved in this project of
deconstruction of the self, identifying basic ontological problems. At the beginnings,
ethnobotanists had difficulties with indigenous inclusion of the ‘supernatural’ into the
orders of the ‘natural’, indigenous humanisation of the forest and gardens through the
treatment of plants and animals as persons and, the absence of a distinction between self
and the environment
83
. Whatever ethnosciences have accomplished they have already
had a political impact by providing a space for discussions where techno-scientific
projects encounter willingness and resistance from Amazonian inhabitants.

Today, armed groups, (paid by criminal international organisations) slow or prevent
accommodations between techno-scientific and local projects. The main international
aid received by governments is not used to support the territorial ordering process where
this discussion could prosper
84
. Ironically, the funds provided under the USA’s security
policy strategy, are used for “the war against drugs”, in which prohibition for consumers
and penalisation of producers makes the criminal industry more profitable. In this way
much of the international contribution constitutes a stimulus for the deterioration of the
environment and the distribution of misery
85
.


83
For human ecology among the NWA groups see Chapter Four. For discussions on the dualism
nature/society see “Nature and Society. Anthropological Perspectives”, Descola and Pálsson 1996.
84
For the case of Colombia it has been said that international aid is required for the development of a
peace process without which Amazonian peoples and environments are at great risk. “From different
perspectives, international intervention is demanded in such areas as the creation of conditions of mutual
trust for peace negotiations, the construction for a common agenda for such negotiations, and the
verification of compliance with the agree-upon compromises” (Sánchez 2001: 2).
85
As demonstrated in the previous Chapter.

109
6.2 Part One: The Path to Ethnosciences
6.2.1 The ‘others’ and ‘me’
The relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people in NWA, whatever
their character, always involve economic activities; but economic activities alone do not
allow us to qualify these relationships. The distinctions (of kinds of relationships) are
visible to us by studying portraits of the reasoning and treatment given to indigenous
people (and the environment) and their responses. The operation through which we
construct the “other” (savage, aborigine, indian, indigenous, local, traditional, black,
coloured, etc.) and the “otherness” (the wild, the jungle, the rain-forest, the forest,
nature) ‘naturalises’ the treatment of the other/ness. The history of anthropology
involves conscious and unconscious projects of construction and deconstruction of the
self and the other.

In Amazonia, many institutions whose primary character has been explicitly economic,
evolved from extractive activities: extraction of wood, quinine, cacao, rubber; extraction
of minerals; large scale fishing, capturing and export of ornamental fish; the live animal
and skin trades for the international market. The functioning of extractive economies,
their suddenness, their international character and the relative isolation, facilitated the
formation of networks that frequently operated unregulated or outside the law
86
. Thus,
violence and injustice have not been uncommon in the control of these businesses
87
.

Although some of these institutions dedicate themselves almost entirely to the
development of economic activities, there are others whose character is explicitly non-
economic: religious, governmental, and more recently NGOs. Nowadays, research
institutions, with an eye on property rights, whether explicitly or not, are involved in
economic activities. Also, there are those institutions whose explicit objective is
scientific but whose main work is political
88
. All these institutions operate in different
manners; their attitudes reflecting contradictory values that indigenous peoples observe
with interest, although sometimes such contradictions leave them perplexed.

86
On the role of extractive economy as a dominant form of resources exploitation in the Colombian
Amazon see “Estructuración socioespacial de la Amazonia Colombina, siglos XIX-XX”, Gómez, A.
1999.
87
For the role of terror in the creation of colonial reality: the unconsciousness cultural formation of
meaning through imputing the other with savagery. A crude example being the early 20
th
century rubber
extraction enterprise, see Taussig 1991. For a historic review of the region see Llanos and Pineda 1982.
88
The film “War of gods” which contains a record of the Summer Institute of Linguistic’s ideological
campaign in Northwest Amazon in the middle 20
th
century is an excellent illustration of this case (Moser
1970).

110

Ethnosciences’ attempts to reconcile our perspectives and the other’s perspectives on
the environment represent attempts to make sense and understanding between the white
man and indigenous peoples (or between foreigners and locals). Not dissimilar are those
attempts that seek to reconcile modern and traditional, development and conservation.
All of these attempts reflect the interest of locating and accommodating the other/ness
and ourselves.

6.2.2 Behind economic motives
In the 19
th
century, the mestizos or criollos – natives of the Americas which either
denied or had no direct affiliation with indigenous peoples – were involved in political
struggles to gain independence from Portugal, Spain, and the other Colonial powers.
The project of the independent mestizos after independence contemplated the
assimilation of indigenous people by eliminating differences of identity (Correa 1992).

The political approach of the European explorers was different. Some of them were
born out of imperial will and all of them engaged with the ecclesiastical and political
authorities that could help or hinder their explorations. The relationships between the
explorers and indigenous peoples were not completely determined by the former but
depart from a different cultural context than that of the locals (Brazilians or
Colombians).

In the Northwest Amazonia of the 19
th
and 20
th
centuries, the relationships between
managers of extractive economies, “colonos/cablocos”
89
workers and indigenous
peoples were difficult, although not always of a violent character. The system of
patronage that developed around the extraction of rubber was subsequently adopted in
most other extractive enterprises. However, the most notable machinery of terror that
accompanied extractivism was that of the Putumayo
90
. But, with the exception of three
Europeans whose public reports were somehow controlled by this terror machine,

89
So named in Colombia and Brazil respectively.

90
During the transition of the 19
th
to the 20
th
century, The Peruvian Amazon Company (PAC), managed
to control the reports of three explorers. First, Robuchon, a French explorer hired by Arana (head of PAC)
in 1904 who would “disappear” and his posthumous book was to be edited by Rey de Castro, Peruvian
consul of Manaos and associate of PAC. Second, the English captain Tomas Whiffen, personal friend of
Arana who turned a blind eye to the machinery of terror. Third, the German ethnographer Konrad Preuss
that wrote on the cannibalism festival of the Witoto without stating if he was a witness or not of such
rituals (Taussig 1991)

111
explorers were not directly involved in the violence of extractive economic regimes.
And, although explorers were following missionary paths, their ‘mission’ was not
evangelical. These differential approaches were recognised and responded to by
indigenous peoples.

Explorers of the 19
th
century as well as ethnoscientists of the 20
th
century and
researchers nowadays, (and I count myself as no exception) have been amazed by
indigenous peoples. Reciprocally, explorers (visitors and scientists) have reported that
indigenous peoples are often amazed by us and the world we bring. To the individuals,
selective apprehension of the world and the establishment of orders of classification are
influenced by amazement.

It amazed me that the Tukano, Arawak and Yujup-Makú ethnic groups, which have
been at war and are often rivals, especially in shamanism and politics, have managed to
maintain a hold of their territories until the present. It amazed me that their
‘management of the world’ has resisted colonisation. Indigenous peoples in turn were
amazed by the objects I carried with me. They wanted to know how to make those
objects and who had made them. When explaining that much of this process came from
an industry and that it involved many different people located in different nations, they
always became suspicious. Tensions subsided only after more precise answers were
provided.

I grew up in Colombia, a country where “violence has become the reference point for
Colombian politics, society and economy during the second half of the 20
th
century”
(Sánchez 2001). I have an interest in territoriality, environment and development. The
things that amazed me were related to these interests. Indigenous people’s interest in “el
fabrico del blanco”, the products of white men, is legendary. They often referred to the
encounter with white people’s things as a seductive moment: “despues de probar la sal
el indio no se quiere volver al monte a vivir como los tradicionales”; “after tasting salt,
the indian does not want to go back to the forest and live like the ancestors”
91
. A way of

91
Gustavo Cabiyarí, the current authority of Union Jirijirimo (Apaporis) spoke to me about how in his
childhood salt (KCl) was produced by processing an algae that grows between Jirijirimo and Iañakopea
waterfalls in the lower Apaporis river. The process involved the entire group (of about 200 people) which
worked for four or five days. The product, he said, was rock-like and divided among families, each one
obtaining a portion that fit in the hand. Schultes collected the plant when he was among the Makuna on
the Apaporis (Davis 1998:327). The impact of some objects within indigenous organisation, like metal
axes, fishhooks and salt (NaCl) is known and recognised; the metaphor of salt has been recorded by other
researchers e.g. Van der Hammen 1992: 27.

112
expressing the tensions and social changes they had made in order to secure
merchandise and to accommodate trade and alliances when outsiders get involved.

It would be an easy assumption that indigenous people are overwhelmed by foreign
objects, but there is more to it than that. We must study the way objects are acquired
(through barter and trade) and the relationships created through this acquisition in order
to understand the interest of the Tukano in foreign objects.

The making of artefacts and their acquisition is highly ritualised among the Tukano. All
basketry is generally men’s work, while the production of ceramics is women’s work,
just like in most parts of Amazonia. But to obtain prime matter for the making of the
objects, permission should be granted from the spiritual owner of the resource to be
used and this is generally undertaken by shamans, who are men. In addition, less
knowledgeable men are prompted to seek mediation from shamans or are forbidden to
make valuable objects, like blowpipes, arrow poisons, and ritual paraphernalia.
Therefore the acquisition of objects is related to one’s scope of power within society.

Artefacts and objects in general, are by themselves perceived as sources of power or, in
indian terminology as ‘defences’. When the object is received its protective character is
transmitted to the owner. When the Tukano say that women’s defences are the objects
with which they make cassava, they are acknowledging that spiritual protection had
been granted to them. Therefore, the exchange of objects is never just a material
operation but a symbolic act in which religious values are confirmed or displaced.

The exchange of objects creates and re-creates relationships towards which intra-group
and inter-group alliances are confirmed or repealed.
92
But, more importantly for our
discussion, localising the objects is an operation through which the Tukano situate the
other.

6.2.3 Reminiscences
Patches of Northwest Amazonia were colonised just two centuries before the arrival of
the enlightened explorers. The Portugueses established Barra (Manaos) in 1694 as a

92
For further discussion see “Barter, Exchange and Value", Hugh-Jones and Humphrey 1992 and
“Yesterday's Luxuries, tomorrow's Necessities: Business and Barter in Northwest Amazonia”, Hugh-
Jones 1992.

113
centre for slave trading. The Caquetá-Japúra
93
region was explored and exploited with
this purpose. In 1663 Franciscan missionaries had entered Putumayo (Colombia-Perú)
and facilitated slavery under the justification of attacks on Christianised indians
(Taussig 1991). By the 18
th
century the Portuguese Crown had prohibited the slave
trade. But the exceptions to the rule were in the “just war” and “rescue of prisoners”,
under which slavery continued to operate (Llanos and Pineda 1982; Pineda 1986). The
Franciscans were expelled and Putumayo indians were left alone until the quinine
extraction boom in the second half of the 19
th
century.

La Condamine, who was the first to suggest that the Orinoco and Amazon were linked
by a waterway, made the fist accurate map of Amazonia in 1743. But it was not until
1800 that von Humboldt and Bonpland would confirm La Condamine’s suggestion,
mapping the Casiquiare channel that links the Rio Negro with the Orinoco. La
Condamine travelled to America to measure the diameter of earth at the Equator. He
was curious and resourceful: he noticed and used rubber to protect his instruments, was
aware of a long history of human occupation in Amazonia and suggested that studying
indigenous languages could reveal the population processes.

The next approximation to Northwest Amazonia happened in 1817, when a group of
scientists was brought to Brazil by the Austrian Grand Duchess and Empress of Brazil
Leopoldina of Hapsburg. The group included Natterer, von Spix and von Martius. Von
Spix and von Martius reached the Solimões and went into the Caquetá-Japurá River.
They were the first to provide a description of the Tikunas, Tukano and some other
ethnic groups.

Von Martius and von Spix, while sharing an interest in plants and animals that von
Humboldt had, were far more interested in indigenous peoples. Humboldt wanted to
explain nature by nature in contrast to the explanation of nature by the divine. He
wanted to produce a holistic view: “In short, I must find out about the harmony of
nature” (Humboldt 1799, in Worster 1990:133). Humboldt focused on bio-geographical
occurrences through longitudinal and latitudinal variations, he noticed the effects of
human intervention in the land, but his interest remained in the distribution of plants and
animals in response to climate variation.


93
Caquetá in Colombia, Japurá in Brazil.

114
Von Martius could be considered the earliest ethnographer of the Amazon. He was
much in tune with evolutionary theory and his interest was to map the evolution of
native Brazilians. For this purpose he collected artefacts and made some comparative
studies. In the belief that historical evolution is reflected in languages, he made
advances in their classification. It was evident to him that nature had been transformed
over millennia and it was also obvious that the evolution and dispersion of languages
also required very long time. However, he adhered to Humboldt’s belief that all indians
came from a single source, thus he concluded that cultural diversity was a result of
long-term devolution (Barreto and Salles Machado 2001).

From the group brought by Leopoldina, J. Natterer stayed the longest among indians
and even married a Brazilian in the Río Negro and apparently he was enchanted by
cultural diversity. He went up the river to the Vaupés, the Içana and also entered the
Casiquiare channel. He was attracted by the indigenous peoples of these territories.
Some of his manuscripts were read by Koch-Grünberg, and they made such an
impression on the German that he decided to visit these ethnic groups. Unfortunately
much of Natterer’s writings were lost.

6.2.4 From ‘exploration’ to ‘economic botany’
The Darwinian enunciation of competitive struggle for survival naturalised Victorian
values. Civilisation (European that is) was the fittest; its need was to dominate nature
and to establish order. Chaos and the savage were to be replaced by civilisation and the
scientific mind. There was no space for ‘divergence’ or ‘tolerance’ in Darwinian theory
and the imperial rationality would have no reason to exercise it.

Humboldt, Lyell and Malthus had an immense influence on Darwin, but evolutionary
theory did not take shape until he fitted such influences with his own observations. And
he did so by placing violence at the centre of his theory. It has been suggested that
Darwin’s perspective came from his personal makeup (Worster 1990). Whatever the
reason, from then on evolutionary thinking was at the core of Victorian morality.
Enlightenment had shaken the world, nature could no longer be explained by the divine,
and imperial campaigns required moral justification. Darwinian evolution provided
competitive replacement in which inferior beings should be beaten and supplanted by
superior beings.

115

The imperialist campaign had established new grounds. None of the early explorers
would consider indigenous peoples as equals. There was no question about whether the
domination of the wild ought to be undertaken. It was nothing but ‘natural’ that the
savage and the jungles were dominated by superior minds. However, the responses of
indigenous populations were far from homogeneous and some of these scientists, once
in the field would have their doubts.

There was hesitation about the civilising campaign among the explorers from the
beginning. Some of that divergence could be noticed between Charles Darwin and his
friend Alfred R. Wallace. The latter visited the Tukano at the core of Northwest
Amazonia, providing a description of them in his book "Travels on the Amazon and Rio
Negro", published in October 1853. When living among the indians of Colombian
NWA, Wallace was at times in “a state of exited indignation against civilised life”
(cited by Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996a: 241).

From the Malay Archipelago, Wallace wrote to Darwin sharing his ideas on the origin
of species in a letter dated June 18 1858. The moment was dramatic for Darwin: “If
Wallace had my M.S. sketch…he could not have made a better short
abstract!”(Correspondence of Charles Darwin, in Desmond 1994: 245). A joint paper
was presented at the Linnean Society of London on July 1 of that same year. Wallace
used a mechanical metaphor to explain how natural feedback systems automatically
checked and corrected breeding, Darwin added replacement competition to explain the
mechanism.

Darwin went public as he feared Wallace might beat him to it. Wallace had a different
perspective and competition was not its theme. Wallace was, in Desmond’s words,
“another 1840s activist, outraged by wealth and organized religion…For him the
environment expunged the unfit, not competition…” (Desmond 1994: 245). Thus it
should come as no surprise that Wallace did not share the same conviction about the
civilising campaign and the treatment of indigenous people of some of his
contemporaries. What amazed Darwin and Wallace with respect to the indians was
different and this reflects their different personalities and the difference of the
indigenous peoples they encountered.


116
Darwin was convinced that to be civilised humankind had to dominate nature, this was
so even when he himself had demonstrated nature to be an inner part of humanity. The
indigenous peoples he encountered in Tierra del Fuego were "miserable lords of this
miserable land". He described them thus:
"these poor wretches were stunted in their growth, their faces bedaubed with white paint, their
skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, their voices discordant, and their gestures
violent"…"it was without exception the most curious and interesting spectacle I ever beheld: I
could not have believed how wide was the difference between savage and civilised man: it is
greater than between a wild and a domesticated animal…" (in Worster 1990:171).

On the contrary, the impression that the indigenous people of Northwest Amazonia
imprinted on Wallace made him doubt the superiority of civilisation and colonisation
projects that sought the domination of both nature and indians. He encountered
interesting adaptations of indigenous people to their environment, noticed that the
conflicts between criollos and indians were increasing, and he was of the opinion that
the indians ought to be protected. Referring to the state of "servant indians” he noticed
that they were "brought up to some degree of civilisation, though I much doubt if they
are better or happier than in their native forest" (Wallace 1889).

These two groups of people to whom Darwin and Wallace refer lived in very different
environments and had equally different political systems. Among the Tukano of
Northwest Amazonia there were chiefdoms and although there was no concentration of
property among chiefs, there was a recognised authority. These indians had sedentary
patterns, long-houses, rituals that lasted days, they also had elaborate paraphernalia that
impressed all explorers that visited the area. Europeans situated them closer to
civilisation. In contrast the Fuegians lived in a much more egalitarian society. This was
pretty much like the new ‘sin’, Darwin wrote: “The perfect equality of all the [Fuegian]
inhabitants will for many years prevent their civilisation…” (Darwin 1934:136).

The indigenous peoples that Darwin met are already extinct – which is not surprising
taking into account the coloniser’s view that Darwin portrayed. Just a few years after
Darwin visited the campaign of extermination began
94
. In contrast, Tukanoans survive.
But their survival came at a cost. Tukano as well as other Northwest Amazonian groups,
when possible, had made arrangements with whites, whatever their character. This
approximation had proved to be very important for the defence of their territories but

94
Taussig refers to the mimetic reflection of imputed violence as an instrument of colonialism in Tierra
del Fuego (Taussig 1993: 86-7).

117
nevertheless population diminished and sometimes surviving had to be paid for by
negating identity.

The more nomadic groups of Northwest Amazonia, and those who were in a servile
position within indigenous populations organised into chiefdoms, were more the focus
of European slavery. They were, of course, further from civilisation in the explorers’
eyes. The differentiated characterisation of the two groups is present in all explorers.
We can illustrate this with examples from Bates, another Englishman that travelled with
Wallace to the Amazon. Bates and Wallace travelled together before taking separate
paths, although they always tried to remain aware of each-other’s whereabouts.

Bates portrays the Múra of the lower Amazon as “the most degraded tribe inhabiting the
banks of the Amazons” (Bates 1863: Vol.1, 304). All his descriptions correspond to
people with high mobility, only equipped with hammocks and tools for fishing and
hunting, living in temporary camps. In contrast, he agrees with the Brazilians in
classifying the ‘Passés’ of the Japurá, as the most advanced of all the indian nations of
the Amazons. He situates the ‘Jurí’ and ‘Miránha’ [Miraña] as somewhat less
advanced, while the ‘Caishánas’ a group without chiefdoms living in the Japurá at that
time, were “almost as debased physically and mentally as the Múras” (Bates 1863:
Vol.2, 242). The main defect of Passés and other chiefdom groups, he wrote, was that
their chiefs exercise authority in a mild manner, and “none of them, even those of the
most advanced tribes, appear to make use of this authority for the accumulation of
property” (Bates 1863: Vol.2, 243). The lack of ambition was, in Bates words, what
prevented the formation of civilised nations.

Another friend of Wallace that travelled with him in Amazonia was Richard Spruce.
Wallace travelled the Río Negro in 1851 where he contracted Malaria. Spruce visited
him. After surviving malaria, Wallace headed to the Vaupés, encountered the Tukano
and saw the Yuruparí ritual. He admired the paraphernalia and the mythological
recitation but it was a shocking experience. The sounds of the Yuruparí
95
amazed him,

95
The main characters of the ritual are personified by the playing of two flutes. Yuruparí is the main
ritual of many of Northwest Amazonian groups. Yuruparí is not only a male initiation ritual but also a
complex system that incorporates men to s’shamanism. Men in Apaporis when talking about Yuruparí
refer to a time when it was taken and controlled by women, a time of men’s subordination to women. The
Yuruparí ritual is also a way of reaffirming male social control over women. See “The Palm and the
Pleiades: Initiation and Cosmology in Northwest Amazonia”, Hugh-Jones, S. 1979.

118
he recalled it as devil music. In November 1852 Spruce was in the Vaupés among the
Tukano watching the same ritual.

It has been suggested that Spruce was less of an evolutionist with respect to indigenous
peoples: “Unlike Wallace, who appreciated indian life but viewed indians as animals,
Spruce passed no judgement” (Davis 1998: 394). With respect to the Yuruparí, Davis
quotes Spruce: “The old Portuguese missionaries called these trumpets juruparís, or
devils, merely a bit of jealously on their part” (Davis 1998: 394). It is possible the two
friends had different opinions with respect to indigenous peoples, after all their
friendship did not prevent them from being rivals
96
.

This is not to say that Spruce in any way did not in anyway agree with the imperial
campaign. On the contrary, he was determined to collaborate with it. In 1857 he began
an exhausting, two-year expedition, putting his life at risk in order to secure cinchona
(quinine) for the British Empire (Drew 1996; Schultes 1996).

What is certain of Spruce is that he had a botanic eye that transformed the field. His
interests were in the uses and utilisation of plants, what later became Economic Botany.
In fact, after observing the Yuruparí ritual he did not comment on any religious or
sociological aspects but on the plant used: Banisteriopsis caapi. His achievements in the
field were to be very well recognised by one of the future founders of ethnobotany R.E.
Schultes.

In “Richard Spruce and the Ethnobotany of Northwest Amazon” Schultes noticed that
the English did not record many of the medicinal or some of the hallucinogenic plants
that the indians of Northwest Amazonia use. Schultes argued that he could mistakenly
have assumed that all knowledge of plants was in the hand of shamans. It seems likely
that Spruce was not prejudiced against indian knowledge, on the contrary he seemed
eager to encounter the shamans. As Schultes suggested, it was rather that he
concentrated on his own way of studying the plants. Schultes, who regarded the English

96
Spruce proposed to Wallace making a book on palms together, which Wallace refused. When Spruce
was requested by Hooker (Royal Botanic Gardens) for a comment on Wallace’s Palm Trees of the
Amazon and their uses, he heavily criticised Wallace’s descriptions (Balick 1980).

119
explorer as his personal hero, recognised that Spruce had difficulties spending long
periods of time among indigenous peoples (Schultes 1976:68)
97
.

6.2.5 Ethnobotany: the ‘other’ as ‘equal’?
Northwest Amazonia continued intriguing and seducing explorers: The Italian Stradelli
went to Vaupés, and the French Coudreau followed, while Chaffanjon went to the
Orinoco. By the end of the 19
th
century and the beginning of the 20
th
came the German
Koch-Grünberg. He travelled through Northwest Amazonia over a period of two years.
He described in refined detail the rituals of the Tukano and Arawak in which masks
were used. He paid special attention to the meaning derived from cultural material. He
gathered together what are probably the largest ethnographic collections ever made for
Northwest Amazonia and his fieldwork has been recognised since. His articles on
Tukano art called attention to the need to study the Tukano aesthetic, an occupation of
modern anthropology.

Koch-Grünberg made the first clear classification of languages of Northwest Amazonia.
He distinguished six major families of languages, including the Betoya
98
. Among the
Tukano he made comparative studies of 15 languages and noticed the importance of
multilinguism for inter and intra-ethnic relations among Northwest Amazonian groups.
Koch-Grünberg also recorded seasonal variations, took examples of rocks and
attempted the construction of geological maps.

Most important of all, Koch-Grünberg got involved with the indigenous groups in a
completely novel way: the other was not an inferior. And although he did not express it
as such, he attempted epistemological translation. He was not a collector of items, but a
detailed observer, making translation of Tukanoan meanings. The indians were
fascinated with the explorer. From his diary-like writings it is obvious that the indians
were as eager to discuss things as he was himself and together they talked of astronomy,
mythology, art and religion. If Wallace hesitated in accepting the goodness of the
civilisation project, Koch-Grünberg was completely convinced that the "real owners of

97
It has also been suggested that indigenous groups in Northwest Amazonia could have developed
medical treatments from plants rapidly and as a response to contact with epidemics (Davis 1998; Davis
and Yost 1983: 290). And, Schultes had pointed out, in this same article on Spruce, that there is not
certainty that the “botanists” of indigenous societies existed at this time (Schultes 1976: 69).
98
Originally named by Koch-Grünberg as Betoya these ethnic groups are known today as all the groups
of the Eastern Tukano linguistic family speakers.

120
the country" were the indians, and in contrast with previous explorers, he always
granted political recognition to indigenous nations.

Koch-Grünberg entered Northwest Amazonia through Brazil. The name of his book was
Zwei jahre unter den Indianerm: Reisen in Nordwest - Brasilen (1903-1905)
99
. He
assumed the defence of the indians out of romanticism, and described clearly the risk
indigenous people faced when coming into contact with Colombians. In 1905, in the
Apaporis, Colombian rubber dealers had already built a camp. Koch-Grünberg describes
the character of some of the encounters between the two:

"One midday six rubber dealers, white and mestizo, with a Tsahatsaha [Caribe] indian
appeared. They came from Corinto and were of the same people of Tomás Prata. They were
surprised and apparently not too happy to encounter two white men here. Jose [the Makuna
chief - Tukano], feeling supported by our presence, was not very kind to them, so they went
without paddlers. It was disgusting to see them cuddle around the nude daughter of the
chief, who in that precise moment was squeezing manioc at the sieve. Only our presence
prevented them from behaving as they are used to. “Os Colombianos não prestão!”
[Colombians worth nothing] said the tuschaua, and unfortunately reason assisted him. The
28
th
of March [1905] we continued the journey. I could obtain two Yabahána as paddlers
only after reassuring them that I would take people to the next maloca only and would not
give them to the evil Colombians.” (Koch-Grünberg 1995 (1909): Vol.2, 276)

In 1908-9, just a few years after Koch-Grünberg went to Apaporis, the English captain
Whiffen went to Putumayo, where real atrocities were happening. It is estimated that at
least 40,000 indians died in that decade as a consequence of slaughter, torture and
sickness (Hardenburg 1912 in Pineda 1986), yet Whiffen does not mention a thing, on
the contrary, he reports cannibal dances and portrays indians as “innately cruel” (cited
by Taussig 1991: 88).

After Koch-Grünberg other ethnographers visited, but none of them were to make such
comparative studies, with the exception of Nimuendaju, who in 1927 visited Northwest
Amazonia. He made demographic studies in the Vaupés, the Aiary and the Içana and
contrasted his results with those of Koch-Grünberg. He observed two important trends
of the region: First, the Tukano languages were expanding, while the Arawak were
contracting. Second, the dance mask festivals were disappearing on the Brazilian side of
Amazonia.


99
Two years among the Indians: Voyages in Northwest Brazil (1903-1905). The book has been recently
translated to Spanish (1995). The Spanish translation is accompanied by two valuable introductions, made
by Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff (1992) and Otto Zerries (1967).

121
Nimuendaju, like Koch-Grünberg, did not have the primary economic interest in plants
that the earlier explorers had. Neither were they serving an imperial campaign of
civilisation and they did not consider indigenous peoples to be inferior. From then on, at
least for Northwest Amazonia, there is a different interest in the other. In fact,
Nimuendaju went to the area hired by the Brazilian System for Protection of the
Indians. He was one of the first to question, not the goodness of civilisation – the
question that at least Wallace made in Victorian times – but the benefit of contacting the
indigenous groups at all.

The ethnology of the 20
th
century moved away from evolutionism slowly. The
discussions moved to the more interesting topics of the relations between environment
and society, a discussion that remains extremely important to this day
100
. The issues
under discussion had been related to the effects of ‘contact’: first, on the native peoples
and the environments where they live, and second, on the visitors –be they explorers,
colonisers or researchers, and the societies they represent. The discussion on the
character of the contact and its evaluation by the people passing through the process had
always remained. This is the localisation, reflection and re-localisation of the “other”
and “us”.

It is worth remembering that while Koch-Grünberg and Nimuendaju were distancing
themselves from evolutionism, in the Colombian and Brazilian nations of the first half
of the 20
th
century, social mobilisation was still related to ‘racial’ origin and the
evolutionary ideas of the past century. In Colombia, public distinction was made
between mestizos (product of European and indian people intermarriage), mulatos
(product of European and black people intermarriage) and zambos (product of indian
and black people intermarriage). Notice the capital ‘E’. Needless to say, those who
could not claim European blood had lower status than those who could.

There was a pause in ethnological research in NWA that only began again in the middle
of the 20the century when Reichel-Dolmatoff made an international call for the study of
the Colombian Amazon. Since then the work has been intense. It is impossible to give
an account of all these works and that is not my objective. What is interesting is the

100
For the contemporary discussion in Anthropology concerning “ecological determinism” and
environment as limiting factor of Amazon population growth see Carneiro 1995: 45-70 and Denevan
2001: 116-32.

122
change of perspective and the intellectual context that allows the creation and further re-
definition of ethnosciences.

With respect to economic botany, later named ethnobotany, the main move after Spruce
was made by the studies of curare, the hunting arrow poison used by the Amazonian
indians. In 1800 Humboldt had reported the use of Strychnos species as the source of
curare. However there were reports of the use of Chondodendron (Davis 1998: 205-6).
In 1942 a paper on the use of d-tubocurarine (from curare) assured that its use would
allow the reduction of anaesthesia during surgeries (Griffith and Johnson 1942).
However, there was still confusion with respect to the botanical source. In 1944, Biocca,
an Italian biologist that visited the Vaupés, Papurí and Tiquié and was interested in
physical anthropology, made a comprehensive study of curare among the Makú (Zerries
1995).

The study of curare inaugurated a series of discoveries important for medical practices.
It motivated R.E. Schultes who in 1942 travelled to Putumayo. He would work in NWA
until 1953 and the ethnobotany of this region is related to his work
101
. In the life and
work of Schultes we can find the legacy of the Victorians and at the same time the
complete rupture with the perspective of the other as inferior.

From the Victorians Schultes acquired his commitment to scientific work and the
willingness to convert knowledge into practice. Spruce helped the British Empire to
secure chinchona, Schultes was hired by the Rubber Development Corporation to
secure the vital prime matter for the military industry during the second world war
(Prance 2001).

Schultes claimed to be a royalist, always voting for Queen Elizabeth II (Davis 1998:
10). However, he was not a conservative character, but rather similar in his political
perspective to Thoreau
102
, who, like him gave great importance to individual choice.
Schultes was of the opinion that the use of drugs, sexual orientation, abortion and
freedom of religion should be a personal choice and not imposed by State policy.


101
The travels of Schultes through Northwest Amazonia had been described by Davis in book often cited
here: One river: Science, Adventure and Hallucinogenics in the Amazon.
102
Coincidentally, Thoreau, like his friend and colleague Emerson were from Massachusetts and educated
at Harvard, like Schultes. Curiously, the Unitarian Church of Boston where Emerson preached until 1832
helped Schultes’ family (mother’s side) when they arrived to Boston from the Midlands in the 1860s.

123
Schultes definition of ethnobotany remained pretty much the same throughout his life:
“The study of the uses, technological manipulation, classification, indigenous
nomenclature, agricultural systems, magico-religious concepts, conservation techniques and
general sociological importance of the flora in primitive or pre-literate societies” (Schultes
1992a, 1994a).

His criteria for differentiating ethnobotany and economic botany remained linked to
evolutionism: while the former was related to the use of plants in primitive societies, the
later was the “study of plants used in advanced agroindustrial societies” (Schultes and
von Reis 1995: 11).

Criticism of this definition was made in the Ciba Foundation Symposium of 1994. On
that occasion Balée pointed out that ethnobotany should not be limited to a certain kind
of society and that the question should be whether or not indigenous knowledge and
traditional medicine should be recognised as scientific. Posey went as far as stating that
the concept of ethnobotany was an oxymoron, as plants for indigenous peoples are not a
separated subject of study. Posey argued for a reintegration of sciences in which plants
are seen in the context of the environment.

But if Schultes’ definition of ethnobotany was stuck in 18
th
century evolutionism, his
character was certainly not. He was constantly advocating partnerships between
scientists and indigenous peoples for environmental management and biodiversity
conservation (Schultes 1991, 1992a, 1992b, 1994a, 1994b; Schultes and von Reis
1995). As Davis wrote:
“Though trained at the finest botanical institution in America, after a month in the Amazon
Schultes felt increasingly like a novice. The Indians new so much more…he had learned that
in unveiling the indigenous knowledge, his task was not merely to identify new sources of
wealth but rather to understand a new vision of life itself…” (1998: 212).

Schultes never regarded indigenous peoples as inferior and was horrified when he found
out about the atrocities committed against NWA indians
103
. I believe that his reference
to primitive societies and indians had no demeaning intention. And even though it may
offend some ears nowadays, these references may even reflect the indigenous peoples’
willingness to be recognised as different.

Through ethnobotany Schultes initiated partnership between IK and WS. That is an
achievement that allowed ethnoscientists to integrate and transform definitions. This

103
He even rejected an official invitation of the Brazilian authorities to visit the opera house in Manaus,
stating that it was built on indian blood (Davis 1998: 346).

124
move had important political consequences, formalising new values for development
contact processes. Schultes repeatedly advocated the protection of indigenous
territories, feared for the loss of IK through acculturation and proposed international
pressure on governments that supported developmental programmes, which involved
the invasion of indigenous territories (Schultes and von Reis 1995).

The problem of contact, the problem of acculturation, the feelings of contamination and
cultural loss may seem odd in the context of 21
st
century celebrations of hybridisation
(or mestizaje) but these have been core subjects for the ethnosciences. Lévi-Strauss
wrote:
“I would not like you to think that this [cultural differences] itself is harmful or that these
differences should be overcome. As a matter of fact, differences are extremely fecund. It is
only through difference that progress has been made. What threatens us right now is
probably what we may call over-communication –that is the tendency to know exactly in
one point of the world what is going on in all other parts of the world. In order for a culture
to be really itself and to produce something, the culture and its members must be convinced
of their originality and even, to some extent, of their superiority over others; it is only under
conditions of under-communication that it can produce anything. We are now threatened
with the prospect of our being only consumers, able to consume anything from any point in
the world and from every culture, but of loosing all originality.” (Lévi-Strauss 2001(1977):
15-6).

From the above paragraph I want to highlight two related issues that concern the
appreciation of globalisation today. The first has been pointed out by Benjamin in 1955:
the actions of western society that secularise objects are “the mark of a perception
whose ‘sense of the universal equality of things’ has increased to such a degree that it
extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction” (Benjamin 1999: 207).
The originality of indigenous artwork is displaced at the same time that its sacredness is
put into question or destroyed by contact. This has important political implications. I
have no doubt that this is the reason behind the disappearance of indigenous dances
with masks in the Brazilian Vaupés and the resistance exercised by shamans and
chanters refusing any filming or photography inside the malocas in Colombian NWA.

The second thing had previously been presented by Lévi-Strauss as an unavoidable
contradiction: without communication the wealth and significance of diverse societies
would not be recognised, with communication they will be corrupted (Lévi-Strauss
1973: 43). When the dilemma is translated into a personal level the implications are
distressing. Ethnosientists of today are not scared of hybridisation: cultural change is an
adaptive tool. However, different kinds of intervention lead to different results some of
which could be very damaging in terms of health security, environmental impact and

125
human rights. I shall come back to this point later, however it is worth mentioning that
Levi-Strauss pointed out that through studying – I would say localising – the others,
anthropologists detach themselves from their own society (Lévi-Strauss 1973: 392).

The ideas of hybridisation and contamination, its contradictory outcomes and their
perception as risks and values has prompted ethnoscientists to act cautiously when
dealing with peoples that resist homogenising treatment. A reformulation of this
problematic can be made in a new terminology: Are we activists or colonialists? How
should we share and transmit information? Does our work reflect the interest of
mainstream society or does it serve the interest of the people we work with and work
for?

6.3 Part two: The Path Towards a ‘Political Ecology’ of Northwest Amazonia

6.3.1 ‘Modern democracy’ in the Colombian Amazon
This story is that of the insertion of democratic idealism in late 20th century Colombian
Amazonia. In 1991 a constitutional reform took place in Colombia. The main political
aim of this reform was to rescue the country from political instability and to establish it
as a modern state within the international context.

It was an ambitious plan. The former 1886 constitution had saved the country from
disintegration, an ongoing process since independence from Spain in 1820. In a very
pragmatic view of governance, the President R. Nuñez attempted a constitutional reform
that would centralise state power (1886). This strategy proved to be effective in
preventing the complete dissolution of the country. However, it could not stop the USA
instigating and supporting the independence of Panamá. The USA needed to secure
control over the Panama Canal. Panamá was isolated and the politics of centralism
helped independence campaigners to show the arrogance of Bogotá with respect to the
region. Panamá achieved independence from Colombia in 1903.

20th Century Colombia was impregnated with conflict, just as much as it was during the
previous century. During the 1950s the country lived one of the bloodiest wars in Latin
America: La Violencia – violence in capital letters. To overcome the conflict, the
leaders of the two political parties made an agreement to share the control of State
institutions. The Civil Service was expanded and enrichment through bureaucratic

126
placement was the common policy during the years of the Frente Nacional, National
Front, which was the name given to the arrangement. The agreement did not please
everybody and especially disappointed rural fighters that felt defeated by the aristocratic
leaders. This led to the formation of the guerrilla movements, which more or less
followed a communist ideology. They grew during the 1960s and they remain until
today, although for the majority of Colombians it is obvious that they left their
revolutionary ideology behind long ago.

In the 1970s drug trafficking had little influence in the economy and politics of
Colombia but a decade later it was everywhere. Conflicts and arrangements between
guerrilla groups and drug capos were not unusual and State power became very weak.
Everything was getting out of control for the political elite. By the end of the 1980s, it
was obvious that the judicial system should be empowered. A peace process with the
M-19, a guerrilla group with public support, was on the way, but reforms had to be
made to allow political participation. A similar process would happen with the EPL,
Popular Liberation Army, that would be renamed the Hope, Peace and Freedom party,
conserving the acronym with the Spanish nouns: Esperanza, Paz y Libertad. The
subsequent assassination of most of the EPL politicians and of important leaders of the
M-19, among them Pizarro, a presidential campaigner, demonstrates the lack of State
control over the military apparatus. This fact remains a motive of distrust, impeding
peace negotiations today.

The 1991 constitutional reform attempted to overcome what was by then one of the
main obstacles for the peace process and political institutional development: centralism.
The other major issues were more or less related to this centralism: the absence of third
parties and the complete lack of representation of diverse members of society. Prior to
1991 the political elite had a continuum of repressive regimes ruled under the
'exceptional state' provisions. Something had to be done to stop such politics.

One of the main concerns of the public was the corruption of the parliament, which
made impossible the effective use of State resources for the regions. Curiously, the
regimens of repression functioning under the 'exceptional state' provisions were justified
with the slogan of "saving the oldest democracy of Latin America". Not coincidentally
the same justification remains in use today. Such were the words used by Pastrana and
Clinton, when launching ‘Plan Colombia’, the most recent drug production repression

127
regime implanted in Colombia and that is now being extended to the rest of South-
America (Forero and Woodgate 2002).

The new constitution initiated two linked processes, territorial ordering and political
reform. After 1991, constituencies were able to elect their own representatives locally,
at departmental and municipal levels. More important "territorial transfers", resources
granted by the Nation, were to be managed regionally, without waiting for the central
government’s long bureaucratic process of definition and approval. The constitution
created a temporary commission on territorial ordering that would present a proposal for
the Congress to deliver the law of territorial ordering. This has not yet happened.
Instead a reform to the regime of territorial transfers was approved by congress in
2001
104
.

The Constitutional reform of 1991 eliminated the so-called "parliamentary aids" that
were use by congressmen to extend their clientele. It also eliminated supplemental
congressmen, which had been used for the same purposes of clientele enlargement.
However, these practices continued under different schemes. The members of the
constitutional assembly that reformed the Constitution were unable to participate in the
first election for Congress after the reform, giving space for traditional corrupted
politicians to regain political power. (Which is not the same as saying that all
Parliamentary members were or are corrupted). Since then, several attempts have been
made to reform the Congress, but all of them have failed. In summary both the political
reform and the territorial ordering process are incomplete and disenchantment with the
new constitution is high as shown in the statistics of El Tiempo, one of the main
newspapers of Colombia (El Tiempo 2001, 4th of July).

Whatever the public’s impression of the effects of the constitutional reform, it did have
a major impact in the political, economic and judicial developments of Colombia. The
Nation’s multilinguism and multiculturalism were elevated to fundamental principles,
empowering minorities and allowing their participation: something that had been denied
until then. The installation of a prosecution system fortified the judicial system,
although it is not yet fully operational. Another impacting reform was the creation of a
tutelary right that allows any citizen judicial protection of his/her fundamental rights,

128
something that has revolutionised the political order in Colombia. Political participation
has also increased as a direct result of the development of the right to freedom of
information and the so-called popular actions procedures that were instituted by the
Constitution.

Implementation of the Constitution started in 1992 and COAMA, (Network of NGOs
working for the consolidation of Colombian Amazonia) began working directly in the
Apaporis region in 1993. It is not strange that the actions of these NGOs were in tune
with the constitutional reforms. The legal team of the GAIA Foundation, (one of
COAMA’s NGO network) has organised workshops of Constitutional pedagogy, aimed
at informing Amazonian indigenous people of their rights and duties in accordance with
the new constitution. Indigenous peoples soon realised that there was new space for
participation. If the Resguardos were placed on an equal footing with municipalities, as
they were, then how could they gain access to the territorial transfers and use these
resources for their own benefit? The answer was simple but involved complex
transformations: the Resguardos would have to present projects in the same way
municipalities did, the money would then be transferred to the office of the Governor,
which in turn would give it to the legal representatives of each Resguardo.

6.3.2 Complexities and transformations
In Colombia there are eighty-four different ethnic groups whose Resguardos cover
thirty million hectares. However, proportionally to the national population, indigenous
peoples account for less than 5%. Even when indigenous peoples were represented in
the Constitutional assembly, they were represented as a minority. The interests,
aspirations and willingness of each ethnic group had to be ascribed to those of the
generic minority of ‘indigenous peoples’. In Amazonia, some indigenous leaders have
accepted the idea that a political reform has been occurring among the white people, but
they do not feel part of that process and have not foreseen the impact of these reforms in
Amazonia. In fact, during the first visit of the COAMA/GAIA lawyer to the Apaporis
region he was actually impressed by the remoteness of the area. Indigenous leaders were
concerned with the local territorial order but had no idea of the broader changes going
on in the region or the country as a whole.

104
The new reform was due to the imminent collapse of the public finances, a diagnosis of the IMF. It
was evident that local corruption had replaced central corruption and the State resources continued to be
dilapidated.

129

GAIA foundation was already working in the neighbouring areas of Mirití and Caquetá.
This small NGO was organised into teams. There was the legal team, a field workers’
team formed mostly by anthropologists, and an administrative team. The author joined
COAMA/GAIA in 1994, which allowed him to follow the evolution of the COAMA
and the work of the GAIA Foundation in the Apaporis. When they were not in the field,
the team workers met every Monday morning in a small office in Bogotá to evaluate
and plan activities. We all had little benches and we would use mambe (coca powder)
and tobacco, just like in the field. The discussions were always animated, sometimes
controversial, but always developed in a friendly environment, all of which would
encourage creativity and criticism.

From my first visit to the Apaporis I had formed a strong opinion about the need for
GAIA to get involved in the region. The recognised authorities of each community were
called captains and they were recognised maloqueros (communal house chiefs) and
shamans. Their main concern was the expansion of the Resguardo lands and the
acquisition of resources for perceived developmental needs. Most of the people have a
knowledge of Spanish but they mainly speak two Tukano languages: Tanimuka and
Makuna
105
. There were very few people with the capacity to write or read in Spanish,
but interest in cultural relations and trade was high.

In Bogotá discussions about the route to follow in Apaporis were varied. The legal team
was of the opinion that the methodology of workshops on constitutional pedagogy that
had been developed in previous years should be extended to Apaporis. The fieldwork
team agreed but insisted on the need to incorporate indigenous idioms of territoriality
within these workshops. We thought this would facilitate indigenous people’s
understanding of how legislation could be used as an instrument for the implementation
of indigenous territorial and developmental aims. The fieldwork team, of which I was a
member, pointed out the risks involved in such procedures and was ambivalent about
the benefit of instructing indigenous peoples in the presentation of projects to be
financed by the State. It was one thing to inform people about the development of their
rights, yet although related, it was quite another thing to operationalise the
developmental project of the State.

105
The Arawak speaking Cabiyarí and the Yujup-Makú were to be integrated later to the incipient
indigenous organisation of the Apaporis area.

130

The legal team pointed out that if the NGOs did not serve the assignment of State
resources that had been designated for indigenous territories, these resources would
probably be appropriated by regional bureaucracies. Time proved the legal team to be
right, when the Governor of Amazonas of the time went to jail for illegally
appropriating the funds of the State.

One of the risks was that the traditional authorities could be displaced by new leaders,
making communities vulnerable to extractive economic enterprises. Another risk was
that by helping indigenous peoples in the development of administrative procedures, the
NGOs would end up helping the integration process that aimed to homogenise all ethnic
groups and treat them as the generic ‘indigenous people’, something indigenous groups
have resisted and that the captains were explicitly rejecting. But the alternative of
turning a blind eye and quietly allowing regional politicians to appropriate resources
was an equally repugnant idea.

6.3.3 Getting the job done
How could the risks be minimised, how could we get the message across, how could we
overcome local suspicions and promote intercultural teamwork? I undertook a census in
the Apaporis and started to inquire among local inhabitants as to how they thought they
could achieve what they wanted. I noticed that legal protection for indigenous lands was
a preoccupation of the captains. Although women gave their opinions, they were
presented by the head of the family, usually a mature man or an elder responsible for the
household. The family head always acknowledged that responsibility for the future of
the communities was in the hands of captains and that they would support their
decisions. It was obvious that the resistance movement was led by the captains and that
this was possible through respect for the hierarchical system.

However, when I confronted these heads of houses and malocas they would always
express clearly their opinion and although expressing support for their captains they
often criticised some of their actions, especially if they were of another clan or group.
Women’s concerns usually referred to the lack of money and the difficulties of trade
with white people that provided them with basic industrial tools. Parents signalled the
need to build schools as a way to give instruction to children, but also as symbols of
community development.

131

So far, to respond to the challenge of money they were doing two things: minor trade
with white people when agricultural products, fish, basketry and other artwork were
sought by town traders. This implied travelling to white people’s towns. The second
thing derived from the first, during the trips white people would offer them temporary
jobs: as fishers, builders, carriers or labourers. Although the trips were organised by
men, women sometimes got an opportunity to travel. Women would be offered jobs as
servants, child minders, and as tenders of bars and taverns. While the elders perceived
these patterns as a threat to indigenous identity and reproduction, youngsters perceived
the offers as an opportunity for adventure and development.

The information gathered was essential. In the GAIA foundation we had developed a
picture of people’s desires, capabilities and responses to their challenges. But to
motivate indigenous organisation towards a unification of criteria that would provide
them with effective solutions, we had to overcome the problem of suspicion towards
Colombians. This information was gathered in a systematic way, visiting each family of
the Resguardo Yaigojé
106
. I got involved in the day-to-day activities. In the manner of
engaged anthropology I shared all possible cultural spaces with the people of Apaporis,
taking part in all the sacred and profane enterprises that I was allowed to. I managed to
know by name all the inhabitants of the Resguardo Yaigojé reserve and slowly gained
their confidence.

A great deal of time was spent in the mambeadero (male ritual place), with local people
dedicated to the preparation and performance of seasonal rituals, the big dances. From
observing this situation I came up with a methodology that allowed us (indigenous
peoples and me) to discuss concepts such as needs, satisfiers, planning, projects,
management and others.

A group of families or, in the case of small communities all of them, would gather
together in the school or the maloca (communal house) during the day. I would
illustrate how the realisation of a dance was, from an outsider’s perspective, the
planning and realisation of a huge project. Through accomplishing what was planned,

106
The fieldwork of the GAIA foundation team was spread all over Caquetá and Amazonas departments
but the only person of the foundation working in the Apaporis region was the author. Two years later,
after structural reform, GAIA would hire more specialists to form a team which will work mainly in the
Apaporis; during 1996 the author was co-ordinating that team.

132
they would obtain the satisfaction to several needs. The dialogue would usually take the
whole day, introducing concepts like objectives, aims, methodology, results, etc.
Usually youngsters, who had been to Catholic Schools, served as translators and all
those who knew how to write would take notes, including some young women.

During the night men would take up the conversation in the mambeadero and long
philosophical discussions considered the white way of thinking, the meaning of the
concepts that had been introduced and how they could be translated into indigenous
idioms. By the initiative of everybody, meetings were held to decide on local priorities
and how the resources that the State had granted could be invested. Three main things
came up: schools, health centres and stores.

6.3.4 The specialists: the changing of ‘power structure’
Captains asked the GAIA foundation for the process that had been initiated to be
developed. Workshops were to be organised to fill out and return the project forms
issued by the State in order to assign funds for each project designed in the Resguardo.

I was confronted with a dilemma. I did not believe that the forms issued by the State
were adequate. I did not agree with the project of integrating indigenous people by
forcing them to participate in the western administrative style. I even thought it
unconstitutional, as indigenous peoples were granted the right to exercise authority in
the Resguardos following traditional protocols. I did not think it politically correct to
talk about elections (legal representative were supposed to be elected) to people that
were always reaffirming their identity by preserving their own social and political
traditions. They were assuring me that each person in their society could develop
integrally without negating the function he was given since birth. Some of them were to
be maloqueros, managers of the people, others shamans, some chanters, some
specialists in relations with other groups and the outside. Women had a place with their
husbands and between the two they would assure the continuance of cultural knowledge
and the reproduction of society.

On the other hand, communities had expectations, the Colombian Government and the
white men were finally acknowledging indigenous needs and offering them the
opportunity to manage resources. Indigenous peoples were not minors under the law
anymore. They could build their own schools and no longer had to attend Catholic

133
institutions, they could learn to make transactions and receive fairer treatment in trade.
Young people would become teachers, nurses and traders, and new perspectives would
open up for generations to come. The hope for much fertile intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic
relationships was there. I chose to become involved.

Only people with knowledge of writing and maths could collaborate in the actual filling
of forms. Although the captain and some or all of the female and male adults attended
the workshops, it was obvious from the beginning that a new group of people was
gaining control over important societal matters. Years later, in 1996, when the
indigenous organisation of the Apaporis was fully operational, this group of people,
initially called secretaries, was renamed leaders. Already in 1995 the majority of the
resources of the State were used in the payment of salary to teachers, health promoters
and secretaries of the organisation.

Tensions between the new indian bureaucracy and the traditional leaders was expressed
in the meetings of the organisation that I witnessed until my departure in 1998
107
.
Besides that, indigenous leaders were not exempt from learning about non-sanctum
political manoeuvres. Taking into account that the group of leaders came from different
groups (the Tukano: Makuna, Letuama, Tanimuka, Yahuna; the Arawak: Kabiyarí and
the distinctiveYujup-Makú) and that within each group there are different clans, some
of which have long lasting rivalries, it is not difficult to predict ruptures in the
organisation.

This new elite of leaders cannot compete with chanters, maloqueros or shamans, as far
as knowledge and political prestige is concerned, but their status as distributors of
resources and managers of trade with non-indigenous peoples is unquestionable. As
such they constitute new models for the new indigenous generations. This has had an
important impact on power relations within indigenous society, one that should be
followed. I understand that since my departure from the Apaporis in 1998 the GAIA
foundation has been working mainly with this group of leaders.

Interestingly, the GAIA foundation has also undergone change during this time. The
characteristics of a small place, where friends would gather together to discuss, plan and


107
The same tension between leaders and elders has been reported to happen in ACAIPI, the indigenous
organisation of the neighbouring Resguardo Pirá-Paraná (Hugh-Jones 1997).

134
evaluate was no longer possible. As GAIA tripled in size, bureaucracy enlarged and
there were always outgoing reports being made, meetings with representatives of other
NGOs, governmental officers, international donors and evaluators. Perhaps it was
inevitable that the creative atmosphere would be reduced with the creation of a more
hierarchical structure, making more difficult the maintenance of the high spirits and
enthusiasm that characterised the early stages of the work.

6.3.5 Varied outcomes
From the above discussion it may seem that the whole result of this movement of the
other, this attempt to move indigenous peoples into a democratic western style of
management, was negative. That is not the case. When the author left the Apaporis the
schools, health centres and stores were functioning. Although they may seem odd to
western teachers, health specialists and managers, indigenous peoples have developed
their own style and the presence and continuity of their new institutions constitutes a
motive of pride.

On the other hand, the fora, meetings and assemblies organised in the Apaporis region
allowed indigenous peoples to discuss development plans and managerial styles at a
regional scale and with a wider scope. And although the incipient organisation is
weakened by the attack of unscrupulous characters that represent legal (conservation
organisations, religious institutions, governmental officers) and illegal (guerrillas)
groups, it also provides a good opportunity for the exercise of politics in 21
st
century
Colombia.

It is true that some strong differences between ethnic groups that once provided a sense
of belonging now seem to be disappearing. But originality or distinctiveness is now
located within a larger group, which means that it is not lost. In fact, the regional and
national fora now recognise a distinctive voice from the local organisations of
Amazonia, ACIYA among them.

6.4 Conclusions to Chapter Six
Are we researchers – ethnoscientists activists or colonisers? Both and neither. In
contrast with the early explorers and ethnographers our values are not linked to
evolutionism, but our commitment to systematic enquiry remains. In contrast to early
ethnoscientists we no longer consider as valid a distinction between economic botany

135
and ethnobotany, we pay attention to the relationship between peoples and plants. And
it is more evident that all branches of the ethnosciences are integrated and that
interdisciplinary research is vital for the construction of political ecology.

It may be true that ethnosciences were shaped by imperialistic motives, and it may be
true that anthropology came about from a feeling of guilt in western society. But it is
also true that ethnosciences and anthropology provide a space of interaction in which
the ‘other/ness’ and ‘we’ may redefine ourselves together. Indigenous peoples have
appropriated this space as much as we have and examples of partnership are taking
place. The ethic we have, which helped the formulation of principles of environmental
management, allows us to gather information that contributes to the development of all
places and specially, of those societies where most of this information is generated.

Of course there are still imperialistic campaigns going on at global scale, and of course
there are scientists, ethno- or not, environmental managers even, who eagerly
collaborate with these campaigns, but that is inevitable within the actual state of global
economic relations
108
. This fact should not make us afraid of intervention among the
less contacted indigenous peoples of the world. It was Leví-Strauss’ view that “the
society we belong to is the only society we are in a position to transform without risk of
destroying it” (Lévi-Strauss 1973: 392). But those were times when cultural purity was
still conceived of.

I am not for the celebration neither the condemnation of globalisation. Globalisation is
here. The lives of indigenous peoples and the conservation of the territories where they
live and develop are not in their hands. It is our responsibility to intervene in the
political processes that determine the future of Amazonia and its people. If such
intervention is not attached to some principles of environmental management such as
those that motivated the realisation of this chapter, then I speculate that such
intervention would be chaotic and the risks would become a tragedy.

Science-based policy is not neutral; there is a historical context from which the
principles of environmental management arose. Cultural purity and political objectivity


108
“Even when the new constitution recognises and protects cultural and biological diversity, the market
dynamics continue to define developmental and biodiversity politics in the country –and in the rest of the
world (Martinez Alier 1996)” (Escobar 1999b: 197).

136
are out of space statements and untenable concepts. What we should search for is fair
play. Inasmuch as there is a dialectic relationship between people and the environment,
there is one among cultural interactions in the contemporary world. To be fair is not to
be objective, but to clarify where one stands: where we are coming from. The political
debate on the future of Amazonia would gain much if each political actor could and
would express their own subjectivity clearly and without hesitation.

137
CHAPTER 7: SKETCHES FROM INSIDE
7.1 Introduction
109

It has been argued in previous chapters, that political reform and cultural adaptations
among indigenous peoples of NWA carry with them an increase in environmental risk.
The aim of this chapter is to encourage the reader to reflect on the impact of new
technologies in indigenous Amazonian communities, through a series of vignettes of
cultural responses to the introduction of a video camera introduced into a NWA
indigenous village in the 1990s. These sketches of cultural responses should be
understood as ‘sketches from inside’.

A brief and more generalised discussion of the impact of technology transfer into the
Amazon region will precede the sketches. Following this I shall describe the context in
which the events portrayed by the vignettes take place. Clearly, this reflects my own
particular perspective on the issue at hand, a process similar to that which a
photographer follows when s/he frames something. It would be absurd to claim that the
framing is unintentional. In the same way the sketches presented here are situated in a
context, which it is impossible to frame impartially. Having said this, the author wishes
to interfere no further and expects the spectator/reader to elaborate on his/her own.

7.2 On Technological Gadgets and Cultural Contact
It is has been a tendency to picture Amazonian indians as subjects of technological
imposition, but this has to be examined with care
110
. Although indigenous peoples’ lives
have been altered by the introduction of foreign technologies, in the majority of cases, it
cannot be argued that they have tried to avoid such introductions. On numerous
occasions indigenous peoples have sought out new technologies for adaptation
111
and
incorporation into their daily lives.

This adoption and adaptation of technology does not only imply changes in the use of
resources and in the use of energy, but also in the cultural understanding of the world.
The cultural meanings associated or created when adapting technology are not easy to

109
I wish to thank J. Meurkens and R. Harlow for their constructive criticism of the draft of this chapter.
Their input was unvaluable.
110
S. Hugh-Jones has made a ‘biography of things’ among the Tukano of the Pirá-Paraná in NWA. He
has suggested that even in the case of debt-peonage systems, the exchange of manufactured goods should
not be read as pure cultural imposition (Hugh-Jones 1992).
111
In this thesis adaptation refers to both, the adaptation of technology to cultural norms and the
adaptation of culture to new technologies. Indeed the view taken here is that both processes of adaptation
imply the other.

138
understand. It could be said that science and technology have been influenced by
indigenous knowledge at the same time as indigenous identities have been transformed
by the adaptation/adoption of foreign technology. Both facts, the indigenous
development of cultural semantics for technological adaptation/adoption and the
delusion of the conceptual divide between indigenous knowledge and western sciences
make it difficult to talk about technological imposition, as explained in the previous
chapter.

The first European-developed technological gadget that revolutionised Amazonia was
the metal axe. Amazonia was home to many millions of people before European
colonisation
112
and it has been suggested that short cropping/long-fallow agriculture
may be an adaptation to post-Colombian conditions and the adoption of the metal axe
rather than the usual practice (Denevan 2001). Until the 1960s it was common to think
of shifting agriculture as a rather rudimentary practice. Now we know that such
practices are very complex and dynamic. Posey, for example, has described the
sophisticated management of the Kayapo gardens and pathways (Posey 1982, 1985);
while similarly complex systems have been described for the Arawakan speaking
Yukuna (Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996a, 1996b) and the Tukano speaking
Barasano, Makuna and Tanimuka (Århem 1998; Forero 1999; Hugh-Jones, C. 1979).

Another eagerly adopted technology – firearms – altered practices of fishing and
hunting in ways that are possible to measure, although not easily. However, if it were
possible at all, it would be much more difficult to characterise or qualify the magico-
religious transformations surrounding agroecosystem management. It may be that we
are left only with glimpses or sketches to elaborate.

The pharmacopoeia of Northwest Amazonian indians is probably the largest in the
world. The use of hallucinogenic plants in shamanistic and profane activities has been
reported widely (Lindgren 1995; Schultes and Hoffmann 1980; Schultes and Raffauf
1992). The use of plants for preparation of poisons for use in fishing and hunting, and in
the past for warfare, is considerable. However, it is still uncertain how much of the
knowledge of today’s Amazonian indians has been inherited and is truly ‘indigenous’
and how much has been developed since European contact. It has been suggested that

112
Denevan has suggested that five to six million is a conservative figure (Denevan 2001: 57).

139
the use of medicinal plants might be the product of experimentation following to the
appearance of various diseases after European contact (Davis and Yost 1983).

Thus, the adoption of, and adaptation to, technology has important implications for
indigenous cultural reproduction. However it would not be wise to argue that this
transformation is the product of imposition. Indigenous people are not merely receptors
but active agents in these processes. This is not to deny processes of enslavement,
cultural persecution, genocide and governmental attempts to incorporate indigenous
peoples by eliminating their identities. But to complete the picture it should be
acknowledged that indigenous people’s reaction with respect to these despotic practices
varied from confrontation and resistance to active co-operation. It all depended on
individual ethnic group’s scope of power, the individual’s position within a particular
indigenous group, the possibilities of obtaining material rewards and the chances that
alliances have brought or denied for cultural survival.

7.3 Filming Project, my Framing
In 1996 Small World (SW), a Dutch foundation that had previously visited the area,
returned to the Apaporis region of NWA. The objectives of SW were to train the locals
in the use of video cameras as instruments of the indigenous people’s project to secure
territorial rights in NWA. The ‘captains’ of ACIYA were dubious about a project that
involved filming. Shamans immediately pointed out the risk involved in filming sacred
places and indigenous dances, which was considered to be sacrilegious. However, other
people were interested in what the Dutch had to offer. Were indigenous peoples going
to be paid for this? What could they ask for in return if permission to visit were granted
to SW? At that time, as on previous similar occasions, there were those who felt
threatened by the proposed introduction of a new technological gadget; those who were
anxious to experiment, learn from the project by participating in it; those who wanted to
trade and if possible to deceive the foreigners; those ambiguous about it; and those who
were indifferent. And, as usual, there was no agreement about what to do.

When the co-ordinator of the project went to formalise an agreement with ACIYA, he
had already been asked to bring sportswear, footballs, some petrol and other things for
the forthcoming sports events that were to take place in the Pirá-Paraná Resguardo. This
was in return for his passage up the river; they planned to ask for more things if he

140
wanted to remain in the Resguardo. Both suspiciousness about the use of the video
camera and expectation of trade possibilities remained high.

The acceptance of the representative of SW in La Playa, the Tanimuka community of
the Yaigojé Resguardo was not well received by some of the other captains. However,
Captain Rondón had agreed and the integrity of the Tanimuka leader was never put into
question. His previous work with ACIYA had been fundamental in the legal process
that resulted in the tribunal ruling that forced the Governor of Vaupés Department to
withdraw from Yuisi, a place considered sacred for the Tukano. The previous meeting
of ACIYA in La Playa had been excellent and Captain Rondón’s achievements had
been recognised by Abadio Green, the then President of the Colombian National
Indigenous Organisation (ONIC).

Personally, I had few chances to talk about the project with the SW foundation
representative, Mr Meurkens. From the few times we had met it was obvious to me that
he was making an effort not only with Spanish and Tanimuka but also to understand
cultural meanings. Mr Meurkens and his family went on to settle in La Playa for a few
months, while training was provided and a documentary was made
113
. I had the
opportunity to see the documentary and although I enjoyed it very much, my purpose
here is not to portray myself as a film critic. The interest is in some sketches, not from
the film itself, but of what went on in the community, the Resguardo and indigenous
politics during the time that the video technology was being introduced.

The secretary of the Captain of La Playa, Gilberto Tanimuka, received and helped the
Meurkens in every way possible. Gilberto, besides being Captain Rondón’s secretary,
was also the co-ordinator of the communal store, a project that was supported by the
GAIA foundation. Some other people in the community had received training in
accounting, a project that involved all literate members of the community. Although it
was GAIA’s and the author’s view that women could play a relevant roll in store
management, it was the decision of the Captain Rondón that Gilberto should be the only
one responsible for this function in La Playa
114
. Other projects of the Tanimuka

113
Once Mr. Maurken received approval from the people of La Playa, he brought his wife and children to
the Apaporis and the documentary “Lejos” (far away) shows their journey and experiences among the
Tanimuka peoples.



141
community involved managing tool storage. Roberto
115
was in charge of that, but as he
was illiterate Gilberto had to help him. Additionally, Gilberto was willing to get
involved in the development of a paper-making project. The other projects were a
school co-ordinated by Jaime Tanimuka, and the Health post co-ordinated by Jaime’s
brother, Octavio.

Although Captain Rondón was trying to put different people
116
in charge of different
things, so every family could benefit from salaries and trade with outsiders involved in
these initiatives, Gilberto was actively involved in most of these initiatives. The fact that
he was also working with the Dutch increased envy among other members of the
community. Even his brother, Eugenio used to complain about Gilberto monopolising
trade and the participation in projects. One year after the Maurkens had left there were
still complaints, although I have no knowledge of these concerns being raised while the
Maurkens were in residence.

The video-training project was an issue for discussion. While Gilberto was learning the
skills needed to use the camera, the editor and the videotape, there was no clarity about
what to film or what the purpose of it all was. I was of the opinion (which I mentioned
to leaders in La Playa and elsewhere in the Yaigojé Resguardo) that it could be used to
document the development of the organisation. Thinking along the same lines, Gilberto
wished to film the ACIYA meetings, where issues concerning Resguardo policy were
discussed and decided. While meetings were taking place, Gilberto wanted to film
doctors, priests, NGO workers and other foreigners in interaction with indigenous
peoples. But the Captains were unsure about the value of this and they eventually
rejected the idea of using the camera during ACIYA assemblies.


114
It should be understood that something like gender balance in the management of projects, in a society
where politics used to be ruled by men, was an odd concept. The GAIA foundation was making efforts to
include women in the co-ordination of the projects but until 1998 these efforts were not reflected in the
composition of indigenous organisations of the three Resguardos (Mirití, Yaigojé, Pirá-Paraná).
115
Roberto Tanimuka is the ‘maloquero’ of La Playa settlement.
116
Captians in Apaporis would always designate male heads of families as project co-ordinators, but in
La Paya there was an exception made for Ligia, a widow head of a family who had built a house by
herself and was accepted in the mambeadero (the men’s ritual lodge). She would participate in any
conversation with respect to management of projects in Playa and would not hesitate to criticise or advise
her nephew, Captain Rondón.

142
7.4 Sketches of the Use of a Video Camera in an Indigenous Settlement of NWA
7.4.1 Sketch one
The old man Luis Antonio ‘Guaraná’ and I were seated talking in the house of Octavio.
Jaime came to visit. The children were playing in front of the house, the women were
coming from the creek after washing the clothes and dishes, and the sun was beginning
to set. I asked Guaraná about a myth in which the great turtle fights against the captain
of falcons. I was interested in this story because it shows knowledge of Caquetá-Japurá
biogeography rather than just that of the Apaporis. The old man offered me mambe
117

before speaking.

Suddenly, Roberto’s children passed in front of us, they met with Jaime and Octavio’s
children and most of the women. All of them went to the ‘projection house’. The old
man complained saying that although he knew many things, nobody asked him any
more; all they wanted to do was to watch videos on TV. After Guaraná had recounted
the myth, Jaime said that this was no good. He said the sons of the Captain remained
with him away from the community and therefore they were learning [history and
shamanism] but what about the rest of the children? He wanted to discuss the issue with
Captain Rondón.

7.4.2 Sketch two
As people were reluctant to be filmed too frequently and Gilberto and his older son,
Plinio, wanted to improve their use of the camera, they turned their attention to the local
wildlife. Gilberto went filming into the forest. He went to a saltlick and framed the
tapirs. Between La Playa and Jirijirimo, there are several rapids and falls, one set of
rapids is called ‘the tricky one’, as it is apparently easy to surpass but once in the middle
it can easily turn a boat upside down. Nearby there is a well-known rocky outcrop in
which an anaconda lives. I have seen the animal two or three times in trips from La
Playa to Jirijirimo. Both the Tanimukas (Tukano) from La Playa and the Cabiyarí
(Arawak) from Union Jirijirimo consider the place sacred. Gilberto decided to film the
rapids, the anaconda’s resting place and the huge animal.

Gilberto showed the results of his filming in the projection house. Captain Rondón was
visiting and he wanted to watch the film. He stood up before the film concluded. He

143
asked Gilberto angrily what the hell he thought he was doing. Gilberto said that the
agreement was that he would not film any sacred ceremony and would always ask for
people’s permission to film them. So far he had respected the agreement, he replied.
The Captain reminded him that the place he had filmed was sacred and that he knew full
well that the anaconda was not just an animal: “Are you ignorant? Don’t you realise that
that is a person and the hole he goes to in the rapids is his maloca (house). Just as we
want respect for ourselves, so he does”. Gilberto said he would do what he was
supposed to do and that as far as he was concerned he had not done any wrong. “Fine”,
answered the shaman, “but if your sons get sick don’t come to me looking for a cure. If
that happens you will go in front of your videotape machine and ask it for help”. And
that was his last word on the matter of filming ‘animals’ in sacred places.
7.4.3 Sketch three
A functionary from the Institute for Agrarian Reform (INCORA) was supposed to make
a report on the feasibility of enlarging the Yaigojé Resguardo indigenous reserve. When
he went to Apaporis, he did not stop in any of the communities before La Playa, except
in Bocas del Pirá, where he asked the local Captain to sign a blank page to be filled by
him. Then, he went up to La Playa, and although Captain Rondón was not there and the
majority of the families were attending a ritual in the Mirití Resguardo (three days
away), he decided to go on with the procedures. The functionary misinformed the
people he talked to. The administrative procedures were not properly carried out, but the
visit was videoed almost in its entirety.

Months later, a tutelary writ was issued by Captain Rondón in respect of the claims of
the Resguardo’s indigenous people. After a costly legal procedure a tribunal decided
that the functionary had made mistakes in the process and a new visit was ordered. The
videotape in which the activities of the government functionary were recorded proved to
be essential for the resolution of the case.
7.4.4 Sketch four
118

Gilberto worked with a paper-making project advisor from the GAIA foundation,
filming the work of the community in the paper house in La Playa. Later, a GAIA
advisor asked Gilberto to take the camera to Bogotá and film the activities of the paper-

117
The fine powder obtained from mixing the toasted coca leaves (Erythroxylum coca) and the ashes of
Yarumo (Cecropia sciadophila). The Tanimuka flavour the mix with incense (Protium heptaphyllum).
118
I must let the reader know that I did not witness the events of sketch 4 and I have recreated them from
personal communications from two of the persons involved in the incidents.

144
making project there. It was planned that Gilberto could show the people of the
community how the paper was marketed at the arts and crafts fair in Bogotá. At the fair,
thieves stole the camera from one of the GAIA foundation advisors.

Inside the NGO there were doubts about the financial viability of replacing the camera.
As the video project was not one of theirs the expense could not be justified to their
founders. But even if they could find a way to buy it, it was suggested that a
replacement camera should be provided on the condition that a ruling for its use would
be made. A discussion took place on the uses of technological devices inside the
Resguardos. The paper project advisor from whom the camera was stolen purchased a
new one and gave it to Gilberto unconditionally.

145

CHAPTER 8: TECHNOLOGY IN NORTHWEST AMAZONIA.
VIEWS OF VIEWS: SUSTAINABILITY, ENVIRONMENTAL
MANAGEMENT AND TERRITORIAL ORDERING
119


Chapter Eight continues with the discussion initiated in the previous chapter,
concerning the intersection between indigenous technology adoption/adaptation and the
range of perspectives with respect to local communities’ use of technology in general.
An analysis will be carried out later in the chapter, first, however, the reader will have
the opportunity to examine the ‘views’ of outsiders with respect to the debate
surrounding sustainability, environmental management and territorial ordering.
Responses to an on-line survey concerning the above issues, together with my own
comments, will add to the discussion.

8.1 Aims
Initially there were two aims behind the construction of a website. One of was to
overcome impediments to my personal mobility and direct access
120
. ICT facilitated
communications with other interested people and helped solicit their views on
indigenous management of the forest and their opinions with respect to the process of
territorial ordering in Amazonia.

The other aim was to serve the process of opening up political opportunities for NWA’s
inhabitants. Grassroots organisations all around the globe were (and are) establishing
links through ICT. The indigenous peoples of Amazonia may attempt the same, and this
experience could, in the future, be an instrument of education. The introduction of such
technology among indigenous peoples, if possible, will have impacts, which will be
judged as positive or negative, depending of the political interests of the observer and
the moment of observation.

119
The author wishes to thank: Jim Connor and Mark Bennett of Imperial College, the former for his
advice on the use of Arcview-GIS and the latter for helping to write the cgi-script form for the website.
Thanks are also due to: Stuart Peters from the University of Surrey for training in Web-Page design;
Adriana Rico from Páginas.Net for valuable advice during the design process and Alvaro Ocampo for a
detailed critique of Kumoro.com before it went live. I also wish to thank the Board of Puerto Rastrojo
Foundation, which gave me permission to use their vegetation map as a base for the Yaigojé vegetation
map that appears on the web-site. Finally thanks to all the people that took the time to fill out the on-line
survey. Their contributions made this chapter possible.
120
Besides the FARC guerrillas’ eviction, limitations were also imposed by one of the scholarships the
author was granted.

146

It is argued here, that despite there being no indisputable positive or negative effects of
technology transfer, it would be contrary to indigenous people’s rights to self-
determination to prevent the promotion of ICT among them. We wish to question
conservative forces: if governments, corporations, NGOs and even international drug
dealers and terrorist groups are using ICT to fortify their political positions, why should
indigenous peoples be denied access to it? The access (or lack of it) of grassroots
organisations to ICT facilitates (or impedes) the development of their rights to be
informed (and educated) in accordance with the actual historical context of a globalising
corporate economy and cultural hybridisation.

For indigenous peoples, as well as for other ethnic minorities, financial resources to set
up ICT are extremely limited compared to those of corporations, governments and even
NGOs. The establishment of an ICT network for indigenous peoples’ organisations in
NWA remains a Utopia. But without a Utopian vision there is no goal for social
mobilisation; this is something that was underlined by responses to the on-line survey.

Fieldwork in NWA involved the author in the territorial ordering process, helping with
the formation of indigenous people’s organisations, and getting involved in
communities’ economic and educational projects. My work in NWA can thus be
characterised as participatory action research (PAR). One way of continuing to engage
in PAR without going back to the field was to set up a website, wait for an opportunity
to share my experience with the people of NWA and then to promote projects that
would allow them to take over the website and use it for their own projects
121
.


8.2 Deconstruction of an Internet Generated Discourse
Elsewhere the author has dealt with descriptions and deconstructions of discourses of
indigenous people, their institutions and a variety of other institutional actors, be they
NGOs, churches, national governments or international conservation bodies. This
process of deconstruction has included the author’s own work among indigenous
organisations and NGOs, which was one of the aims of Chapter Six.


121
At the time of writing (May 2002) the author was preparing to visit NWA at the invitation of
indigenous leaders, including a committee who wanted to discuss the role of ICT in education. The
outcome of that visit is sumarised in Chapter Eight.

147
I wish to explain the inclusion of governmental and non-governmental organisations
within the category ‘institutional’. There are great differences as well as important
coincidences in governmental actions and the work of NGOs in developing countries
due to the limited nature and poor quality of State-driven action in such nations. For
example in Colombia, COAMA, the largest NGO network in NWA, has been involved
in the political administrative reforms, and served as a consultant in matters of
education, health and sustainable production. Furthermore, COAMA staff accompanied
indigenous peoples in all these processes and without their intervention it is doubtful
that many of the indigenous political organisations of Amazonia would ever have
succeeded in their quest for legal recognition
122
.

NGOs and governmental institutions may pursue similar political aims and share
administrative structures. Inasmuch as small organisations are successful (and usually
this success is a result of strong personal commitment to a cause and good inter-
personal relationships among of all members of the organisation), they tend to obtain
more funds, which in turn forces them to become increasingly bureaucratic. As
organisations grow, individual members have fewer opportunities to get to know each
other personally and maintain an accordance of principles, aims and political means.
This is not to say that NGOs are condemned to be inefficient bureaucratic institutions,
although this is not uncommon among developing countries’ governmental institutions,
but it is important to draw attention to the risk. When resources are pumping in and
recruitment is growing there is more chance of becoming detached from grassroots
sensibilities with respect to issues and less chance of correctly interpreting local
developmental idioms.

8.3 Views of Indigenous Environmental Management

The design, production and publishing of a website on the development of a political
ecology for NWA, taking the Yaigojé Resguardo, as a study case, may seem a very
simple task with little impact. But it proved to be a very delicate matter that involved
exhausting work.

The production of a map of the Yaigojé Resguardo, (which was to be included on the
website) has been explained elsewhere, although it is worth mentioning something

122
See Forero, Laborde et al. 1998 and the interview with the director of COAMA Martín von
Hildebrand, in The Ecologist 2002 (Vol. 32 No.1-February).

148
about the methodology involved. The author accompanied shamans (who were selected
by indigenous leaders from the Apaporis) on several trips in which all the recognised
sacred places of the Apaporis River and some of its tributaries where identified. The
shamans learn the names of the places during their training. These names are recited in
myths, chants and spells. The shamans carry, as they say, the map within themselves. It
is impressive to see these men point to a place and give its name without hesitation. It is
like this even when they have never been in that place before. It is impressive that this
orally transmitted geography corresponds so precisely to the physical aspects that start
to become relevant for people who, like the author, have different epistemological
instruments for their interpretations of the world.

While visiting the sacred places shamans spoke of trips they had made previously. In
the case of shamanistic trips, visits did not actually involve physical journeys, but what
were referred to as trips en pensamiento, en espíritu (in thought, in spirit). While
accompanying them I recorded the geographical co-ordinates using a satellite guided
geographical positioning system (GPS). The geographical co-ordinates thus generated
were converted to plane co-ordinates and a map was generated using AUTOCAD
TM

software. Translations, drawings and reflections about this map-making process are
included in Forero 1999).

The work I will describe now, although partially derived from my work with the
shamans is distinct in character and intention from that reported in Forero (1999). The
use of technological gadgetry allowed me partially to reflect the Tukano world in a way
that non-indigenous people could understand. And although this was a significant and, I
believe, useful undertaking, the real knowledge of the territory lies within the shamans
with whom I worked. The fact that the ‘indigenous territorial’ aspects of the website are
illustrated with maps is a by-product of the technology. A more significant value of the
work (and the reason behind the shamans’ wish to become involved in mapping) is that
the maps were going to provide evidence for the legal process through which the
ACIYA indigenous organisation would claim rights over lands outside the recognised
Resguardo Indigenous Reserve (Forero, Laborde et al. 1998). This work was successful
and an extension to the Resguardo was indeed granted.

Work on the website began by making a provisional outline of the desired end product.
The original plan included six pages: Introduction (Home), vegetation map, traditional

149
territorial map, discussion (an introduction to the political ecology of the Yaigojé
Resguardo), bibliography (for those looking for references to NWA and the Yaigojé in
particular), and a questionnaire that would generate the information from which this
chapter has been developed
123
.

8.4 The Contrasting Discourses Obtained from the Questionnaires
Although I shall refer to percentages in this section, there is no intention of making any
predictions based on statistical analyses. Neither is it suggested that the analysis of
questionnaires can provide an objective account of outsiders’ opinions with respect to
the politics of the environment and people of NWA. The following notes are not
representative in that sense and such was never the intention of the exercise. What is
intended is that the reader gets an insight into the perceptions of survey respondents.
What is important in a qualitative data analysis, like this, is to present differential
tendencies. If discourses are constituents of reality then the confusing scenario of
political confrontation in NWA should be linked to the visions and perspectives of all of
us, including the views of people that have never been in Amazonia but nonetheless
hold an opinion. And, if there is a marked difference between indigenous and
exogenous perspectives with respect to sustainability and environmental management in
Amazonia, which relates to whether people have visited NWA or not, this should be
reflected in the answers to the surveys.

The information generated from the on-line survey was collected between May and
December of 2001. Eight hundred invitations were sent through e-mail. They were sent
mainly to academics and organisations working on indigenous issues, conservation or
sustainable development in NWA. One of these invitations reached COLNODO
124
and
the ICT network asked if we wished to submit the website in a weekly contest for the
best new website, which we did and subsequently won! This meant that COLNODO
subscribers were notified and invited to visit the site. But we have no idea how many
hits were derived from COLNODO invitation. What we know is that during these eight

123
The survey form is in Annex2 and, a summary of the technical work involved in the construction of
the web-site is in Annex3. A CD version of updated www.kumoro.com can be found in the envelope
attached to the backcover of this thesis.
124
"COLNODO is a Colombian communications network serving organizations dedicated to community
development. It is operated by the non-profit organization called Colombian Association of Non-
Governmental Organizations for Email Communication"
(http://www.colnodo.org.co/summary_english.html). For a critical review of COLNODO work the
interested reader could consult Gómez, R. 1998.

150
months we received fifty-one completed survey forms. This is a 6.4% response rate to
the original eight hundred invitations
125
.

For the purposes of the analysis respondents (R) were divided into two groups: those
claiming to have visited NWA (VA – 29% of R) and those claiming not to have visited
the region (NVA – 71% of R). With respect to occupation, 68% of R come from the
academic sector, including five anthropologists (almost 10% of R) all of whom had
visited NWA. In contrast, although there were the same number of environmental
managers as anthropologists answering the questionnaire, none had visited NWA.

With respect to gender, the percentage of male (53%) and female (47%) respondents is
similar across both VA and NVA groups. In terms of age, there were four groups: 1) 18
to 24, 2) 25 to 34, 3) 35 to 50, and 4) over 50. For R the percentages were: 8%, 47%,
35% and 10% respectively. The majority of respondents belong to the second group,
between 25 to 34 years of age. However with respect to age groups the composition of
VA and NVA groups differs: 56% of the NVA group belong to this second age cohort
(25-34), while the majority of the VA group (47%) is between 35 and 50. Additionally,
13% of the VA group are over 50. 61% of the NVA group are between 18 and 34 years
of age, while 60% of those that have visited Amazonia are over 35. A comparison of
age among the survey respondents thus shows that those that have visited Amazonia
(VA) tend to be older than those that have not (NVA).

To distinguish among the views held by survey respondents we have to present the
responses to each of the questions of the survey. We have made some associations of
responses with the intention of outlining the different tendencies that we identify, but
the reader might identify others. Before we do so a word about the view of respondents
with respect to the website itself should be said.

8.5 Website Evaluation
An evaluation of the web-site made by users was included in the questionnaire.
Respondents were asked to rate the site between four categories: poor, fair, good and
excellent. These categories were chosen as follows: 0, 2, 32 and 15 respectively. Two of
the respondents did not offer a rating for the site. Additionally, respondents had the

125
This response rate is rather low relative to postal questionnaire surveys, but we are unable to assess it
relative other on-line surveys.

151
opportunity to suggest improvements. Some respondents suggested changes in design:
modification of fonts and colours (some changes had already taken place). There were
those who asked for more pictures, a photo album, more links and the construction of a
chat room.

With respect to the content, some wanted more ethnographic data, another more on
political ecology, others asked for better visibility of the maps, while others called for
additional links to related sites, and/or more information in general. One suggestion was
to make the website less personalised, while another expressed interest in knowing more
about the author’s research project. Others asked for an enhanced bibliography. Some
changes had already taken place by the time these comments were analysed but further
changes are still being undertaken at the time of writing. With respect to the
questionnaire, two people suggested larger windows to facilitate vision and to be able to
comment in more depth. In contrast, another suggested encouraging more ‘yes/no’
responses. An important suggestion was: “Perhaps it is now appropriate to include some
questions on communication and information flows” (Survey fifty-two –S52). Although
not sought explicitly, information was gathered with respect to the use of ICT in the
territorial ordering process of Amazonia.

One of the respondents suggested that in future the website should be used by
indigenous peoples of the Yaigojé. This had always been my intention and I made a
visit to Yaigojé (summer 2002) in order to advance in that direction. Access to ICT for
the indigenous peoples of the Yaigojé Resguardo is very limited but present.

8.6 Q1 – Are Development and Sustainability Compatible?
A clear response to Question 1 was that this depends on the definition of both terms: “It
is impossible to answer this question as it is, as both terms are open to interpretation…”
(S26). The question could have been and was read as: Is sustainable development
attainable? Respondent S26 continued: “I think sustainable development is possible but
hard to achieve in an environment of often conflicting interests and values (economic
vs. environmental vs. cultural...)…”

One respondent (S22) did not answer this particular question, and two others seemed to
be confused (S38 and S41). Forty respondents (78% of R) answered that they were or

152
could be compatible, although there are differences in the way they perceived this
compatibility.
8.6.1 Development first
There were few respondents that failed to question the meaning of ‘development’ as
concept or practice: the developmental project. These responses somehow postulated
that certain environmental concerns should be acknowledged and dealt with in order for
the development processes to continue:

“Yes…. Development as the integration of western technologies or increase of income per capita, can be
carefully done by implementing appropriate technologies into the productive activities of the
communities. Sustainability defined as a continuous productivity level over the long term.” (S2);
“Yes. It is only a question of integration of environmental considerations in all we do and adjustment of
behaviours accordingly.” (S12);
“Yes, because there can never be sustainability without development. People have, first to develop for
them to have a sense of sustainability.” (S13);
“Yes, I do. The point is how you can reach a determinate "state" of development without undermining
financial, ecological and human capacities in a determinate site (or taking into account their
characteristics).” (S40)

8.6.2 SD: human - environmental security
There were others that perceived the compatibility or the possibility of sustainable
development as the chance to diminish human/environmental security risks:

“Yes of course in the long run - otherwise life is not possible.” (S18);
“Yes. Both are necessary for the survival of the area.” (S21);
“Si. Solo las acciones en el hoy nos pueden garantizar acciones en el mañana. (Yes. Only by taking
action now we can guarantee that we will be able to act tomorrow).” (S23);
“Yes, development should always be sustainable otherwise there are costs that are not taken into account.
i.e. cost of pollution” (S39);
“We don't have any choice. We have to make development and sustainability compatible as it's the only
way we can survive and at the same time preserve the earth for future generations.” (S42)

Pessimism, in the sense that without SD life will no longer be possible, was to be
repeated in the responses to all of the survey questions.
8.6.3 Sustainability is an aim
The majority of the respondents that believed development and sustainability to be
compatible or capable of becoming compatible, were also of the opinion that the goal of
sustainable development had not yet been achieved. Some of them discussed requisite
conditions for achieving sustainability. They either underlined the importance of
accepting sustainability as a guiding principle for development policy and interventions
or/(and) exemplified ways in which sustainable practices might be instituted:

“They have to be. I think they are because they have to be. I am optimistic that eventually it will be seen
as natural to have sustainable development, but the problem is when this attitude kicks in.” (S3)


153
“Depends on how you define the two terms. If you mean that human quality of life can improve while
maintaining the natural resource base, I think this is possible but very difficult to achieve.” (S5)

“Yes, but development in qualitative and not in quantitative terms.” (S8)

“Yes…there can be sustainable development in an ecological sense of the word - which means installing
'best ecological practice' in planning development.” (S24)

“No solo lo creo sino que estoy seguro que ambos pueden ser compatibles. Un desarrollo sin considerar
ciertos indicadores de sustentabilidad/ sotenibilidad no es posible o viceversa. Uno y otro
deberan de ir al parejo tratando de limar los conflictos que a menudo surgen cuando se pretende no un
desarrollo pero un crecimiento economico sin considerar la parte social/cultural o ecologica. (Not only
do I believe that the two can be compatible, I am certain. Development without considering certain
indicators of sustainability is impossible or vice versa. Both should go hand in hand, trying to solve the
social, cultural and ecological problems that often arise when economic growth rather than sustainable
development is the goal).” (S 25)

“Sim, no alto rio Negro onde trabalho a ideia e essa: implementar um programa regional de
desenvolvimento indeigena sustentado. (Yes, in the Upper Black River, where I work, the idea is
precisely to implement a regional programme for sustainable indigenous development)” (S29)

“Yes they are. The problem is with the material and energy growth and its compatibility with some
environmental standards, like critical thresholds and so on.” (S35)

“Yes. The only way is by avoiding rapid over-development and having good planning.”(S37)

“...El concepto de desarrollo sostenible lo veo mucho mas como algo a lo que se quiere llegar, es una
nocion implementada por parte de las politicas gubernamentales y ong's donde lo que se procura con
estos es el aprovechamiento al maximo de los recursos con un minimo impacto ambiental y social. (I see
the concept of sustainable development as a goal towards which we heading. It is an idea implemented
through governmental and non-governmental policies which aim at maximum exploitation of resources
with a minimum of environmental and social impacts).” (S48)

“Yes, because they represent the best option to keep for human life.” (S51)

8.6.4 The need for local definitions
Among the respondents that considered sustainability and development compatible if
certain conditions were met, there is group of responses that emphasised the need for
local definitions of ‘sustainability’ and ‘development’, or ‘sustainable development’:

“They can be compatible providing that development is targeted at the right level i.e. small scale and in-
keeping with the natural resources and environment.” (S5)

“Depende de las condiciones y del desarrollo para quién? Por lo tanto el desarrollo es sostenible si es
buscado y logrado por la misma comunidad local (It depends on the conditions and on the question
‘Development for whom’? Development can only be sustainable if it is sought and implemented by the
local community itself)” (S20)

“Yes but mainly if made through indigenous methodologies in their territories in Amazonia” (S27)

“Yes. There is work done in northern Scandinavia where the "Sammi" (Lapps) have been given
economical support and encouraged to create their own parliament. They have programs protecting their
way of life, language and customs. The Norwegian broadcasting company NRK sends news in the
language and coastal dialects. All this, at least for Norwegian Sammi (Lapps) has been key factors in late
developments where communities have developed economically achieving great sustainability,
contributing, not only to their well being, but to the sustainability of the inhospitable sub-artic regions.”
(S31)


154
“Yes - but only if there is an 'appropriate' deployment of tools, techniques and processes of development
in line with local community needs.” (S52)

8.6.5 Semantics and the economic imperative
Interestingly, one respondent was very pessimistic about the possibilities for sustainable
development even when it was sought and pursued at the local level. This respondent
brought into the equation the idea that people are driven by monetary benefits to deplete
their environment, even though they know that such practices are unsustainable:

“To a certain degree, yes. I think that monetary considerations will always outweigh humanitarian
concerns and it is very hard to convince people who are seeking a living from sometimes-meagre
resources that it is in their own good to give consideration to long-term sustainable use of their resources.
It is usually easier and cheaper to move on to the next area when one area has been depleted.” (S17)

This last argument derives from a rationality that considers poor people to be
collaborators in their own misery. In this particular response there was no questioning
of the developmental project or the social structures within which people are stimulated
to act regardless of the future; but it did address ‘monetary considerations’ as the
driving force.

Those responses that argued that the concepts are incompatible claimed an intrinsic
contradiction in “sustainable development”:

“Development of any kind cannot sustain anything.” (S4).

Instead of blaming the people (needy or not), the proponents of incompatibility pointed
their fingers at ‘the system’; contemporary capitalist structures, the current
developmental project and the prevailing economic model are seen as unavoidably
contrary to sustainable practices:

“No because development is premised upon economic gain, and capitalism is inherently unsustainable”
(S10);

“The problem with sustainability is that the economic model is not compatible with social, economic and
ecological aspects at the same time and proportion. The neo-liberal model promotes the economic aspect
leaving as secondary the social and ecological.” (S19);

“No, because development does not imply a recognition of limits or the necessity to preserve the natural
and human resources used to achieve it. It is an economic concept, which has bases in the apparently
unlimited uses of resources…” (S47);

“… Si lo entemos [desarrollo] como crecimiento economico, por supuesto que no son compatibles. Ya
que el crecimiento economico, tal y como lo plantean los economistas, excluye de raiz criterios sociales,
culturales y ambientales requeridos para la sustentabilidad.” (If we understand development as economic
growth, of course they [sustainability and development] are not compatible. This is because economic
growth, as economists have brought it up, excludes from its bases the environmental, cultural and social
requirements of sustainability)” (S34)

155

8.6.6 SD inconsistent with the present
There are less radical rejections of the compatibility, which do not portray sustainable
development as a contradiction itself but rather as inconsistent with current economic
and ecological trends. The point such respondents make is that the necessary conditions
for sustainable development are currently, rather than inherently unattainable:

“…The current model of industrial development, where 'development' means material economic growth,
is unlikely to be sustainable on a long term basis for the majority of the world population.” (S1)

“Present development of our world is clearly not sustainable” (S33)

“Yes, they are compatible. But in a different social and economic order, not in the one the world is living
now…” (S36)

“Yes, if we change the way development is understood, for instance, development is associated to living
styles resembling to those Europe and USA have, which are a lot related to consumption. But we could
live in a healthier and more compatible way with our environment if we change our pattern of
consumption and the generalised idea of development nowadays, it would be turning it into “only use
what I need and get from nature, exclusively this, not until I just can’t get anymore from it”, 'cause I over
pressed the place, to obtain more benefits. So, at last, this could be possible but in the long term, I hope
not when there's nothing left to do.” (S45)

8.6.7 Greening politics
Some responses expressed doubts about the compatibility of sustainability and
development. These doubts arise from the apparent use of “sustainability” as a green
rhetoric, the aim of which is the continuation of projects that degrade the environment
or human rights:

“... usually development translates into cutting down natural habitats without regard to "sustaining"
cultures” (S32);

“In theory 'yes' but much depends on the definition of the terms and societies’ acceptance of equal human
rights and obligations to others.” (S7)

“Los conceptos de desarrollo y de sostenibilidad resultan ser bastantes amplios y ambiguos. En la
mayoria de los casos cuando se plantean proyectos de desarrollo se trata de relacionarlos directamente
con proyectos que resulten ser favorables para el medio ambiente. Como si un concepto llevara implicito
otro, sin embargo creo que lo que se esta haciendo desde hace algunos años es precisamente disfrazar
los proyectos de desarrollo para que sean aprobados bajo el nombre de mantenimiento del medio
ambiente.” (The concepts of sustainability and development are very ambiguous. In the majority of cases,
there is an attempt to portray development projects as environmentally friendly[, as] if one concept
implied the other. However, I believe that what has been happening for the last few years is a
camouflaging of development projects, in order to get them approved under the heading of environmental
management) (S48).


156
8.7 Non-conclusive comment on Q1
126

If “all development is not ‘absolute’ but will have a beginning and an end” (S24) then,
“[d]evelopment of any kind cannot sustain anything.” (S4). The impossibility of re-
establishing high quality energy after it has been transformed into low quality energy
(or entropy) is a characteristic feature of closed systems, this would leave us with a
world in decline where there is no possibility of sustaining anything. It could be argued
that this is the case, as we cannot even guarantee perpetual solar energy flow. But this is
perhaps taking the concept of sustainability too far, leaving us with no possibility for
discussion.

The central political discussion arising from the different responses revolves around the
contradiction between those arguments of compatibility that leave the development
project unquestioned and those that reject any possibility of compatibility because of a
profound questioning of development. Between the two, the picture is blurred,
undefined, open and elusive.

There does not appear to be any significant correspondence between the two opposite
groups of respondents in relation to whether they have been in Amazonia or not. Three
out of five of the respondents claiming that there is absolutely no compatibility between
development and sustainability have been in Amazonia; but so have two out of four of
the respondents that left the development project unquestioned. However, it may be of
some significance that none of those that accepted ‘sustainable development’ are related
to social sciences. Those respondents with academic backgrounds in the social sciences
all fit into groups that see sustainable development as a principle, something to be
defined locally or as a reformist greening of politics. None of them were found in the
group arguing for absolute incompatibility.

The middle ground, where the picture is most blurred, came from the majority of
respondents by whom it was argued that sustainable development might be possible but
that they were unsure about how it may be achieved. These responses varied from those
expressing suspicion (those pointing out the rhetoric of sustainability) to those who
were more optimistic: “They have to be. I think they are because they have to be”. This
acceptance of a possibility of sustainable development, despite the semantic
contradiction and current political rhetorical manipulation of the term, reflects a process

126
See Table1 for a summary

157
of thinking and acting that is deeply rooted in Utopian beliefs. This ‘sustainability’ will
happen in the future, in another time, when local communities take control of their lives
and their resources, when environmental protection is taken seriously, when today’s
actions reflect our responsibility toward the future, etc. According to one of the
respondents even continuous increases in productivity will be possible, when the proper
technology has been developed.

158
Table 1

Q1- Do you think that 'development' and 'sustainability' are compatible?
RESPONSE - ARGUMENT SURVEY No. NVA VA Profession
Unquestioning the developmental project 2 1 PhD Student Biology
12 1 Environmental Engineer
13 1 Environmental Engineer
40 1 Project Co-ordinator (SD)
Yes, to diminish environmental risk 18 1 Student
21 1 Taxation
23 1 Designer
39 1 Postgraduate Student
42 1 Biologist
Sustainable Development is an aim to be 3 1 Epidemiologist
reached 5 1 Civil Servant
8 1 Accountant
24 1 Student
25 1 PhD St. Agriculture &
Development
29 1 Anthropologist
35 1 Lecturer
37 1 Postgraduate Student
48 1 Anthropologist
51 1 Postgraduate Student
Compatible if defined locally 5 1 Civil Servant
20 1 Lecturer: Ecotourism
27 1 Anthropologist
31 1 Postgraduate Student
52 1 Lecturer: IT &
Development
Possible but risk of economic imperative 17 1 Unemployed
Incompatible
a) Contradiction in terms 24 1 Student
4 1 PhD St. Environmental
genetics
b) Financial economic imperative 10 1 Student
19 1 PhD St. Agriculture &
Development
34 1 PhD Student:
Environmental Manager
47 1 PhD Student
SD inconsistent at present time 1 1 Lecturer: Env. Sociology
33 1 PhD Student
36 1 Research Engineer
45 1 EM
SD is green rhetoric 7 1 Student
32 1 Teacher
48 1 Anthropologist

159
8.8 Q2 - Is there a relationship between ‘Indigenous Reserves’ (IR) and ‘Protected
Areas’ (PA)?
In Colombia IR are called “Resguardos Indígenas” or “Resguardos de Tierras”. The
term resguardo, literally means protection. Its meaning is not too different from that
given to natural conservation areas of different grades: áreas protegidas, protected areas
(PA). Both, IR and PA, emphasise the need for an area to be specially protected. Some
of the respondents to this question pointed out an implicit relationship between IR and
PA perhaps departing from this meaning:

“…In a general sense, indigenous reserves are protected areas; they are protected from outside influence
for the benefit of the indigenous people…” (S1);
“Yes there are relationships. Both have natural systems and environmental quality that requires some
level of conservation and protection” (S9);
“Yes , for obvious reason. Because the protected reserves are a birth child of indigenous reserves and
because we do not want to lose the nature environment the relationship should be maintained.” (S13);
“Yes, indigenous reserves are protected areas” (S28)

As in the case of Q1 (Do you think that development and sustainability are compatible?)
some respondents pointed out that it would depend on what we understand by the two
terms:

“Depends on the sort of protected area or what we mean with protected area…” (S25).
“There could be” (S38);
“It could be, but I am not sure” (S46);
“… this has to be context specific” (S1).

Five respondents simply said “yes” (S37, S18, S22, S43, S50) and one simply said “no”
(S15). However many of the respondents did go on to qualify the relationship in some
way.

8.8.1 Harmony or the need for it
Some of the affirmative responses portrayed indigenous peoples as the guardians of the
environment while others offered concrete examples of this viewpoint:

“Si. Las culturas indigenas han demostrado que sus culturas han vivido armonicamente con su entorno
durante miles de años” (Yes. Indigenous peoples have demonstrated that their cultures have lived in
harmony with their environment during millennia). (S23);
“Empirical evidence through statistical analysis has shown (particularly in Colombia in the north west
region of the Sierra Nevada) that there is a direct relation between conservation and indigenous reserves.
So, the answer is "yes, I do think so". (S40)

There were those that referred to the need for a harmonic relationship because:

1) the environment should be protected for the benefit of indigenous peoples:

160

“…indigenous reserves are related with spaces or areas that the government leaves for indigenous people
and protected areas are where the local authorities or government provide the ($) resources in order to
protect them” (S19);
“Existe una relación, historica y cultural, respecto a su territorio, esto debe ser respetado y protegido
para las mismas comunidades indigenas” (There is an historic and cultural relationship with respect to
their territories. This should be respected and protected by indigenous communities for their own sake
(S20).

2) the protection is fundamental for biodiversity conservation:

“…Podria ser que se proteja un area porque existe cierta flora o fauna que esta en peligro de extincion.
Por ejemplo, muchos animales que viven en la selva solo se aparean una vez al año en cierta temporada
y si estos son interrumpidos por presencia humana su decendencia podria verse aun mas en peligro de
extincion…” (It may be that an area is protected because there are endangered flora or fauna. For
example, there are many rainforest animals that mate once a year or seasonally; if they are interrupted by
human activities their progeny could be further endangered) (S25);
“… development there should be restricted for the sake of conservation” (S33)

3) sustainable practices could be developed based on indigenous peoples’ experiences:

“Yes. By protecting areas where almost all indigenous people are more and more confined, there will be a
way to preserve indigenous experiences in order for these experiences to contribute to a sustainable
development.” (S11).

8.8.2 Utopia
There were also those sorts of answers that reflected a feeling of hope or a sense of
Utopia, in which a harmonic, positive relationship was acknowledged as desirable but
not yet achieved:

“I imagine IR to equate with PA in some way. Perhaps naively. IR is implicitly protected from external
development forces, but not necessarily internal.” (S3);
“There can be. If people are continuing a way of life that has been sustainable in the past and are able to
develop sustainably (…) there is no reason why both should not coexist.” (S6);
“Most indigenous reserves must be also protected areas. How to effectively do it? I don't know.” (S36);
“In countries with mindless and irresponsible politicians and business people, it should be mandatory that
‘indigenous reserves’ must be synonymous with ‘protected areas’. (S42)

8.8.3 Contamination and cultural imposition
Some respondents signalled the risk of contamination, this is of indigenous peoples
being influenced by a mestizo culture and therefore driven to break the presumed
harmonic relationship with the natural environment. This may be seen as a lost
opportunity, that of the rest of humanity to learn from indigenous experiences or, that of
given indigenous people to assert managerial control:

“Yes, as indigenous populations tend to live in harmony with nature these areas tend to require protection
from the outside world. (S12);
“…I also think it is difficult to put it into practice since indigenous people want to be part of the economic
system and therefore there is a risk of depletion. Anyway who is better to protect certain areas than the
people who have lived there for hundred of years!!!” (S39);

161
“Yes, in fact, so far as I know, many of our indigenous people live in these protected areas, where most of
them have been able to live in a sustainable way, I say most of them, because others are affected by the
mestizo men that live nearby or want to get something from that place due to its economic importance,
affecting these natural areas.” (S45)

It was pointed out that both types of jurisdiction, IR and PA, derived from a cultural-
historical process, in which self-determination was not accounted for:

“Yes, a very imperialistic one - especially in the Americas (including Canada). It is an old regressive link
between the two, in the 60s and 70s this paternalistic viewpoint saw indigenous culture as static --which
is wrong!” (S24);
“Yes, they both seem to be defined by the ruling 'white' government.” (S26)

A respondent that had visited Amazonia (VA) added that there is resistance to this
imposition, at least as far as indigenous peoples of Colombia are concerned: “yes-
especially when indigenous management systems are practised in spite of the models of
dominant society in Colombia” (S27). Similarly, another VA respondent suggested that
in Colombia there are no friendly relationships between IR and PA: “It depends from
country to country, but in Colombia no”! (S10).

8.8.4 Analytical responses
The analysis provided by some of the respondents tended to localise the relationship: to
put it into the historical process. The analysis underlined the main problem for a “non-
confrontational” relationship between IR and PA regimes. As they are designations that
came about without public participation and from a rationality that is especially alien to
indigenous peoples, when IR and PA overlap, competition for management arises.
These types of answers either acknowledged that the relationship happens through
overlap, or mentioned the difficulties of hitting indigenous rights and conservation
targets simultaneously:

“Freedom of choice for all people, in terms of lifestyle, cultural heritage can translate into giving
management control to indigenous people in protected areas. However the balance between sustainable
economic development for indigenous people and at the same time protecting the environment is a
difficult topic to discuss at a macro level. Individual environmental and socio-cultural circumstances need
to be fully accounted for and explicitly articulated.” (S7)
“Yo creo que existe una relacion estrecha entre reservas indigenas y areas protegidas alrededor del
mundo. Ya que estas dos figuras juridicas en muchos casos (p.e. Colombia) se encuentran translapadas.”
(I believe there is a close relationship between indigenous reserves and protected areas around the world.
It derives from the fact that in many cases these two jurisdictions overlap) (S34).
“There is a relationship when they overlap, which I think happens often.” (S44)
“Los resguardos y las reservas indigenas han tenido la tendencia a considerarse y definirse como areas
protegidas, sin embargo me parece importante tener en cuenta que al establecer los limites territoriales
entre los resguardos quedan zonas intermedias que no pertenecen necesariamente a algun resguardo, y
esto hace de un modo u otro que tambien se presenten roces con diferentes actores. Por la misma razon
que al no estar circunscrito en un resguardo aparentemente se consideraría como un area no
protegida…” (It has been the tendency to consider the resguardos and indigenous reserves as protected
areas. However, I think it is worth considering that when the resguardo boundaries are established, there

162
are zones in-between not ascribed to any resguardo. And this makes it somehow possible for different
[political] actors to get confrontational. This happens as a consequence of the non-ascription of the in-
between zone, which is not considered as protected area…) (S48)

However it came about and assuming that both jurisdictions are somehow competing,
some respondents argued that IR should be more effective, as it gives responsibility to
the people for their own lives:

“Yes, although I think indigenous reserves serve to protect the environment/area better. This is because
they are protected by local people who value the resources and use them in a traditional and more
sustainable way. Protected areas can be designated/run by Governments and this can remove the
responsibility from the indigenous peoples.” (S5);
“Yes. I think that indigenous reserves do offer more protection than protected areas because it gives local
people more incentive to use sustainable practices. They can see it being in their own interests” (S17)

In contrast, one respondent argued: “Maybe there is, but I don't believe in reserves”
(S35) (NVA). And a second respondent (VA) added that poverty has driven indigenous
peoples to behave unsustainably: “I think it is possible. However, some indigenous
areas are completely degraded because they are selling their natural resources to
survive.” (S53). This response (S53) is related to one of those made to Q1:

“To a certain degree, yes. I think that monetary considerations will always outweigh humanitarian
concerns and it is very hard to convince people who are seeking a living from sometimes meagre
resources that it is in their own good to give consideration to long-term sustainable use of their resources.
It is usually easier and cheaper to move on to the next area when one area has been depleted.” (S17)
(NVA).

Both answers (Q1-S17, Q2-S53) echo a neo-Malthusian argument. It implies that a
‘tragedy of the commons’ is happening in Amazonia and elsewhere as result of
overpopulation.

8.8.5 The politics involved
“No. Indigenous reserves and protected areas (for nature conservation) are two different political land use
strategies. If the government is assigning an indian reserve then they should respect the use the
indigenous people are making of the terrain according to traditional use or to improved technologies.
Areas for Nature conservation must be treated separately and with a different priority. We cannot make
the indians responsible for the disappearing of the diversity. The government has to be responsible by
applying appropriate conservation and management regimes” (S2)

This response makes an argument for the need to differentiate between IR and PA as
diverse political strategies that pursue different aims. The first would aim to comply
with Indigenous Peoples Rights, particularly that of self-determination. The second
political strategy would aim at biodiversity conservation. The respondent acknowledges
indigenous social change as indigenous management depends on both, tradition and
technological improvement. Interestingly, the analysis provided does not try to conceal
the confrontational nature of the relationship; nor does it place much hope in

163
conciliation. On the contrary, it advocates a distinction. If there is some hope or sense of
utopia in the response it comes from solutions provided by technological improvement.
Which is something this particular respondent had already stressed in Q1:

“…. Development as the integration of western technologies or increase of income per capita, can be
carefully done by implementing appropriate technologies into the productive activities of the
communities. Sustainability defined as a continuous productivity level in the long term.” (S2)

8.9 Non-conclusive comment on Q2
127

Nowadays, the establishment or enlargement of IRs (Resguardos in Colombia) and PAs
requires the interested proponents to follow long protocols, the fulfilment of precise
administrative procedures and of legal conditions. One aim of the process is to allow
different stakeholders to participate and to assure the fulfilment of fundamental rights to
all citizens in equal conditions. In Colombia, like in many other parts of the developing
world, when the ‘juridicial figures’ (legal entities) were established these procedures
were not necessary, therefore, many IRs and PAs were established without participation
of all interested parties. It is not surprising that some of the respondents refer to the
confrontation or competition of regimes that began with their imposition.

It could be of some significance that none of the respondents that claimed the need to
harmonise IR and PA have been in Amazonia. In contrast, the two respondents that
pointed out that these two regimes are conflicting in Colombia have been there. The
analytical response that called for clear differentiation between the two also came from
the group of people that had visited Amazonia (VA).

From the set of answers given to Q2 it is clear that different and contrasting narratives
are ascribed to with respect to environmental management. For some of the respondents
indigenous peoples are guardians of the environment, victims of colonialism or in risk
of a cultural contamination that will force them to adopt maladaptive strategies that
would threaten conservation strategies. For others, indigenous reserves are
untrustworthy designations: the environment should be preserved against development
and human intervention, be it indigenous or otherwise. Therefore indigenous peoples
should not be in charge of environmental management.


127
See Table2 for a summary

164
Yet, another political perspective is derived from hopes of compatibility between the
two regimes, which although pursuing different aims are seen as relevant for
environmental and human security at the same time. Thus, the third perspective could
be characterised as dialectic or iterative. From this (last) perspective indigenous
experience could help the development of conservation strategies; and, at the same time,
the revision of environmental and conservation management strategies could be vital for
the survival of indigenous peoples.

Hope or Utopian visions also have a place here: the development of technology is seen
as a key component for adequate environmental management. Technological
improvement would allow both compliance with indigenous peoples’ rights and
biodiversity conservation. We are sketching a continuum from our comment on Q1,
suggesting that the narrative of conciliation ‘reflects a process of thinking and acting
that is deeply rooted in utopia’.

165
Table 2
Q2 - Do you think there is any relation between 'indigenous reserves' (IR) and
'protected areas' (PA)?

RESPONSE - ARGUMENT SURVEY No. NVA VA Profession
Yes 37 1 Postgraduate Student
18 1 Student
22 1 Anthropologist
43 1 Anthropologist
50 1 PhD Student
No 15 1 Consultant: Health & Safety
Need to harmonise IR and PA to protect
a) For (IP) Indigenous Peoples' benefit 19 1 PhD St. Agriculture &
Development
20 1 Lecturer: Ecoturism
b) Protection of Biodiversity 25 1 PhD St. Agriculture &
Development
33 1 PhD Student
c) SD based on IP experiences 11 1 Consultant: Rural
Development.
SD as Utopia 3 1 Epidemiologist
6 1 Lecturer Ecology Env.
Management
36 1 Research Engineer
42 1 Biologist
IR and PA are different political strategies 2 1 PhD Student - Biologist
IR and PA are colonisation strategies 10 1 Student
24 1 Student
26 1 Student
Indigenous resistance to IR/PA strategies 48 1 Anthropologist
IR and PA overlapped 7 1 Student
34 1 PhD St. Environmental
Management
44 1 Postgraduate Student
Environmental indian 23 1 Designer
40 1 Project Co-ordinator (SD)
Environmental indians contaminated 12 1 Environmental Engineer
by mestizo culture 39 1 Postgraduate Student
45 1 Environmental Manager
IR are Inefficient 35 1 Lecturer
53 1 Journalist
IR more effective that PA 5 1 Civil Servant
17 1 Unemployed


166
8.10 Q3 – Do you think that the concepts of ‘Protected Areas’, ‘Indigenous
Reserves’ (IR) and ‘Sustainable Development’ are useful for Environmental
Management’ today?
Two respondents say that the concepts should be context specific: “Yes, but which of
them is useful depends on context…” (S1). “As I said before, all these terms have to be
defined properly in the first place before they can be applied.” (S2). There were two
respondents that simply said ‘yes’ (S14, S22), while one answered: “yes, if it works”
(S4). S4’s response suggests that concepts are instruments, and not surprisingly many
answers referred to the “applicability” of these three concepts.

8.10.1 Environmental indians and contamination risk
Some respondents reiterated the idea, already expressed in Q1 and Q2, that indigenous
peoples are practitioners of SD or conservation managers:

“…Indigenous reserves are important because they allow the preservation of a way of living in sympathy
with the environment long gone in most areas…” (S12);
“Claro que si. Las culturas indigenas son un ejemplo de convivencia y explotacion sostenible del entorno
en que viven” (Yes of course. Indigenous cultures are an example of coexistence with the environment
they live in and of sustainable exploitation.) (S23);
“Yes because indigenous people are the ‘shepherds’ of the landscape and they have a first-hand
understanding and experience (handed down from previous generations) of ecosystem processes.
Sometimes indigenous customs and habits reflect an understanding of nature’s processes that can be
exemplary in the planning of management plans…”(S41)

One response re-enforced an idea presented in Q2, that indigenous sustainable practices
are in risk as the younger generations begin to adopt western lifestyles:

“…, but this knowledge is also in danger [endangered],…, shamanism is related in many cases to the
management of the natural resources, but I have listened to the indigenous people from the community
that I'm working in, that they’re not interested in receiving this knowledge from their parents, and day by
they they’re a lot like us in their agricultural practices.” (S45)

8.10.2 Principles as instruments
Various responses made reference to certain conditions that would have to be fulfilled
in order for the concepts to be useful. This perspective, where the concepts are
understood as political instruments, could be useful if a ‘real’ or ‘truth-value’ definition
of them were accomplished. This truth-value would come from using the political
instrumentality of a concept only if it were to reflect a set of principles such as
intergenerational equity, empowerment, and participation. And, in the case of
participation, special emphasis were given to the incorporation of indigenous people,
their knowledge and ways of dealing with the environment:


167
“The concept of protected areas will only be successful if indigenous peoples are involved, therefore this
would seem to indicate that indigenous reserves would be the best way forward of the two” (S5)
“…indigenous reserves need to be redefined according to the wishes of the people who will be living in
them,…(S6);
“…If sustainable development means development with the means which exist and with the participation
of the people concerned…” (S11);
Yes. Exercising indigenous knowledge should not be limited to reserves but integrated into the
management plans along with scientific knowledge more widely. (S26);
“Yes…Any protected area, etc. must actively incorporate the participation of indigenous people” (S41)

The idea of intergenerational equity is attached to that of resource conservation for the
developmental process:

“Yes… The sustainable development concept relating to the obligation of the present generation to leave
enough natural assets and capital for future generations to enjoy at least the same quality of life we enjoy
today must be at the heart of environmental management activities.” (S12)
“Yes, because the natural environment that we believe is endangered should be protected as a reference
in future years to come and because of this a sense of environmental management is very important as the
same environment becomes a resource for development” (S13)
“Yes. We need to protect the area and its people and provide for sustainable development. (S21)
“…pero estoy cierto que las areas protegidas independentemente del interes en prervarlas desempeñan
un papel importante en el manejo de ambientes naturales para la captura de CO
2
, conservación de
recursos biogenéticos/biodiversidad/ y como elementos de estudio para futuras generaciones…” (…but I
am certain that, independently of the interest in preserving them, protected areas play a role in the
management of natural environment for CO
2
sequestration, conservation of biodiversity/genetic resources
and as study subjects for future generations (S25)
“yes, otherwise development will go against our own endurance. I think we have to consider the
possibility that we are not the most powerful force in this world.” (S38)

8.10.3 Risk and protection
Following this idea is that of concepts (as political instruments) being useful if they
could provide and enforce protection (S13, S21 above). In this case either the
environment is seen at risk (endangered species or ecosystems) or both indigenous
peoples and their environments:

“Yes. Protected areas are important as pools of natural resources not affected by human activity.
Indigenous reserves are important because they allow the preservation of a way of living in sympathy
[tune] with the environment long gone in most areas...” (S12);
“I think they are vital. Until everyone has a responsible attitude to environmental control certain
protections have to be enforced.” (S17)

Some of the responses expressing a need for environmental protection have a sense of
impending catastrophe:
“Yes, but they are loaded concepts so we have to be careful in using them… sustainable development is
the only way we will survive, but is usually glibly applied.” (S6);
“in a limited sense perhaps...but what we need to accomplish is protection of all that there is left, without
cutting and taking land around the so called protected area... stop the modernisation process wherever it
has not already reached into” (S32);
“Yes, because they are the only source to preserve life on earth.” (S51)

Protection but of cultural diversity:
“…They may contribute to ‘capturing’ and saving fragile cultures and ‘unknown’ languages.” (S31)


168
Although acknowledging the need for protection, some respondents made it explicit that
IRs were not effective, as the policies derived from such concepts (regimes) would
increase risk instead of attenuating it:

“…in terms of indigenous groups if they become circumscribed to a specific protected area then this will
prevent persistence of nomadic lifestyles etc. and as a result the protected area may become
‘unsustainable’ as people are becoming circumscribed to a specific reserve. I guess this also answers the
question on indigenous reserves, however, the indigenous reserves of N. America should be used as an
example of the problems of tying people to such reserves,…” (S10)
“…'indigenous reserves' are not so useful - most of indigenous social problems have been caused by the
colonisers, and are being reproduced through generations. Keeping indigenous people enclosed in such
areas, and introducing paternalistic rules and laws is not healthy for any society. It instils racism in a
society, and will not ensure that indigenous practices of environmental management will be maintained -
that depends on the indigenous group and how they choose to manage their environment…” (S24)

8.10.4 The need for integration and its impediments
Some emphasis was put on the idea that there is or should be a link between the
concepts (political instruments):

“Yes all concepts are useful as they each permit different aspects of the economic/ecology debate to enter
into the wider public arena. Ultimately for there to be sustainable solutions to environmental problems
there needs to be a holistic approach adopted…” (S7)
“…environmental development will not be meaningful without taking into account the interrelation
between ‘indigenous reserves’ and ‘sustainable development’” (S11)
“Yes, because all areas are linked with each other very closely” (S18).
“Yes. Exercising indigenous knowledge should not be limited to reserves but integrated into the
management plans along with scientific knowledge more widely.” (S26)
“…Lo que creo es que tanto las reservas indigenas, como las areas protegidas deberian orientarse hacia
un desarrollo sostenible. Bien sea que estas dos figuras se translapen o no. Si entendemos el desarrollo
sostenible como un proceso que involucra criterios sociales, culturales, economicos, y ambientales.”
(…What I do believe is that indigenous reserves as well as protected areas should direct their attention
towards sustainable development, whether or not the entities [juridical regimes] overlap. If we understand
sustainable development as a process that involves social, cultural, economic and environmental criteria.)
(S34)

However, quite a few responses pointed out the problems that prevent this integration
from taking place:
1) Incompatibility of interests between IR and PA:
“…Protected areas are useful, but they raise the debate as to whether one should protect an area and
exclude people from it so that a certain species/ archaeological site/community can survive or whether
people should have access…” (S10);
“It is quite difficult to harmonies those concepts, specifically among indigenous people. They are
convinced that ‘sustainable development’ is an imperialist concept, and the first idea they have -as far as
they hear the concept- is that they are going to be exploited by others…” (S40)

2) The prevalence of economic efficiency and profit at the expense of anything else:
“…El desarrollo sustentable que ha sido cada vez mas un objetivo importante en varios paises del
mundo. Pero encontrar los balances correctos ha sido y es dificil, particulrmente cuando las sociedades
y gobiernos estan sometidos a un proceso de globalizacion y de efeicientizacion economica. He ahi los
conflictos permanentes de lograr un desarrollo verdaderamente sustentable que considere no solo los
aspectos economicos, pero politicos, cultrales, sociales y ecologicos o ambientales”. (Sustainable
development has become an increasingly important objective in several countries around the world. But
to find the correct balances has been and continues to be difficult; in particular as a result of societies and
governments being subjected to economic efficiency within the globalisation process. There are

169
permanent conflicts in the way of obtaining a real sustainable development that involve not only the
economic aspects, but also the social, cultural, ecological and environmental criteria) (S25).
“…too many people think of ‘sustainable’ as meaning economic sustainability and not environmental
sustainability.” (S30).
“…While protected areas and indigenous reserves serve to maintain environmental quality, the concept of
sustainable development is often disregarded for the sake of profits and globalisation.” (S33)

3) Political manipulation:
“I think there have been problems with these concepts for two reasons: First, they mean different thing for
different people, second, they have been used and to serve particular interests. There are several and
opposite definitions of ‘sustainable development’ and it’s a difficult concept. ‘Indigenous reserve’, used
as a general concept does not describe usefully the complex realities and ‘protected areas’ have been used
to serve particular interests over time so I think it is seen suspiciously by a lot of people.” (S44)
“I think so, but these concepts are used a lot by politicians, and then the meaning can be manipulated”.
(S46)
“…The big problem is not related to the concepts alone, it is related to the way in which these are applied
according with particular interests and purposes. Many times the terms are used by different groups or
organisations in order to pretend to be environmental friendly or responsible, when the real purposes
reveal an opposite target or interest.” (S47)
“…Muy seguaramente estos términos se manejan como deben ser en el plano académico teórico, mas no
ocurre lo mismo en el ambito práctico donde lo que prevalece son los interese de los diferentes actores
que trabajan en este campo, lo que lleva inevitablemente a que se presenten situaciones de tension entre
estos y se deje de lado el objetivo primordial en cuanto a la conservación y le manejo ambiental” (For
sure, theoretically and within the academic circles these concepts are managed as they should be.
Although, in the practical scenario privilege is given to the particular interests of those different [political]
actors who work in this field. Thus, it is unavoidable that tensions will arise between these [political
actors], which leave aside the fundamental aim of environmental management and conservation) (S48)

4) Semantics, the concepts mean too many things to too many different political actors
(S44 above):

“…’Sustainable development’ is not so useful for environmental management, as the concept is too
contested - it means too many different things to different people.” (S24);
“As I said, the problem is that there are many definitions of those terms and it makes it difficult to
determine if they are useful in one place compared to other places” (S50)
8.10.5 Dynamism
The perspective of ‘dynamism’ reflects a perception of mutating meanings as an
advantage. Under this perspective ‘contested’ means ‘in change’, which is seen as part
of a learning process, which is in tune with the idea of local definition of concepts
(emphasised above):

“Ultimately for there to be sustainable solutions to environmental problems there needs to be a holistic
approach adopted, where people can better appreciate that their lifestyle has much in common with others
- even if they are in an OECD country and cannot appreciate the day to day lifestyle of someone in a less
developed country. …. Therefore the concepts listed can provide an opportunity to raise the awareness of
the majority of the world’s people.”
“Yes, there is plenty that can be learned from these three concepts and also applied” (S37)
“A lot, I believe there are a lot of things we can learn from them, specially in this field of study,..” (S45)
“If these concepts are [understood or interpreted] under a dynamic and changing world (attached to
contexts), which mean that there is not a unique definition or way to apply them, I think they are still
useful for environmental management.” [original: understanding or interpreting…] (S47)


170
8.10.6 The need for new concepts – Q3
Contradicting narratives can be appreciated through the reading of these responses.
There is a group of respondents that are uncritical of the concepts or the policies derived
from them (like S37, S45 above and):

“Yes, they are important to efficient environmental management” (S28);
“Yes. An understanding of the mechanism of these terminologies is essential for effective environmental
management …” (S9).

Another group could be made out of those responses that reflect suspicion or are
definitely critical of the concepts (S10, S24, S25, S30, S33, S40, S44, S46, S47, S48,
S50 above). And, besides the group of respondents that express conditionality or hope
(see above), there is a group of responses that, while critical of the concepts,
acknowledge that at present they are all we have:

“…which of them is useful depends on context…If an ethnic group is to be allowed to determine the
course of events within its own territory, then the territory must be reserved for them until such time as
they develop complete autonomy or decide to integrate more closely with wider society. Sustainable
development may seem a rather broad, unspecific term, but it does at least draw attention to the
unsustainability of conventional development…” (S1)
“…The concept of sustainable development is gradually getting better developed and, even if it is not
strictly attainable, gives decision-makers something to work towards… (S5)
“I don’t agree with the concept of SD as it is a contradiction in terms, but at present there are few better
alternatives…” (S10)

One respondent actually moved forward in the critique, pointing out that the concepts
were built on preconceptions and identifying the need to generate new concepts that
would integrate the useless categorical divide of nature and society:

“I think they are old fashioned, and generated by the Anglo-Saxon culture. We should move towards an
increased compatibility between human activities and nature, making it therefore not necessary to talk
about reserves, or natural areas.” (S35)

8.11 Non-conclusive comment on Q3
128

The majority if not the totality of respondents took ‘concepts’ as ‘politics’. They
discussed the history of these politics, their adequacy and sufficiency. It is very
interesting that while the conduct through which political ideas become policies is
supposed to be complex, it is obvious for the respondents that there is more than
theoretical debate going on in the process of policy making. There is a prevailing,
sometimes automatic or non-reflexive awareness that narratives pursue the aims that
drive the policies and politics that are transforming the environment.


128
Summary of Q3 in Table3

171
In continuity with the results of Q2, only 1 out of five respondents of those who argued
for the need to integrate the concepts had been in Amazon; while the two respondents
that argued the case of ‘incompatibility of interests’ had been there. Of those which
suggested that these concepts –political strategies- are useful for environmental
protection or that this is the last chance –catastrophism- for life, none had visited
Amazonia.

It may be of some significance that none of the five respondents that suggested that IR
might be a better strategy than PA have been in Amazonia, while one person of the two
that argued that IRs are ineffective had been there.

The responses correspond to several narratives that can be identified. One of them is
that of ‘confidence in science and trust in political instrumentality’ derived from the
(traditional definitions of) concepts outlined. Another narrative is that of ‘natives as
heroes and outsiders as villains’, which is reflected in the suspiciousness of concepts
based in untested assumptions and in mistrust of the governmental policies derived from
them. In summary there is a status-quo narrative and a counter narrative. Yet a third
type of narrative could be identified, that of ‘critical understanding’.

172
Table 3
Q3 - Do you think that the concepts of PA, IR and SD are useful for Env. Management today?
RESPONSE - ARGUMENT SURVEY No. NVA VA Profession
Depends on the context 1 1 Lecturer: Env. Sociology
2 1 PhD St. Biologist
Yes 4 1 PhD St. Env. Genetics
14 1 Economist
22 1 Anthropologist
Indigenous Environmental 12 1 Environmental Engineer
23 1 Designer
41 1 PhD Student
Indigenous Environmental in contamination risk 45 1 EM
Concepts: Principles and instruments
a) Participation: IR better than PA 5 1 Civil Servant
6 1 Lecturer Ecology EM
11 1 Consultant: Rural Devmnt.
26 1 Student
41 1 PhD Student
b) Intergenerational Equity: resource reserve 12 1 Environmental Engineer
for Development 13 1 Agriculturist
21 1 Taxation
25 1 PhD St. Agri/re & Devmnt.
38 1 Gardener (MSc)
Risk: a)Environmental Protection (EP) 12 1 Environmental Engineer
17 1 Unemployed
EP and catastrophism 6 1 Lecturer Ecology EM
32 1 Teacher
51 1 Postgraduate Student
b) Of cultural diversity 31 1 Postgraduate Student
IR as ineffective 10 1 Student
24 1 Student
Integration of concepts or the need for it 7 1 Student
11 1 Consultant RD
18 1 Student
26 1 Student
34 1 PhD St Env. Mgment.
Difficulties for integration
a) Incompatibility of interests 10 1 Student
40 1 Project co-ordinator (SD)
b) Financial economic effectiveness' imperative 25 1 PhD St. Agri/re & Devmnt
30 1 Postgraduate Student
33 1 PhD Student
c) Political manipulation 44 1 Post. St. Environment
46 1 Lecturer
47 1 PhD Student
48 1 Anthropologist
d) Semiotic blur 24 1 Student
50 1 PhD Student
Education: Dynamism of the concepts 37 1 Postgraduate Student
45 1 Environmental Manager
47 1 PhD Student

173
8.12 Q4 - Should Environmental Managers get Involved in the Territorial
Ordering Process (TOP) of Amazonia?
One of the respondents simply answered yes (S4). One was unsure (S52), perhaps
suspicious? One considered the question was tricky (S32), and three of them put the
question into question. Two of these responses asked for the term ‘environmental
manager’ to be defined: “Difficult to answer. Define the roles, mandate and
empowerment of the environmental manager…” (S31); “What do you mean by
environmental managers?...” (S6). The third one was more critical: “this sentence is
colonialist as if indigenous peoples of Amazonia were not in fact environmental
managers” (S27). With a similar intent, one respondent argued that indigenous people
were better-qualified environmental mangers:

“Las comunidades indigenas han sido las mejores administradoras del territorio ancestral, eso debe ser
respetado y replicado en zonas donde la intervención humana ‘civilizada’ ha afectado las condiciones
ambientales.” (Indigenous communities have been the best managers of ancestral territories, this should
be respected and should be replicated in areas where ‘civilised’ human intervention has affected
environmental conditions) (S20)

The response of indigenous peoples as better managers had been expressed in Q1, Q2
and Q3. Another three responses reinforced the ideas of catastrophism, the need for
urgent environmental protection and to stop development (S32, S33, S42).

Perspectives:
8.12.1 EMs are the ones:
“Definitely” (S12);
“ … They have in many cases a better view for the long-run.” (S18);
Yes. Who else is better suited to do so?” (S21);
“Environmental Managers should get involved. They are best able to ensure protection of ecosystems”
(S28);
“Por supuesto que si. Ya que el ordenamiento territorial de un territorio (en este caso de la Amazonia)
debe tener como objetivos el desarrollo sostenible.” (Definitely. Territorial ordering (of the Amazon in
this case) should have sustainable development as an objective) (S34);
“Because they are the ones that can understand the balance that must exist between economic
development, traditional culture and environment.” (S36);
“ They should, how can they do without?” (S46)
“Yes, because they can contribute to better territorial ordering in the region” (S53)

8.12.2 EMs and scientists figure out the solutions and take the decisions:
“Deben estar involucradas todas las personas del planeta, pero con mas razon los ‘decision makers’, que a
fin de cuentas, toman las acciones concretas sobre nuestro futuro medioambiental. (All people from the
planet should get involved, but the ‘decision makers’ have more reason to be there, after all they are the
ones that take the concrete actions in respect to our environmental future) (S23);
“Yes, but along with some other scientists, not only because of the importance of the Amazon from a
global point of view, but specially for the importance for the people living there.” (S35);
“Yes, always considering multiple disciplines result in a better understanding and so better solutions.”
(S38)

174

Yes, but taking into account the other opinions:

“Yes, although indigenous peoples will also play a major part and without them any agreements between
Governments and environmental managers will not work…” (S5);
“Not always, because it is necessary to take into consideration lay people’s opinions too.” (53)

8.12.3 Indigenous peoples direct EMs
“If they are asked to do so by indigenous peoples, I see no problem with this.” (S1);
“Territorial ordering should be primarily decided upon by the indigenous groups that inhabit them, …
ultimately decisions need to come from the bottom upwards” (S10);
“…The indigenous people should be in charge of the program at the ultimate level” (S14).
“ They should but they should make sure they respect the opinion of indigenous people and they should
be very discreet in their approach and aim for cooperation.” (S41)

8.12.4 EMs have equal rights to participate as other stakeholders
“ Of course. All actors should be involved in the process…It doesn’t mean that they have to take
decisions but they can evaluate the circumstances under different and also important perspectives.” (S2);
“What do you mean by environmental managers? But yes, I think they also have a stake in the fate of the
Amazon, and have a right to make their voices heard. (S6);
“ Involvement - yes but only in collaboration and co-operation with the Amazonian people and those in
the higher levels of bureaucracy and policy making …Environmental managers can make significant
contributions in this area, given their depth of understanding of the issues (relative to the general public)”
(S7);
“Deveriam estar envolvidos no processo de re-ordenamento territorial, junto com edndios, ribeirinhos
etc” (they should be involved in the territorial ordering process together with indigenous peoples, riverine
inhabitants, etc.” (S29);
“ I think they should be involved as advisors and technical support but I support the idea of a non-
technical management, where decisions are taken by the different stakeholders based on the technical
advice and the social, cultural and economic factors.” (S44)

But this intervention should be avoided within indigenous territories:

“Not in indigenous reserves or territories which historically have been managed by indigenous
communities. In other areas, should be taking part in dialogue of knowledge between cultures, people,
communities, scientists and decision makers from private and government sectors, to order process on the
amazon area.” [Original text:…historically has been management by…](S47)

8.12.5 The apolitical EM:
“Yes, but not for political reasons. It should be for the cause of sustainable use of our natural environment
which is our heritage.” (S9);
“ …Generally though I think that environmentalists like missionaries before them should not get involved
in political processes as this can have a very negative reaction within the local community.” (S17);
“Yes, their knowledge will hopefully be of use in the ordering process” (S37)

8.12.6 The political participation of EMs
“Yes, to counteract the interference of other external actors but hopefully to work with the indigenous
people respecting their values and practices, not independently.” (S26)

8.12.7 EMs as facilitators of the dialog between IK and WS:
“…without them [indigenous peoples] any agreements between Governments and environmental
managers will not work. Environmental Managers should facilitate discussion…” (S5);

175
“Territorial ordering should be primarily decided upon by the indigenous groups that inhabit them,
environmental managers roles here should be as referees to help in the co-ordination of the process, but
ultimately decisions need to come from the bottom upwards.” (S10);
“It’s necessary for people involved in this field of study, that had already gained a conscience, and that
are able to understand that we have to work with indigenous, not from our usual management vision, but
theirs, trying to see the world like they do. In this way could be easier, perhaps to understand and give
convincing and why not scientific arguments to the authorities (or people in charge of handling these
affairs) about the different way they have already distributed their territory, which [in] most of the case (if
not all) doesn't have our political distribution. (I.E, those groups that live between Colombia and Brazil
boundaries) they don't have the same division of territories, because of this, they must be managed in a
way more in concordance to their political organisation.” (S45)

8.12.8 Capacity, ability and quality of EMs:
“Depends who the environmental managers are - if they are from the area and have a passion for the area,
then why not. If they are drafted in from outside, and seen as the ‘outside experts’ then probably not - it
usually causes friction within the area.”(S24)
“Define the roles, mandate and empowerment of the environmental manager. They may fall into different
categories, of which I may name at least 4:
1. The conflictive manager. Created by a lobbying body. A good example is the body (forget the name)
that is in charge of the Everglades in Florida. Their work is tainted by conflict of interest: the
provision of water to cities and sugar cane farmers, at the same time maintaining the ‘wet lands’ as
an ecosystem and controlling flooding!
2. The romantic. Exemplified by rich Europeans or North-Americans. Wanting to keep habitats, they
may buy some land and resort to eco-tourism in order to keep their sustainability. I believe there are
some German managed ‘eco’ destinations in Ecuador. Driven by an alternative way of life, they may
not ‘manage’ the environment as they should.
3. The bureaucrat. A member of a government agency or NGO that may not be aware of local needs,
responding always to policies made from a distance. Current legislation may be a hinder. "Los
paisas", developed and colonised what is today Risaralda, Quindio, Caldas and parts of Choco in
Colombia, by using legislation that enabled them to cut and clear big forest areas to be claimed
afterwards, creating the concept of the "colono". A colonisation process I witnessed in Caquetá some
years ago.
4. The "grass roots" manager. Perhaps, the type who knows best the ecosystem and the power
relationships that develop around it by the people involved with it. Usually their voice is not heard,
mainly because of the threat they represent to some landowners or ‘colonos’. If the law regarding
claiming land that has been cleared is still existing, managing the environment is going to be a great
task. One shall not forget that the ‘colono’ phenomenon represents one of the many socio-economical
problems a nation like Colombia faces.
…Management work usually develops around a policy. Trust among all participants is primordial.
There ought to be some kind of legal-economical framework that will ease management work. If this
is in place and all conflicts of interest reduced, then the territorial ordering process of Amazonia may
become real.” (S 31)

8.12.9 Political risks, EMs have a tough job:
“Yes, however the pressures on the person might be extreme. It would be preferable to have both on-site
environmental managers and use some respected external managers as reference.” (S15);
“Yes, but bearing in mind that you should work with politicians and many kinds of ‘parasitic’ people
which are thinking every day in the short term. It means that environmental managers are not enough for
sustainable management and use of natural resource: their analytical models as well as their technical
capacity is necessary, but they cannot work isolated, they require to work with others, despite the fact that
‘the others’ could (and should) think in a different way.” (S40)

8.13 Summarising Q4
129

Like in the responses to Q1, Q2 and Q3, we can identify different and often
contradictory perspectives. There were those that argued that environmental

129
See Table4

176
managers
130
are the best qualified for the task and appeared somewhat perplexed by the
question. Within that group there were those responses that assumed that decisions were
taken by environmental managers or should be taken by them, although two expressed
that others’ opinions should be considered to a lesser extent. In the other direction were
the responses that questioned intervention by EMs and considered it useful only when
the decision-making process was led by indigenous peoples themselves. Yet a third
group was of the opinion that EMs should get involve under the same conditions as
other stakeholders, such as indigenous peoples, but one respondent suggested they
should not intervene in the management of indigenous peoples’ territories at all.

The other contrasting perspectives concerned the character of the intervention. While
one group of responses were of the opinion that EMs should not get involved in politics,
but have a technical approach, others thought that they should get involved to contrast
and balance the political interests of other groups. A third group emerged, which
advocated the intervention of environmental managers as conciliators and facilitators.
Related to this roll of managers as advisers there was a group of responses showing
concern with the capacity, ability and quality of environmental managers and, the
possible risks that they have to face.

130
Called EMs in the survey to differentiate them from other experts and indigenous peoples. As it has
been explained in Chapter Four, indigenous people’s management of the environment departs from a
different rationality and uses different instruments. What indigenous people from Northwest Amazonia
call “management of the world” is not only a set of shamanistic practices but a way of living that
combines social aims, aesthetic values, religious believes, and economic practices in a distinctive manner.
Although acknowledging indigenous peoples from Northwest Amazonia are in fact environmental
managers, the author has stressed that their “management of the world” incorporates many things, some
of them of tremendous importance for environmental management more generally.

177
Table 4
Q4 - Should or should not environmental managers (EM) get involved in territorial ordering
process in Amazon?

RESPONSE - ARGUMENT SURVEY No. NVA VA Profession
Yes 4 1 PhD St. Evolutionary Genetics
In fact they are 22 1 Anthropologist
Unsure 52 1 Lecturer: IT & Development
32 1 Teacher
Question into Question 6 1 Lecturer Ecology EM
31 1 Postgraduate St
Indigenous Peoples as EM 27 1 Anthropologist
Yes, for Env. protection (catastrophism) 32 1 Teacher
33 1 PhD Student
42 1 Biologist
Yes, EM are the ones (better able that IP) 12 1 Environmental Engineer
18 1 Student
21 1 Taxation
28 1 Lecturer
34 1 PhD student
36 1 Research Engineer
46 1 Lecturer
53 1 Journalist
EM provide solutions/ take decisions 23 1 Designer
35 1 Lecturer
38 1 Gardener
Yes but listening to others 5 1 Civil Servant
53 1 Journalist
If Indigenous Peoples direct EM or projects 1 1 Lecturer: Env. Sociology
10 1 Student
14 1 Economist
41 1 PhD Student
EM have equal rights to other stakeholders 2 1 PhD St. Biology
6 1 Lecturer Ecology EM
7 1 Student
29 1 Anthropologist
44 1 Post. Student
Not inside Indigenous Peoples’ territories 47 1 PhD Student
Yes, if apolitical EM 9 1 Environmental Manager
17 1 Unemployed
37 1 Postgraduate Student
Yes for political counteraction 26 1 Student
EM as facilitators 5 1 Civil Servant
10 1 Student
45 1 Environmental Manager
Depends of capacity, ability & quality of EM 24 1 Student
31 1 Postgraduate Student
EM tough job: political risk 15 1 Consultant: Health
40 1 Project Co-ordinator (SD)


178
8.14 Non-conclusive comment on Q4
As in responses to questions one, two and three, we can trace arguments and counter-
arguments. One set of respondents portrays EMs as heroes. In this scenario they face a
tough job, they are well trained, better able and indispensable for the process of
territorial ordering; their politically risky job, in which they have to make the decisions,
would be fundamental for diminishing environmental risk and even saving life on earth.
(As in Q2 and Q3 none of those arguing conservation/catastrophism had been in
Amazonia). A counter-narrative is that provided by respondents arguing that EMs’
participation should be directed by indigenous peoples (IP) or that the projects should
be led mainly by natives, and that EMs should not intervene in the management of
indigenous territories: in this case the heroes are indigenous peoples. A second counter-
narrative seems to be reflected by some of the respondents. In this scenario, EMs like IP
should have equal rights to participate as different stakeholders, in this case decisions
would come from a rational process in which dialogue between cultures would take
place. The participation of EMs would not be limited by their status/power but by their
capacity, ability and their roll as facilitators or conciliators.

8.15 Discussion
European colonisation of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australasia from the late
fifteenth century onwards, gave a tremendous boost to the volume of global transactions
involving natural resources. Over the long run, trade in these resources, and in an
increasingly diverse array of environmental services, has been expanding ever since.
However, much of what is called globalisation in the twenty first century has more to do
with developments in information technology since the late 1900s. The increasing speed
of communications media and information transfer have proved fundamental in
economic restructuring and the transformation of the world into a largely urban space
(Castells 1996). In the globalised, twenty first century, local political decisions have
little chance of being autarchic; international policy advisors inform local stakeholders
about what is considered adequate or legal in accordance with international treaties,
foreign protocols and political compromises. The local politics of environmental
management is the concern of everybody: corporations, governments, international,
regional and national NGOs, all of which compete for access to information and
expansion of their scope of power in the political arena (Ambrose-Oji, Allmark et al.
2002).


179
During the 1990s, and especially after the Río Earth Summit in 1992, one of the main
topics of discussion was management of the global environment (Sachs 1993). Global
targets for sustainable development were established at Río and similar processes were
set in train at regional, national and local scales all over the world, following the
guidelines set out in one of the policy documents agreed at Río: “Agenda 21”. The
official discourse that emerged from the Río process was replicated and many of the
assumptions that informed the original discourse have been accorded a quasi-factual
status by many people all over the globe (Sevilla_Guzmán and Woodgate 1997). The
official discourse on globalisation emphasised the need for environmental management
at supranational levels. At the same time, counter-discourse or anti-globalisation
narratives have emerged. These emphasise the rights of indigenous people and local
political actors to manage natural resources independently, in ways that allow them to
make their own livelihood decisions and establish resource-use regimes that can provide
the environmental goods and services that people need
131
.

The management of the environment has always motivated debate and often led to
confrontation. One of the main arguments of conservative conservationists concerns the
‘vulnerability’ of rainforest environments, and thus the need for their protection. Since
the 1980s the problem of deforestation of tropical rainforests has been a global issue
with special emphasis in South East Asia, the Congo basin and Amazonia (Adger,
Benjaminsen et al. 2001). In a 1998 analysis of ‘rainforest’ web-sites, Stott revealed
four metawords within the conservation rhetoric: ‘orientalism’ (the exotic other),
‘climax’ (harmony or equilibrium), ‘old age’ (ancient, undisturbed) and ‘vulnerability’
(Stott 1999). Metawords such as these become key rhetorical devices so that even
research and development project proposals tend to employ them, thus replicating
assumptions that are no longer questioned. How is this metalanguage produced? What
are the bases of its principal cannons? And why is it that semantic analysis tends to
remain the preserve of academics – or is it something that is also dealt with at a local
level?

Narratives can be traced back in time. Equilibrium disturbance (climax rupture) and
environmental fragility (vulnerability) both played parts in Hardin’s 1968 ‘tragedy of

131
The discourses that emphasise the need of eco-efficiency, economic transnationalization and planetary
ecological management, were named by Sachs as contest and astronauts’ perspectives. And the counter-
discourse arising from the disempowered communities of the South as the home perspective (Sachs
1997).

180
the commons’ (Hardin 1998). The neo-Malthusian discourse of environmental
catastrophe as a result of an increasing population (of ‘poor people’) lies at the heart of
Hardin’s tragedy. The conservative conservationist perspective on the management of
the rainforest is based on mistrust of systems of environmental management in which
property rights (over life and resources) are not yet marketable. From a conservative
political perspective responsible environmental action can only be achieved through the
clarification of property rights to allow the unfettered action of free markets for the
negotiation of such rights. It is assumed that the tragedy of the commons is happening
or will happen in rainforest contexts where private property rights are not yet the rule
and where societies still practice communal environmental management regimes based
on indigenous knowledge rationalities in which nature and society form an ontological
continuum. For conservatives only free markets for environmental rights, goods and
services can guarantee sustainable development. Neo-Malthusian and neo-liberal
assumptions are fundamental to this perspective on sustainable development.

With the aim of promoting Agenda 21 at local, national and regional levels, a complex
and sophisticated process of institutionalisation was embarked upon. Amazonia did not
escape this process; governmental officials or conservationist NGOs replicated the
dominant conservationist discourse at the local level in NWA. This official discourse of
deforestation with its main initiative of protection of the environment from people has
been labelled ‘hegemonic’ (Stott and Sullivan 2000) or ‘neo-Malthusian’ and
‘managerial’ (Adger, Benjaminsen et al. 2001). It should come as no surprise then that
counter narratives have developed in Amazonia (and elsewhere), for many of which the
principal intention is to contradict the conservative policies derived from this
hegemonic discourse.

The rights of indigenous people to define the course of their lives: their rights to manage
natural resources and the environmental services used or supplied by the Amazonian
environment have been key issues in these significant counter-claims against the official
Amazonian territorial ordering politics and policies, which have involved environmental
management that has been designed elsewhere. This counter-narrative pursues the
principle and right of self-determination against the interests of political initiatives for
global environmental management.


181
The counter-narrative was not just a reaction to neo-liberal, neo-Malthisian conservative
politics and conservation policies during the 1980s and ’90s, however. In Latin
America, all indigenous peoples’ rebellions against the European empires were
motivated by a call to reconstruct pre-colonial socio-cultural orders returning to
territorial orders where the management of ‘agroforestry’ was undifferentiated from the
sacred (Varese 1996:124-25). In modern, post-colonial states, indigenous peoples
continued to struggle for the recognition of their territories. In today’s NWA this
struggle is related to governmental and conservationists policies of environmental
management and the presence of armed groups opposed to political resolution of
territorial ordering.

Many of the Protected Areas (PAs) of NWA were created at a time when no legal
procedure was established for public intervention in the designation of such areas. The
official titles of the PA or IR (Resguardos in Colombia) have not prevented non-native
invasion of lands or the expansion of illegal crop production inside either PAs or IRs.
Conservationists and indigenous peoples alike have vacillated between alliances with,
and the rejection of, the armed groups in charge of illegal crop production, depending
on the political gains to be made and the risks involved in rejecting the proposals or
achieving an alliance. The armed groups, on their part, have sought political alliances
when such co-operation could benefit their military capacity or improve the managerial
efficiency of their enterprises.

As far as local inhabitants were concerned, rainforest conservation policies arrived in
NWA from another space and time. The legal establishment of protected areas took no
account of the opinions or desires of the peoples already inhabiting NWA. Indigenous
agroecosystems and the livelihood strategies of more recent colonisers were both
ignored. The ideology expressed through legal frameworks was that of protection of the
environment from people. The villains were local inhabitants and the regulations to be
enforced were those of expelling people from the ‘conservation’ areas and maintaining
their exclusion.

The dominant discourse made no distinction between complex indigenous agro-
ecosystems and the less sophisticated livelihood strategies being developed by recent
immigrants. All of them were labelled as “slash and burn” agriculture (Myers 1980).
Yet it has become increasingly apparent over the last thirty years that slash and burn is

182
just an aspect of indigenous environmental management in Amazonia, which combines
agricultural production, fish and game management, ritual prescriptions, and aesthetic
developments. It has even been suggested that movement towards “short
cropping/long-fallow” cultivation patterns within indigenous Amazonian agro-
ecosystems was a strategic response to alien invasion of territories and the introduction
of metal axes (Denevan 2001: 115-31). Today, most ethnoscientists find it self-evident
that the concepts of ‘chagra’” (gardens) and ‘rastrojos’ (abandoned gardens) are far too
simplified to reflect the structure of cultivations over the short-, medium- and long-
terms, in accordance with local knowledge of agro-ecological variation. It is obvious
that indigenous environmental management has transformed Amazonian ecosystems for
millennia; this was already evident to many of the nineteenth century European
explorers.

Even the most knowledgeable people in the industrialised world have no precise idea of
how ‘vulnerable’ rainforest is and few have accurate knowledge about the political
conditions facing indigenous peoples or other human inhabitants of the Amazonian
rainforest. With respect to NWA, even the most determined researcher would have
problems accessing this information. It is often said that the rainforests of Amazonia are
the ‘lungs of the planet’ (S.33), a metaphor used to emphasise the region’s role in the
carbon cycle, especially the absorption of CO
2
. This is somewhat ironic given that our
own lungs actually consume oxygen and release CO
2

during respiration.

Indigenous people have been portrayed as villains or victims depending on the observer
and the moment of observation. When portrayed as victims the picture is something like
this: ‘the wise guardians of the rainforest are obliged by violence to sell their natural
resources or abandon their noble environmental practices’. The role of violence in the
functioning of extractive economies has been well documented. Violent coercion has
been the dominant system in NWA for more than a century. Although indigenous
people are no longer sold, ‘debt-peonage’ systems still dominate and exploit poor
indigenous and immigrant inhabitants of NWA. These people are employed for the
harvesting, transport and commercialisation of coca base, cocaine and, the functioning
of ‘extractive economies’ in general (Gómez, A. 1999). But there has been an
indigenous response. This has sometimes taken the form of open rebellion and
sometimes that of making strategic and tactical alliances in an attempt to obtain or
preserve political power, to secure the acquisition of merchandise or simply to survive.

183

The counter-hegemonic narratives that we mentioned above have been labelled
‘populist discourse’: making it explicit that the victims are the indians and the villains
the international organisations, sometimes allied to transnational corporations (like oil
drilling companies) and the dependent and often corrupted governments that collaborate
with these international organisations (Adger, Benjaminsen et al. 2001: 687). For NWA
there are reports that seem to corroborate these arguments; e.g. indigenous peoples and
environmental campaigners have protested jointly in Ecuador and Brazil against the
construction of massive pipelines planned to cross through both IRs and PAs in both
countries. The pipeline construction projects in both countries have arisen following
collaboration between national governments and international oil exploration companies
and have provoked public feelings of outrage (Weinberg 2001)
132
.
“ [In NWA] Governments, multilateral lenders, multinational corporations, private banks and
other institutions may not be counting on the convenient disappearance of indigenous peoples
who get in the way of their ambitious development plans, but they often act as if they are.”
(Rabben 1998:122)
"We who live in indigenous communities are surviving in the midst of a war imposed upon us by
different factions and by the very same Colombian state that historically abandoned the
countryside and permitted our lands to be invaded by waves of colonizers. Today we are caught
in the crossfire, menaced by killings and displacement, while the State manifests its presence in
the air with planes that slowly kill our plants and animals, our subsistence crops, and our
people." (Organización Zonal Indígena del Putumayo –OZIP 2002)

However, is it really possible to claim that there is a policy of ‘ethnic cleansing’ for
NWA? From one side the whole issue of national sovereignty has been put into
question; the expansion of Plan Andino (formerly Plan Colombia), the USA’s anti-drug
strategy for Latin America, exemplifies the delicate situation in which some of the Latin
American countries have entered the twenty first century. The military component of
Plan Andino is aimed at supporting economic measures, the famous and indeed
infamous structural adjustment plans that have provoked strikes and rebellions.

Additionally, even if there were an official policy of ethnic cleansing, South American
States, given their size and power, would find it difficult to implement. The poor, be
they indigenous peoples or colonisers are in the middle of a territorial war linked to
international networks of criminality; they have been displaced, kidnapped or killed
regardless of their claims of neutrality. In the case of Colombia, although some military
authorities have been linked to some of the worst of the paramilitaries’ atrocities, it has
not been proved that the State itself has a policy of ethnic cleansing. In the case of

184
Brazil, in 1996 the national executive proclaimed Decree 1775, instructing a right to
contravene which, contrary to 169 WLO reaty on Indigenous Peoples’ rights, gave other
stakeholders the opportunity to challenge Indigenous property rights. Paramilitary
groups associated with illegal evictions of indigenous peoples in Brazilian Amazonia
have long sought such a ‘charter’. At the same time, the decree left the definition of
indigenous land rights at the whim of the executive power itself (Ministry of Justice).
But, as in the case of Colombia, it cannot be proved that there is a policy of ethnic
cleansing.

It has been suggested in the non-conclusive comments on the survey results, that many
people’s responses echoed hegemonic and populist narratives. Indigenous peoples were
portrayed as heroes or victims, as well as scientists and environmental managers.
However, quite a few of responses cannot be associated with either populist or
hegemonic narratives. There is a group of responses that reflect critical thinking and are
willing to challenge such simplistic dichotomies. Thus, the concept of sustainable
development has been questioned, suspiciousness of western, scientific and
technological solutions was expressed, and there was little willingness to give
environmental managers carte blanche to prescribe whatever measures they might see
fit.

Interestingly, this last group, while acknowledging the need for new concepts and
adequate guidelines for environmental management, and the difficulty of achieving
conservation targets while complying with indigenous peoples rights, still consider the
concepts of SD, PA and IR as useful or the politics derived from them as desirable.
What is interesting is that the responses to this survey, which were made by outsiders
(respondents were not inhabitants of Amazonia), reflect a tendency to picture the
conflict over territory in ways that do not correspond to either of the two main
narratives. We can say that inasmuch as outsiders see possibilities for political action
outside hegemonic or populist approaches, so Amazonian insiders are organising and
negotiating regardless of whether their political discourse echoes either the conservative
or counter-hegemonic politics of territorial ordering.


132
For recent (March 2002) press releases on this issue see www.amazonwatch.org and
www.americas.org

185
As no significant statistical analysis could be derived from the survey it would be
difficult to speak of tendencies. At first sight it seems that adherence to hegemonic,
counter-hegemonic, utopic or conciliatory narratives reflects each respondent’s
intellectual background more than his or her witnessing of the situation of peoples and
forests in Amazonia. However, certain coincidences among the responses to each
question can be pointed out:

- For Q1-SD, two out of four of the respondents that accepted the imperative of SD
without question have been in Amazonia, none of them is a social scientist (SS)
though and the other two were environmental managers. None of the SSs that had
visited the region argued for complete incompatibility between sustainability and
development. Instead, SSs were part of a third group acknowledging that the
concept of SD might be of some use, given certain conditions.

- For Q2 – the relationship between IRs and PAs, not one of those who argued for the
need to harmonise the two concepts (5), or those that emphasised SD as a desirable
aim that has not yet been reached (4), or those or that argued that IRs are better than
PAs (2) had been to the Amazon (in total 21 % of respondents). Respondents that
had visited Amazonia (VA) were among those that acknowledged a relationship
between IRs and PAs and that the relationship can be both complementary and
competitive. Two respondents from the VA group argued that a complementary
relationship was not possible in Colombia and one of them pointed out that being
political strategies with different aims, they should remain differentiated in order to
avoid conflict. This result might indicate that people that have been in Amazonia are
more aware of the problems of territorial ordering caused by the imposition of
regimes based in alien concepts.

- For Q3 – on the usefulness of the concepts, none the five respondents arguing that
IRs might be better than PAs had been in Amazonia, while one of the two that
argued that IRs are ineffective had visited. Only one out of five respondents that
argued for the need to integrate the concepts had been in Amazonia, while both
those that argued for an incompatibility of interests had. This result seems to
confirm that people who have visited the area are more conscious of the problems
caused when policies formulated elsewhere are imported to Amazonia.


186
8.16 Conclussions to Chapter Eight
All technological adoption/adaptation has diverse effects in the life and development of
society. People living within the society that is adopting them, and the outsiders that are
analysing cultural change perceive these effects in different ways. The assessments of
‘usefulness’ or ‘risk’ a society makes when adapting/adopting technologies are linked to
the conscious and subconscious present and future scenarios into which the society
places itself alongside other societies. If the rest of the world wishes to respect
Amazonian indigenous peoples’ rights of self-determination, they should not intervene
in ordering processes of indigenous territories. The problem is that indigenous ways of
dealing with the world might not be compatible with the ideas that foreigners have with
respect to Amazonia, its peoples and its future. And, for good or bad, fairly or unfairly,
each group has a way of intervening and exercising a certain amount of power to
modify the global political agenda for the governance of Amazonia in function of their
own particular interests.

Replication of narratives is a common strategy used by all groups aiming to make
alliances and enhance their power. However, the responses analysed here seem to
indicate that a large group of people (at least from the academic sector) is unhappy with
the assumptions behind either populist or hegemonic discourses with respect to
rainforest management, and seeking new ways of environmental policy making. This
group of people acknowledged that political conflict has derived from policy formulated
elsewhere, and derived from an epistemology alien to local inhabitants.

There are varied political groups competing for the governance of Amazonia.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilitates analysis and political
action. It is expected that better-informed indigenous peoples would be in a better
position to make decisions with respect to the governance of Amazonia. At the present
time, the indigenous peoples of Amazonia have very limited and precarious access to
ICT. Thus, their perspectives on territorial ordering are less likely to be represented than
those such as conservation agencies, multinational developers, insurgent and mafiosi
groups, all of which have far superior access to ICT.

187

CHAPTER 9: ACIYA IN THE 21
st
CENTURY

9.1 Introduction
One of the central objectives of this thesis is to contribute to a political ecology of
Northwest Amazonia. Some of the previous chapters have focused on the analysis of
conflicts surrounding the management of the Yaigojé indigenous reserve, the Apaporis
and NWA region in general. These chapters were developed from diaries and reports of
the events that took place between 1994 and 1998, complemented with data obtained
from literature review and the analysis of responses to an on-line survey. Although not
indispensable, to complete the discussions developed, it was important to visit the area
and discuss the issues already outlined with different stakeholders.

In the summer of 2002, after receiving an invitation from ACIYA, I got the opportunity
to return to the Apaporis region
133
. Thus the current chapter is developed from the
information gathered between June 21
st
and August 11
th
2002. Twelve days were spent
in Bogotá arranging the trip and interviewing government officers, NGO personnel and
academics working in Northwest Amazonia. Once in the Amazon region, I interviewed
with indigenous leaders, participated in several community meetings and attended a
Congress of Captains co-organised by ACIYA and the GAIA Foundation - Colombia.
Following the style of previous chapters, the author will develop a personal narrative of
the events, while providing references when other people’s explanations and narratives
are incorporated.

9.2 Getting There: an Environment of Political Conflict
Leticia is the only important Colombian port in Amazonia, and constitutes a border city
with both Brazil and Perú. One might expect Leticia to be an important city for the
Colombian authorities and that trade would be of some significance. Neither is true;
Leticia was built ‘with its back to the river’, the port is poorly organised, development is
rare and no environmental impact assessments (EIA) are undertaken when development
does take place. An example is a concrete barrier designed to prevent flooding; the

133
The author is especially grateful to the NRIF (Natural Resource International Foundation) that granted
a fieldwork scholarship without which the culmination of this research would not be possible. I also wish
to thank Gladys Angulo that from Bogotá made all the arrangements for the fieldwork to take place and,
Dany Mahecha (from the GAIA foundation – Colombia) that facilitated transport arrangements, the
realisation of meetings and interviews.

188
‘malecom’ constitutes a monument to poor engineering and the total absence of EIA. Its
construction caught the public’s attention and legal investigations persist.

There used to be two different airlines operating out of Leticia and it was possible to
travel to and from Bogotá five days a week, now there is just one and only two or at
best three flights each week. Reservations have to be made at least one month in
advance and even then the flight might be cancelled without warning on the day of
travelling. An NGO advisor I travelled with from Bogotá assured me we were lucky we
only had to wait for ten hours from 9am to 7pm: “at least we got to fly on the day the
reservations were made for”.

There also used to be a flight from Leticia to the Caquetá-Japurá, but Satena, the airline,
is a commercial enterprise managed by the State and it has become a target for guerrilla
attacks. The Colombian authorities declared themselves unable to guarantee security
and the airline route has been suspended indefinitely. Alternatively, there is a Brazilian
airline that flys from Tabatinga to Villa Betancourt. The cost of travelling from Leticia
to Pedrera has doubled and Colombian citizens have to request permission and submit
to the Brazilian authorities’ rigorous scrutiny.

There have been skirmishes between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) guerrillas and the Brazilian armed forces in the Caquetá-Japurá, in the
Apaporis and in the Royeyaká-Taraira. When I arrived in Pedrera, locals were
commenting on one of latest events in which just one of eight Colombian guerrilla
fighters survived an encounter with the Brazilian army. The fight took place in Apaporis
near the mouth of the Royeyaká River. Apparently, the survivor had faked death and let
herself float beside the inert bodies of her dead ‘comrades’. Some of the people said
that the guerrillas had retaliated, killing some Brazilian soldiers in the Royeyaká but this
was unconfirmed by any authority. What seemed certain was that the FARC guerrillas
were changing their tactics and they would, from then on, move around in very
dispersed and small groups.

Prior to arriving in Villa Betancourt, official regulations state that travellers must
arrange for someone to pick them up from the airport. Nevertheless, it is also possible to
make in situ deals with Colombian merchants. These traders have made arrangements
with some of the Brazilian authorities and they have operating networks among the

189
military personal in Tabatinga and Villa Betancourt, although they do not have as much
influence with the Brazilian authorities as they do among their Colombian counterparts.
Supply of petrol and merchandise is indispensable for the illegal armed groups’
operations and therefore there are arrangements made between these merchants and the
suppliers of such groups. All these arrangements are volatile, making the political
environment very unstable.

In order to get to the Apaporis settlements of the Yaigojé, the voyager must obtain
petrol at exorbitant prices (US$2,60/Gallon –June 02), but besides that, permissions
from the army and the police have to be secured. These operations take two or three
days. Without the permit the boats cannot leave Pedrera. The government claims that
the procedures prevent petrol and other supplies from reaching the mafiosi network in
charge of drug trafficking. The indigenous population as well as the NGO workers and
everyone else that ventures into the territory are subject to frequent searches by the
Colombian army. This would make sense if there were equal treatment for all, but while
the army was checking a group of indigenous people and me, a boat-full of provisions
passed in front of us, without the lieutenant or the soldiers requesting them to stop and
be checked. It was common knowledge that the army had made arrangements with
certain traders but nobody would risk his or her life by saying so aloud.

When going up the Caquetá River, a peasant that accompanied us to Mirití advised us to
get rid of the permits we had be travelling with until then. Naively I ask why. “Well you
idiot”, he replied, “now comes the guerrilla checkpoint. You won’t want an army permit
then, will you? You would do better to sing the anthem of the Socialist International, if
you ever managed to learn it”. Later on, I would ask other people how they managed to
vote on election days, as it was reported that the army provided security for voters. They
assured me it was a big lie and that the only people that voted were the “whites” from
Pedrera. The guerrillas prevented indigenous people from attending the polls and the
army only patrolled from Pedrera to the Cordoba waterfalls. From there to Araracuara,
the majority of the territory is now under FARC control and the Colombian army does
not even attempt to enter.

9.3 Indigenous People’s Resistance to War
Old Basilio was a great chanter, he would dance and sing for three days and nights. He
knew all the chants for all the rituals that the Tanimuka people have been performing

190
each season of the year for as long as anybody can remember: the bamba
134
dance, the
dance of the fish, the dance of the dolls, the dance of the heron and many others. He
knew how to read the ashes to predict victory in battle and also knew how to make the
enemy hesitate at the decisive moment of a fight. It had all been handed down to him
and much of it died with him. Nobody had learned so much, in such detail, as Old
Basilio had during his lifetime. He knew death was close at hand, but before going he
invited people to a great dance at which he sang for three full days. Then, at the end of
the ritual, in agreement with the payé he went out of the maloca (communal house),
burned incense and cast a spell, which he said no white fighter would break. Then he
travelled to the port of Mirití followed in line by all the people of Centro Providencia,
where he had spent the last eight years of his life. He dug a hole in the ground and
buried the ashes that he had used to cast his spell. No warriors would threaten that
village. Then he announced his death, which occurred just a few days later.

In Tukano protocol, the important events of a life cycle – birth, adulthood, marriage and
death – are the first things that a host should tell to a visiting traveller. The above story
was recounted to me by several people from Centro Providencia. It was emblematic.
Some indigenous people from the Mirití Resguardo have been forced to accept guerrilla
rule, and the production of coca for drug trafficking operations has since been growing
in upper Royeyaká-Taraira and south of Pacoa/La Victoria in the Apaporis. The whole
Yaigojé Resguardo Indigenous Reserve is surrounded and partly controlled by armed
groups in charge of securing the drug trafficking routes.

The authorities of the Yaigojé have repeatedly turned down the offers of narcotics
dealers to become involved in coca cultivation, even though some of their counterparts
from Mirití and Pirá-Paraná Resguardos have responded differently. However, many
desperate men in search of cash have gone to the coca fields outside the Resguardo and
worked for months before returning to their families. What has prevented large-scale
fishery and mining inside the Yaigojé is the strength of the traditional authorities that
have remained unmoved in their position; they have not given up control over the
Yaigojé territory. Interviewing the ‘captains’ of the Yaigojé, they confirmed: “you
cannot allow some white people in and reject others, once you say yes to cultivation for

134
This dance is performed over a plank floor. The ‘bamba’ is a buttress-rooted tree and ‘bamberos’ are
human-like peoples associated with large table-rooted trees. See more in Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b:118-
26

191
the mafia the ‘colonos’ (non-indigenous colonisers) would come, then the miners and
soon this would all be ‘white territory’”.

I left the region in 1998 when the guerrillas expelled all NGO workers from the Yaigojé
(Chapter Three). Since alternative arrangements have been put in place in the Apaporis
region. Except for the French physician J.M. Fischer, who has been providing a health
service to the Yaigojé people for more than a decade, entrance to foreigners remains
forbidden
135
. However, Colombian nationals working for the NGOs have been allowed
to go back to the region, this is the result of arrangements made between the NGOs,
indigenous authorities and the guerrillas. Following the expulsion of the NGO workers
the traditional authorities of the Yaigojé wrote:

“Our wish is for peace in our territory, Colombia and the Planet.
The world wants life, the territory searches within history, within the myth, to live smiling as our
ancestors lived. Death stains the universe. The great thinkers announce the end of our territory
and of the planet. Therefore we invite you to leave in peace. We are all kin of Colombia; there is
no difference in our right to live. The children, the adults, we all want to live. To secure life for
humankind, we, the traditional thinkers take care of the rivers, the trees, the animals and of the
sacred places. Colombia and our territory do not wish war
136
. We are looking for peace to nurse
the future, a place where the sun will brighten and give warmth. We want to reach this dream.
We want this for the thousands of Colombians. Therefore we are inviting you to leave in peace,
to offer life to humankind”
137


A Letuama leader from ACIYA explained in a meeting in Leticia at the time:
“We did send the letter asking the government, and also stating to the other authorities of the
country that we want to be part of a group from this Country that is ascribed to neutrality.
We are proposing this because earlier this year we had problems with our position of neutrality
within the [Yaigojé] Resguardo. We wish to overcome this situation. We want to live freely and
in tranquillity within our territory. We want this for everybody not just for us…I want to thank
the NGOs. Let me ask, within the Amazon territories, where has the State [of Colombia] offered
assistance for the territorial ordering process to become reality? The government [of Colombia]
requests but never gives assistance to us so that we can develop that process”
138


Then representatives of the Yaigojé Resguardo travelled to Caguan, by then a territory
ceded from the Government of Colombia to the FARC guerrillas in order to reinstate

135
It might be that the guerrillas allowed him to stay after indigenous people requested and they received
a Red Cross petition on his behalf.
136
Interestingly, ‘territory’ is used indistinctly and as synonymous with ‘our people’. The same could be
said about Colombia and Colombians.
137
The traditional authorities belonging to ACIYA signed the letter on November 15
th
1998. It was
directed to: the President of Colombia, the Secretary of Defence, the FARC guerrillas, ONIC (National
Indigenous Organisation of Colombia), the Catholic Church Directives, the Governors of Vaupés and
Amazonas, CRIVA (Indigenous Regional Council of Vaupés, ACAIPI (The Association of Traditional
Authorities of the Pirá-Paraná), ACIMA (The Association of Traditional Authorities of the Mirití-
Amazonas) ACITAM (Asociation of Traditional Authorities of the Colombian Amazon), the General
Director of Indigenous Affairs – Home Secretary, OAS (Organisation of American States) UN (United
Nations), Medicos del Mundo, Daniela Mitterand and the Red Cross. (Reproduced in Echeverry, Franky
et al. 2000, pp 67. Translation by the author)

192
the peace talks. COAMA’s Director, who accompanied indigenous leaders was not
allowed to intervene in the conversations between Cpt. R. Tanimuka and R. Arenas one
of chiefs of FARC central command. When I interviewed R. Tanimuka, he recalled the
conversation. Using a metaphor of waves expanding in a lake after a stone has hit
tranquil waters, Arenas assured the indigenous leader that FARC rule would eventually
take root all over Colombia. He said the FARC wishes no harm to indigenous people
and that if R. Tanimuka had complaints about the FARC treatment, he, Arenas, would
institute an investigation immediately. The Captain asked why, if they were neutral, had
guerrilla fighters got into the Yaigojé armed and ready for battle. The FARC
commander explained that they could take no risk but that he would personally
guarantee that no indigenous people from the Yaigojé would be harmed. Although,
Arenas added, this is of course if the peace process is maintained. If peace negotiations
broke down, he could guarantee nothing.

Shamans have seen Yuruparí
139
, and have announced that they could no longer prevent
the Colombian war from entering their territories. Indigenous leaders were worried
about the actions of the guerrillas now that the peace talks had collapsed and a
renowned hard liner, Uribe, had been elected President. They complained of the white
people inhabiting distant cities that knew and cared nothing about the suffering of
indigenous peoples living in remote areas, which obviously was their case. All the
people I interviewed during the summer of 2002 manifested great anxiety.

9.4 Indigenous Development?
Reading the above description the reader may get an idea that indigenous peoples from
NWA constitute a harmonic civilisation, conscious of the planetary importance of
preserving life and peace, being driven to extinction by hordes of armed savages
fighting for the control of drug trafficking routes. All of which may be a correct but
incomplete picture. Inside the NWA villages there is no harmony.

One main conflict already pointed out in previous chapters is that of competition for
political power between shamans and young leaders. Young leaders poorly trained in
shamanism and ignorant of historical developments of their ethnic groups are

138
Reproduced in Echeverry, Franky et al. 2000, pp 68. Translated by the author.
139
Yuruparí is the main ritual of the Tukano. At the end of which the shaman has to divine which relevant
events will occur from the time of attending the ritual until the next session. They would announce death
or sickness, also if there would be conflicts among clans, groups or wars with foreigners.

193
challenging the rule of their elders. Another conflicting issue that has not been
discussed inside the Resguardo relates to political discrimination against women.

In Chapter Four it was explained how gendered agency was essential for the realisation
of rituals and thus to cultural reproduction. In Chapter Six it was explained how women
gain power by securing food and contributing to cultural material reproduction. It was
suggested that women and men had different priorities with respect to developmental
projects. And, in Chapter Seven, it was stressed that GAIA foundation encountered
resistance from the local authorities when trying to promote the participation of women
in the administration of projects. Having witnessed the development of ACIYA since
1994, I have the impression that the development of women’s participation within the
organisation has been limited. The advances that have been achieved are due to the
acceptance of two female teachers in two different community schools and the active
participation of two women from C. Providencia in the co-ordination of the
papermaking project. However, there was only one woman, one of the teachers,
participating in the ACIYA Congress.

It has become urgent to analyse the impact of recent developments in respect of the
gendering of power structures. It has been stated that the collective memory of the
ethnic groups of NWA is related to a long-term gendered historical agency (Hugh-
Jones, C. 1979; Reichel-Dusan 1999). Women’s power (called by the Tukano the
‘defences’ of a person) develops while accumulating knowledge of agriculture and food
management. Men’s power develops through shamanism; it depends on their skills as
negotiators and of the ‘padrinaje’ (the influence of the men’s relatives and instructors).
The most powerful of shamans is the jaguar-shaman, who can take away or restore
knowledge from men or women. Only men can be jaguar-shamans, although the
grandmothers retain, and are in charge of giving, power to their granddaughters.

If cultural changes affect the power of shamans and elders, which seems to be the case,
as described in previous chapters, then it would seem that the restructur of power has an
impact on gender relations. It must be taken into account that chiefs, who are
exclusively male, have gained more power due to their role as community and
organisation leaders. The changes taking place affect resources management,
intergenerational relations and the balance of power between genders.


194
Male fishing and hunting is not a daily activity and meat can be absent from the diet for
days, but in contrast women have to prepare manioc bread every day. Except for the
period of tree felling when the chagras are being opened, men tend to be absent from
the gardens. The tobacco and coca fields are supposed to be attended by men, but it is
not uncommon for a man to ask his wife to go and pick coca leaves from which the men
prepare mambe. Women have to go to work in the gardens everyday. Besides tending
the plants, they have to collect manioc and carry the filled baskets weighing 50 to 80
kilograms back home from distances of more than two miles. And, the process of
making cassava bread is also exhausting. Water also has to be carried. All such work is
rarely recognised by men. But is this lack of recognition of women’s labour something
new? Have women ever attempted to question the legitimacy of male dominance in the
political sphere?

While in the maloca of C. Providencia I witnessed how Gerado Díaz, leader of ACIYA,
punched his wife for no reason. To my astonishment and dismay, when the woman tried
to escape, Diaz’s parents advised him to chase her. He went after her and, when he
caught up with her, continued to beat her while loudly screaming that he wanted “to see
the blood of the animal”. Next day the woman could hardly move and her brother had to
go to rescue her. Initially, Diaz’s father tried to restrain the woman’s brother, making it
possible for his son to punch him. The Captain of the community had to be called; the
shaman and the elders were brought.

The man was refusing to let his wife and sons go with his brother-in-law. He claimed
that the woman was a payment to his family (The Sun-People Clan). His clan had given
a woman (his wife’s mother) to the other Makuna clan. He argued that until his wife’s
mother was returned to the Sun People Clan he would not agree to give back his wife.
The shaman and the elder members of the family agreed that although what the man
was saying was within the traditional rules, it was also true that a woman did not have
to stand violence and they would not agree to her or her sons remaining with him. The
school director, brother of the offender added that this was not a proper way to educate
children and he should be ashamed of himself. The man argued that this was his
business and they should not interfere, he would solve it with his wife. He complained
about his other brother, the Captain of the community, being present as if it was an
important community issue. At this the Captain rose to his feet and said that his brother
had behaved improperly and that his stubbornness had made things worse. He added

195
that if he wanted to fight he was there to face that too, as he was going to resolve the
issue following the elders’ advice by giving the woman back to her brother.

While all this happened the woman had been taken outside the maloca, and was
forbidden to say a word, her fate was in her brother’s hands. Her brother refused to
leave the mambeadero until the Captain gave his sister back to him. The man eventually
had to accept his fate but before going outside the maloca he promised to take revenge.
Four weeks later I found the man working at a GAIA station of Pedrera. Apparently his
father had asked the GAIA administrator of Bogotá, (who happened to be there at the
time), to make a place for him. Whatever the reasons for accepting the deal it certainly
does not send the right message to indigenous organisations (especially to women)
concerning domestic violence.

There are no statistics revealing how often children and women are subjected to
violence within the Resguardos. While living with the peoples of NWA I only
occasionally witnessed parents punishing children, treating them roughly or threatening
violence. On the contrary, the majority of parents seemed to me, were devoted to taking
care of children. Although, while boys were often out in the forest, training in hunting,
gathering and fishing, from an early age the girls have to work very hard, helping to
nurse the younger children, attending the chagras and the house. Parents rarely send
girls to continue their studies outside the Resguardo, choosing to send the boys instead.
The girls that do manage to get a place in the Catholic Internee Schools rarely finish
their studies, commonly getting pregnant at an early age. The boards of these schools
expel the girls as soon as they realise they are pregnant, forcing them to choose between
taking odd jobs (servants, cooks, waitresses at bars) in the whites’ villages or returning
to the hard work in the Resguardos. At the time of writing there is a large number of
girls and women that are literate with the ability and willingness to take responsibilities
in the management of communities’ projects and within the ACIYA organisation, but
they have never been considered for such positions of responsibility.

It is understandable that NGO advisers are reluctant to talk about this delicate issue, but
it should be dealt with, better sooner than latter. NGOs that take part in COAMA should
reflect on the possibility of requesting women’s participation in the management of

196
community projects funded by them
140
. The application of justice, the reflection in the
law of the principles of participation, intergenerational and gender equity should be an
integral part of any political development of NWA. How could indigenous
organisations expect fair treatment from the Nation-State if not achieving fair treatment
for all the inhabitants of the Resguardos? The rights conceded to indigenous peoples
reflect the willingness of the signatories of ILO Agreement 169
141
to protect their
indigenous populations; nothing different is asked for when requesting indigenous
authorities to protect women and children inside the Resguardos.

9.5 External Help and Sustainability
The types of ‘chagras’ (indigenous gardens) that the Tukano (the Makuna, Tanimuka,
Letuama, Yahuna and Barasano from the Apaporis among others) and Arawak (among
them the Yukuna of the Mirití and the Cabiyarí of Cananarí and Apaporis) used to make
were very specialised. Besides accomplishing management of sophisticated
agroecosystems, the agricultural activities followed norms embedded in myths
142
. For
example, the cultivation patterns followed by the Makuna reflect the knowledge left by
Yabirá and her parents, the Water-Anacondas. Palm trees, fruit trees, manioc,
ichthyocide plants and other poisons, capí (Banisteriopsis caapi), tobacco and coca
(Erythroxylum coca), they all deserved special charters in mythical stories. The shape,
composition and management of the gardens, gender ascription included, are all
specified in the myths, all of which is part of the rich magico-religious life of NWA
peoples.

From Guakayá (a tributary of the Mirití) to Popeyaká and from there to Yapiyaká near
by the paths the Letuama, Matapí and Tanimuka made during the 19
th
and 20
th

centuries, a walker can still find patches and lines of cultivated trees. The paths used to
connect malocas that have long since disappeared. Some palm trees were planted in
order to attract primates, which search for specific palm fruits, thus, providing game for
the human populations of today (Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996b). The

140
I understand there is an experience with two groups of women developing the GAIA funded projects
for the production of oil and ceramics in the Mirití Resguardo, although the influence of the women
managers within ACIMA (The organisation of traditional authorities of the Mirití Resguardo) has not
been assesed.
141
The International Labour Organisation Agreement 169 on Indigenous People’s Rights was ratified by
Colombia and incorporated into the National Legislation by the approval by Parliament as law 29 of
1993.
142
See Arhem 1998, Hugh-Jones, C. 1979; Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b, Van der Hammen 1992

197
‘rastrojos’ (‘abandoned’ gardens) thus continue to provide services today. Fruits, herbs,
branches and vines continue to be harvested from these rastrojos.

Thus, complex agroforestry systems aimed at ensuring food security had a place in
Northwest Amazonia but these systems are changing. People have been moving from
the forest interior to the riversides and long term cultivation is no longer a priority. The
food production of a settlement used to be directed by a maloquero (maloca chief) who
distributed labour and produce. Now that the majority of people live in a house
occupied by a nuclear family, the role of the maloquero has changed. Each family must
secure their own food. For the clearing of forest and for the realisation of traditional
dances, co-operation remains indispensable, but maloqueros intervene no further in the
production and distribution of food. Less important is to cultivate for the grandsons,
such as the system described by Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996a for the Yukuna
and Matapí.

The moving of the Tanimuka from Guakayá in 1993-1994 was delayed by flooding that
year, which inundated the scarce and recently opened chagras by the side of the
Apaporis. However, with the exception of the Captain, all other families that moved
continued to open their chagras by the side of the River. Only two families, one of them
the Captain’s, have continued to plant different kinds of chagras for different purposes
and at different times of the year. The other nine families, although maintaining agro-
diversity, plant short-term chagras, (that last one to two years). During March-June of
2002 the Apaporis burst its banks and the flooding was worse than that reported for
1993. The majority of the crops of the Tanimuka were lost.

Tukano settlement used to last twenty to thirty years after which the whole settlement
would relocate elsewhere. Large quantities of vines for securing structural timbers and
palm branches for thatching are required during the construction of settlements. The
thatch of houses and malocas has to be renewed approximately every six years. Vines
grow around large trees and are found generally in groups or at least in pairs. The rule,
prescribed in myths, (and if broken supposed to bring disgrace) says that the harvester
must leave at least one vine in the tree. There are restrictions specified in myths on the
harvesting of palm trees as well. Four branches should be left for the palm to survive,
and small palms should not be touched. The harvester when asking permission to the
spiritual owner of the palms would have to assure replanting. But these rules are a thing

198
of the past, only observed by the elders. Some areas have been depleted of these
valuable resources. In an interview with a Makuna kumu (2002) he confirmed to me
that although repeatedly informing people of C. Providencia of the risks, they continued
to deplete the resources.

Restrictions prescribed in myths and imposed by shamans used to be an indispensable
part of hunting and fishing. In 1994, during my first visits to the Apaporis, between
Bella Vista and Bocas del Pirá the babillas (Caiman crocodylus and Paleosuchs sp.)
were abundant, their sparkling red eyes visible everywhere during the night. Now
(2002) a traveller would be lucky to spot one. The people from Bocas said it was due to
excessive hunting. A study on the variations of fish catches would be of much use in the
Apaporis, as the fishermen from B. Pirá and C. Providencia have noticed “too much
differences in catches”, their words.

It may be, and it would need corroboration, that the apparent decline in catches and the
notable disappearance of babillas reflect changes in patterns of settlement and non-
compliance with shamanistic prescriptions. Young men continue to refrain from eating
during Yuruparí and during the great dances, but diets previous to fishing, hunting,
harvesting and gathering are rare. It is expected that even when breaking a rule, the
shaman will be able to repair the harm.
143
In the past, restrictions were not only
applicable to men, but also to women, who had to observe different diets during
pregnancy, breast-feeding and menstruation. Both women and men had to comply with
diets prior to big dances and children’s diets were also strictly regulated, special care
being taken to ensure they would not eat animal fat or food that was too spicy. All these
practices have been modified and the demand for all sorts of resources continues
unabated throughout the year, but the impact of such activities in habitat transformation
and population decline among certain species has not been determined.

Nowadays the two larger settlements in the Yaigojé are the multiethnic C. Providencia
and the mainly Makuna and Barasano Bocas del Pirá. These two villages both have

143
Shamans claim to communicate with spiritual owners of fish, palms and game –the resources, and
trade with them, sickness and death are shamanistic payments. This is a spiritual ritual trade, which means
shamans do not physically hurt, contaminate or kill anyone. Indigenous peoples’ understanding of a
natural disaster, sickness and death is always related to shamanistic payments. Although understanding
the physical causes of an event and taking action in this respect, of most importance is to deal with the
energetic/spiritual causes, which are related to this life energy trade carried out among spiritual owners
and shamans.


199
health centres, schools, stores, well-equipped carpentry workshops, and papermaking
facilities. The demand for boats, outboard motors, gasoline, stationary and supplies is
increasing every year. These patterns are followed by the rest of the villages that want,
in their own words to “expand and progress”. The cultivation of food, hunting, fishing
and gathering are all being transformed in accordance with the new conditions of life,
but no serious reflection on the environmental impacts of such changes has taken place
until now, while no consideration at all is given to planning or the environmental
assessment of future developments.

During my 2002 fieldwork visit, I attended a workshop on environmental management
organised by the GAIA foundation in the Yaigojé. The event was heralded as the main
event of the ACIYA Congress. Prior to the Congress I interviewed representatives of
traditional authorities, leaders (mainly teachers), some shamans, and many other
inhabitants from different areas of the Resguardo.

The traditional authorities were interested mainly in the political developments. The
captains I interviewed wanted to discuss on the risks that indigenous peoples were going
to face. These risks were related to the fact that a new rightwing president was taking
office (the 7
th
of August) and more milirary actions against the guerrillas were likely to
affect indigenous peoples. The teachers were more interested in talking about the future
of the community schools. The Consejo de Estado
144
had ordered the Government of
the Department of Amazonas to terminate the unconstitutional contract between the
Amazonian Governor’s Office and the Catholic Church’s Conferencia Episcopal de
Colombia for the administration of Education Services in Amazonia
145
. However, at the
time of the interview the Governor’s Office had ignored the ruling, renewed the contract
and was allowing the State’s resources to be given to the Catholic Church. The
indigenous community schools of the entire Department of Amazonas were in desperate
need of these resources. Shamans were concerned with people’s acknowledgement of
the changes that were occurring in their world, which partly refers to environmental

144
A National Court of Colombia, hierarchically the second in the Nation after the Constitutional Court of
Justice
145
The authorities of neighbouring Resguardo of Mirití questioned the legitimacy of the contract in 1998.
The Administrative Tribunal of the Department of Cundinamarca negated the Demand in a sentence of
the 30
th
–08-1999. The authorities proceeded to appeal and the Demand was revised in second instance by
the Council of State, that annulled the decision of the Administrative tribunal, and accepted the Demand
in the sentence of 21
st
–09-1999. The Council of State ordered the Governor’s office to cease the contract
with the Catholic Church and to proceed to contract with Indigenous Organisations that have complied
with all the requirements established in the law.

200
management; although none of them seemed interested in attending the workshop
organised by GAIA. Other people the author interviewed were not aware of the
Congress or gave no importance to it.

After establishing the procedures to be followed during the Congress, the first day of the
so-called workshop began. The GAIA advisors gave a very long lecture on concepts and
methodologies for ecosystem analysis. A long list of concepts with definitions was
given to the participants. At the end of the first day I asked some participants what they
though about it. The general assessment was that it may be useful to the teachers that
have to explain white concepts to children at the schools but for others the lecture
proved not to be very interesting.

The second day started with a shortage of people. Youngsters, some of them teachers
and a few adults were either drunk or recovering from heavy drinking. “El paisa”
146
, a
merchant from Pedrera, had arrived with his cargo of alcoholic beverages just in time
for the Congress. The Captain of C. Providencia went to the cabin were he slept and
told him the rest of the bottles would be seized and returned to him once the Congress
had finished.

During the second day, one of the GAIA advisors asked for the participants’ opinions
about how the workshop was being received. Rondón Tanimuka responded that the
event was a compromise and that for him it was interesting although for many of the
participants it was not. He added that he could not participate as much as he would like
to, due to his Spanish being so poor. He said he could attempt to explain something
about forest management and energy payments but that as the conversation was being
held in the white people’s language, he felt excluded. Although he recognised that as
with healing processes, a shaman could share similar knowledge to people from another
ethnic group but only express it in their own language. He said a dialogue on
environmental management had begun but that in order for that dialogue to prosper,
some indigenous leaders should become biologists and learn the white people’s idiom.
The leaders would be able to explain to the whites the shamans’ thinking and translate
more clearly what the whites were interested in. Meanwhile, he added, there would be

146
Popular nickname given to the people from Antioquia – Colombia. Paisas are famous for their abilities
in developing business all of sorts.

201
no trust. He said, he did not mean that they were rejecting the workshop activities, but
that they were thinking about the long-term and not just the present.

Benjamín Tanimuka, another Captain and shaman, said that they were trying to improve
their way of living, and as he understood it, this not only compromises shamanistic
activities but their ability to cope with a different world. At the same time, Gilberto
Diaz, a Makuna teacher, enquired, “how can we say no to changes given the obvious
advances in technology”? He elaborated further, “we weren’t used to fishing in the great
river but only in the creeks, but now who does not fish in the Apaporis?” He added that
ethnic territories were defined and that in the past people of a village had not gone to
other people’s territories for hunting and gathering, but that nowadays everybody uses
any resource at any time anywhere, regardless of the needs of other peoples.

Mauricio Letuama, a young leader, added that there they were speaking of ‘food
security’ but, as he saw the situation, the risk was not just losing the ability to feed the
population properly but not having the knowledge to develop and strengthen their
culture. He pointed out that there was cultural risk and that they needed to look at the
transmission of knowledge in both ways, the traditional and the western, something
already identified in the education diagnosis carried out on behalf of ACIYA.

The workshop continued with a presentation of an analysis of Nikak forest
management. The Nikak are an ethnic group with which the Yaigojé inhabitants
maintain no contact. Finally the GAIA advisers asked for people’s participation in the
analysis of changes in the patterns of hunting, fishing and housing. No deep reflection
came out as a result – largely due to insufficient time and organisation. But at least
some of the people attending the workshop became interested in the subject of
environmental management and the teachers took notes that no doubt will be of some
value for their work at schools.

After the activities of the workshop finished, the Congress participants were occupied in
the matter of Territorial Transfers, the State resources were invested mainly in
education, housing and health. Most of the money was used to pay the teachers and
health promoters. There used to be a special budget assigned by the protocol for
‘institutional development’, under which money could be used to pay the expenses of

202
the Resguardo representatives in Leticia
147
. This budget had been suspended and
government officers from ‘Planeación Nacional’ suggested that the indigenous
representative could inflate the figures of some community projects and take his
expenses out of it. As one of the GAIA advisors put it, “well if even honest
functionaries suggest fixed deals, given the absurd procedures, what can you expect
indigenous people would learn from it all”.

Another problem was that the health promoters from small communities wanted
medicines and basic first aid equipment to treat their peoples. They wanted to put some
of the money into these things but the government did not allow it. In the administrative
records, all indigenous peoples from Amazonia had been affiliated to a Health Service
Entity that should provide the complete Health Service. The State had already assigned
the money for doctors, nurses and medicines. That, of course, was in the books, nothing
to do with the cruel reality. To begin with, the indigenous peoples from the Yaigojé
were not consulted about the affiliation, as the law said they should be. Then,
Caprecom, the firm contracted to provide the service, had never been in the Apaporis
and did not respond any of the peoples needs.

Health promoters complained that the GAIA foundation had not paid attention to their
request to establish a commission or committee that would deal with problems related to
the Health Service. In contrast, they said, GAIA has invested in teachers’ training
courses, and as a result they were able to teach and also to administer the education
service. They wanted something similar to happen in the case of health services
148
.

I had the opportunity to talk to the Assembly of ACIYA, thank them for their welcome
and enquire about future developments. During the 1990s I realised that people from
Apaporis were concerned about ‘researchers’, and they were trying to differentiate them
from ‘assessors’. I was told by some of those attending the Congress that there was a

147
The legal representative of the Resguardo has to remain in Leticia while waiting for the Governor’s
office to release the money and transfer it to the Resguardo. Then he must buy the materials requested in
each project. After that he has to sign a contract for the transport of tools, stationary and other things for
the projects. Then, he can travel to Pedrera were he is supposed to receive and pick up the merchandise to
be transported to the communities. In each community he has to organise a meeting and once the money
and merchandise had been given to the captain in front of the community members he would get the
respective receipt. It is a tiresome job for which he receives no payment.
148
The author knew, since the time when of working for COAMA, that the GAIA Foundation did not
want to get involved in activities that were of the competence of specialised organisation. And, in the
case of the Apaporis region there was one such organisation, Medicos del Mundo, (Physicians of the
World) which in fact was developing “Proyecto Apaporis” (Apaporis Project) for the Yaigojé.

203
rumour that I was no longer an ‘assessor’ but a ‘researcher’. Having this in mind the
first thing I said after expressing my gratitude for the invitation was that to those
concerned about my work I would say that I was a researcher definitely. That I did ask
with intention, and that I was trying to figure out better answers to some questions I had
had in mind since my last visit. I said that all of my questioning be it concerned with
someone’s health, the name of a plant, the river flood, or the art involved in making a
musical instrument, etc., all of it was done consciously and with the intention of
figuring out the connections between nature, art and people. Adding that my perception
was that of a foreigner although deeply concerned with the promotion of indigenous
people’s rights, as they already knew.

Silence reigned for a moment; those who had dismissed the rumour, as well as those
who wanted to question the purpose of my trips through Apaporis were astonished.
They were expecting me to say that I was an assessor aiming to provide help, instead I
said that it was in their hands to make use of what I said and brought to them. I made it
clear that if they considered that my trip was not appropriate or that they wanted me to
ask no further questions and leave I was ready to do as they bid. The way I saw it, they
had invited me and they could ask me to leave. I added that I had to arrange permissions
from many people in order to get there, that a number of people were very difficult and
uncooperative while some others were helpful, but I did not care about them as they
were not representatives of the peoples from Apaporis. Their word and opinion, I
emphasised, was the only opinion that counted for me.

Once they had digested what I had said, they decided it was fine with them for me to
continue my trip. I then mentioned the web-site that I had developed for this research
(kumoro.com). Only a few people in C. Providencia had actually seen the page, it is the
only place with Internet access in the entire region of Mirití, Apaporis and Pirá-Paraná.
To the other participants the conversation was something quite extraordinary; the
majority had seen a laptop brought by whites once in a while and they all new that the
Health Promoter of Providencia had a new means of communication. But except for the
people from Providencia that had actually seen the page and used ICT, nobody else was
very interested in discussing the future development of the site. Fernando and G. Diaz,
and L. Puinave, Captain, School Director and Health Promoter from C. Providencia
respectively, said they were very interested in learning to deal with the web-site issues

204
but could not do so at the moment due to the restrictions in the use of ICT, which was
supposed to be used for the functioning of tele-medicine exclusively
149
.

Some people asked if I was in the position to provide ICT facilities somewhere else in
the Resguardo, which I clearly was not. The Captain of Centro Providencia suggested
that I try to get another computer, as there was already an additional satellite antenna
installed in his community. I answered that I would need to prove that they were really
interested in order to look for possible donors. ACIYA gave me an authorisation to look
for resources that would contribute to any of the projects developed in the Yaigojé or by
the organisation.

Finally, two biology undergraduate students representing Conservation International –
Colombia (CIC) that attended the meeting got their chance to talk to the Assembly.
They informed the Congress that there were two places for indigenous people to go and
work at their station. The Tanimuka were of the opinion that nobody should go. They
remembered that the agreement made with CIC was that they (CIC) would be allowed
to stay if they trained indigenous people in the management of the station in order, in
time, to move to co-management. The agreement was not to provide cheap labour for
researchers in a station located inside the Yaigojé Resguardo. However, some of the
Makuna said that it might be useful to some unemployed youngsters to go down and
learn to use a computer. It was left to some of the latter to propose a person and consult
with their parents. They would send a message to CIC if they identified someone who
could go. The matter was left there.

When interviewing the CIC representatives they told me that to their knowledge the
station had been operating smoothly until the indigenous people claimed the place to be
part of the Resguardo. They understood an agreement granting permission for the
permanent functioning of the “Kaparú station” had been reached in 1998 and did not
understand indigenous people’s negative attitudes towards the activities of researchers
at the station. They were sceptical when I informed them that indigenous people had
stated since the constitution of the Resguardo that Muju-tupia or Mosiro Itajurá
150
was
Tukano territory and had consistently pursued legal protection for the site. I do not think

149
A development of Proyecto Apaporis.
150
Theses are the Tanimuka and Makuna names given to the lake where the station is located. Kaparú is
the Yukuna (Arawak) name, adopted by the Deflers, North American researchers that employed Yukuna
to operate the station.

205
they knew that researchers from the station only consulted the people of the Apaporis in
1997, many years after they had moved in, which partially explained indigenous
peoples’ suspiciousness of ‘researchers’.

9.6 COAMA: a Bigger Picture
COAMA has played a relevant role preparing indigenous teachers, providing stationary
for community schools and promoting multicultural education. Schools from the Mirití
Resguardo have elaborated PEI (Project for the Institutional Development of Education
Service), which is a legal requirement for the establishment of community schools.
Teachers from the Yaigojé elaborated a solid report on the state of educational services
within the Resguardo. Teachers from the Pirá-Paraná were receiving specialised courses
already delivered for teachers from Apaporis and Mirití until the FARC guerrillas
interrupted these activities. In any case community schools flourished, some of the
schools of the Mirití Resguardo have been legalised and some of the Apaporis schools
are pursuing the same recognition. GAIA Foundation has funded indigenous leaders’
trips and activities in Bogotá and Leticia. And, apparently the control of indigenous
people’s educational services in Colombian Amazonia is going to be in the hands of
indigenous peoples themselves; a long ago agreed aim of the indigenous movement.

In co-ordination with the Comisión Andina de Juristas (Andean Judicial Commission)
and the Government of Holland, COAMA is developing a program for the
strengthening of ETI (Indigenous Territorial Entities). The ETIs were assigned in the
new Colombian Constitution (1991) but they have not been implemented. The
aforementioned organisations aim to fund and advise indigenous initiatives to enable the
establishment of ETIs, which in co-ordination with the executive office of the Nation,
will be in charge of governing all indigenous territories. Some of the required
developments have already taken place. In Leticia there is an Indigenous Forum on
governmental matters, which is aiding representatives from different organisations to
develop their political and governance aims.

A coalition among colonos’ representatives, indigenous organisations, NGOs and some
of the Civil Servants was formed in 2001. It is called FAP (Permanent Forum for the
Environment). The purpose of the Forum is “to construct Amazonia”, in the words of
COAMA’s Director. The Ministry of Environment and the Peoples’ Attorney Office are
in charge of co-ordinating the governmental institutions involved. The OPIAC (The

206
Indigenous Peoples Organisations of the Amazon Basin) is co-ordinating indigenous
organisations. COAMA plays the co-ordinating role among the NGOs. Even though
civil servants participate in the forum, it is not a governmental initiative, thus is could
be seen as an important instrument of ‘civil society’ with a significant capacity for
education in environmental management. FAP is currently designing and implementing
cross-border projects among the countries with territories in the Amazon Basin.

Additionally COAMA directives have enlarged the NGO network by linking with other
networks of NGOs from Brazil, Venezuela and the Andean Countries. In November
2001 they launched CANOA - Coordinación y Alianza del Norte y el Oeste Amazónico
(Alliance and Co-ordination for Northwest Amazonia), an ambitious project that aims to
protect cultural and biological diversity by strengthening the management of
Amazonian environments in a way that both people and nature should benefit. Covering
the Natural and Indigenous Reserves of the countries where these organisations work,
the territories comprehend a little more than seventy million hectares of Amazonian
Forest. It is expected that the Alliance of NGOs will work on enhancing the capability
of local inhabitants to co-ordinate the developmental, conservation and environmental
management activities taking place in NWA.

9.7 A Way Forward
While the biggest NGO Network operating in NWA has developed around the
production of sustainability targets for the Amazon Basin, there remain basic
developments missing among the indigenous organisations they helped to constitute.
This disparity might well reflect the need of NGO networks to expand their scope as
centres for education in environmental management. NGOs would need to provide
opportunities for the development of multidisciplinary / multiethnic, participatory action
research. If they decide to follow this path they should acquire the credentials or
associate with educational centres able to award degrees for the researchers joining the
initiatives developed in NWA.

One of the aims of indigenous people’s movements, the development of multiethnic
education and self-determination of educational programs, is being achieved. This
would not be possible without the decisive involvement of NGOs. A way forward in the
promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights is to determine which principles (such as

207
intergenerational and gender equity) should be reflected in the aims, protocols and
contracts to be supported by NGOs.

Environmental management plans in NWA cannot take place without adequate
understanding of the changes occurring in indigenous people’s management of
agroecosystems. The key role of women in the management of chagras has to be
recognised and they must take part in any research concerning agricultural practices.
Conservation organisations would not be able to develop partnership projects in
conservation without treating indigenous people as equal interlocutors and in order to
do that, indigenous requests for training and specialised education must be fulfilled.

Although the guerrillas constitute a permanent obstructing force, making it difficult to
develop dialogues among indigenous movements, conservation organisations, the
churches and NGOs, this has not prevented civil society from developing national and
hybrid projects for a better management of Amazonian forests. Although illegitimate
armed groups continue to harm civil society, the only way forward, (having taken into
account the inability of the government to provide security to the Nation), is to fortify
the network of social movements.

In the Colombian Amazon, the only governmental actions that have actually helped in
the protection of indigenous peoples are related to judicial sentences forcing the
executive power to comply with the National Constitution. The executive power,
represented in the Governor’s Office and the officers from Central Planning, has not
made any advance in the administration of State resources. The military intervention has
proven ineffective at protecting both infrastructure and the lives of civilians. The way
forward for the central government would be to fortify the judicial system enlarging
their capability. In this way the government may gain the trust of the sceptical
Amazonian inhabitants.

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CONCLUSIONS
Adaptation and Shamanism
It was highlighted in Chapter Three that shamanism is not only related to the magico-
religious life of the NWA Amazonian peoples, but also to the administration of energy
use. Thus, as shamanistic practices change, control over the use of resources changes as
well. Chapters Six to Nine highlighted some of the obvious impacts of technology
adaptation or adoption in rainforest environments. For example, it has been suggested
that practices like short rotation cropping/long-fallow agriculture may be an adaptation
to post-colonial social circumstances and the introduction of the metal axe (Denevan
2001). But, as discussed in Chapter Six, there are other less obvious impacts that have
not been detailed and that need further study. It has been suggested in this dissertation
that indigenous systems of knowledge, indigenous shamanism and thus, indigenous
management of rainforest environments has been changing inline with the adaptation of
technology and with the adoption of new ways of living.

In Chapter Nine, it was pointed out that indigenous peoples from NWA have noticed
changes with respect to fish catches and with the disappearance of babillas. In their own
attempt to explain the situation, they referred to over-hunting and over-fishing due to
the changes in the way of living (more sedentary and dependent on foreign
merchandise) and the younger generations’ resistance to complying with shamanistic
(magico-religious) restrictions. A kumu (shaman in charge of ‘management of the
world’) explained how his advice on the management of resources for housing and
thatching was ignored and that he was convinced that the depletion of such resources
was a direct consequence of the younger generation’s avoidance of religious practices.

In spite of shamans’ awareness of the possible environmental impacts of young people’s
lack of willingness to comply with magico-religious prescriptions, the discourses of
biological and cultural diversity preservation and ‘sustainable development’, have been
taken up by indigenous organisations of NWA that look for feasible strategies to
maintain or gain control over their territories. This contradiction is clarified through the
study of ideologies and political action in a particular scenario, such as the Apaporis
described here.


209
Indigenous organisations have a strategic advantage when arguing that whatever impact
indigenous populations have on rainforest environments, it is benevolent when
compared with that of the mestizo population, which is dedicated mainly to the
functioning of extractive economies and drug trafficking. The enlargement of
indigenous towns follows developmental patterns propelled by the State and complies
with national and international regulations. The situation is rather different, however,
with respect to other activities such as illegal logging and mining, the skin and live-
animal trades and, production and trade of narcotics directed by non-indigenous
peoples.

It should be clear to the reader, at this point, that territorial and governance actions are
linked. That these actions relate not only to the development of productive forces but
also with the ideological and philosophical appraisal of the world. It should also have
been demonstrated that the acts of territoriality of indigenous peoples have a different
point of departure than those of non-indigenous populations; shamanism represents a
holistic approach to environmental management and social organisation. The religious
practices of the Tukano (to which shamanism is central) encompass economic, social
and political dimensions that suit not only the reproduction of their society but are
concerned with conservation of the environment.

Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
In the search for recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights and the implementation of
derived laws and protocols, indigenous organisations have sought legal advice. The
efforts made by activists to foster links among indigenous organisations in Colombian
Amazonia since 1997, resulted in the formation of alliances characteristic of social
movements. As explained in Chapter Three there have been governmental officers
aiming to help with this development. And actually, the local government of Colombian
Amazonia was involved (1998) in a project that aimed to correct the political failures of
past State management. However, a democratic participation process does not only
depend on the legal procedures or the development of institutions, but also on how all
the different stakeholders understand and claim territorial rights.

In Chapters Three and Five it was made clear that local initiatives have not matched up
to National State policies. In fact, and although being a central element in the
Colombian constitutional reform of 1991, the State never truly committed itself to the

210
much needed territorial ordering process. The initiatives of the social movement
(formed by a coalition of indigenous organisations, NGOs and various other
stakeholders), whether or not they are supported by local government (like the
Department of Amazonas in 1998) are costly both politically and economically.
Furthermore, the success of this social movement in NWA has been partial as the
partners failed to foresee the difficulties that were to arise when trying to institutionalise
the written constitutional principles and laws.

For indigenous peoples the use of legal instruments was essential in the recognition of
their rights to territoriality and governance (Chapter Three). But their success is due not
only to adequate legal advice but also to specialised political management. To achieve
institutional transformation, legal instruments have to be accompanied by strategic
political manoeuvres (Chapters Three, Six and Nine). As a result of success in legal
battles the social movement has expanded; State functionaries, NGO coalitions and
indigenous organisations are fortifying their network. From the experiences of the late
1990s, the local social movement
151
learnt (or should have learnt) that when a legal
procedure is properly presented, there is an enormous potential for consolidation of the
movement.

This social movement remains challenged. Some challenges refer to the coordination
capacity of the partners involved, other challenges are related to the capacity of
indigenous organisations and NGOs to reflect the attitudes, concerns and aspirations of
local inhabitants. These can all be characterised as internal challenges related to the
social movement’s political capacity. But other, more dramatic, challenges are external.
The reality today is that the guerrillas and paramilitaries are trying to take control of the
entire Amazonian territory by the exercise of violence regardless of the legal status of
the areas or the inhabitants’ willingness to see this happen. Other stakeholders, such as
the radical conservationists (illustrated by CIC in the Yaigojé Resguardo), and the more
conservative factions of the Catholic Church make it worse for the movement and the
more progressive actors from the Nation State to accomplish the social contract agreed
at the time of the constitutional reform.


151
By social movement I mean the coalition of indigenous organisations, NGOs, independent civil
servants and civil society associations that have been working together for the ‘construction of
Amazonia’.

211
It should have been clear from this point onward, that the process of territorial ordering
is far more complex than the simple provision of political tools for democratic
participation. It is clear that social transformation towards agreed principles is a long-
term process in which bureaucracy and prejudicial practices can easily lead the way to
radicalism and violence.

Radical Conservationists and Ideological Blur
"Are indigenous managerial systems sustainable?" The debate between preservationists
and neo-indigenists has developed upon this general question. A debate generated on such
grounds is irrelevant, however, because, as we discussed in Chapters Four and Six, the
examination of different epistemologies is necessary to make an 'eco-logical' response.

Whatever the impact of behavioural changes within NWA shamanism, the Tukanoan
"management of the world" has endured into the twenty first century. Tukano knowledge
systems and ritualisation remain active in the Colombian Amazon until this day. The fact
that the Tukano maintain their own forms of territorialisation does not imply that
‘Tukanoans have accomplished sustainable environmental management’ or that
‘Tukanoans possess a system for renewing energy with very low entropy costs’. These
things are related to shamanism or accomplished to some extent through Tukanoan
magico-religious practices, but such statements are imprecise. Adequate translation is
possible through the use of a meta-language that reflects the differentiated epistemologies.
Have we advanced in this direction?

In Chapters Four, Five and Six we examined some aspects of the Tukanoan way of
constructing their environment, we did it in an attempt to apprehend Tukanoan
epistemology. The narratives provided seemed to illustrate how, for the Tukano, the forest
is within. On the other hand, we have argued that instrumental science has constructed a
concept of rainforests as clearly separated from human beings. Faced with the
contradiction presented by a distinction that is not apparent to anyone but the scientists that
have proposed it, and in an attempt to gain intelligibility, environmental managers my get
temped or rush into the substitution of nouns.


212
In order for indigenous knowledge to be recognised, scientists must ‘validate’ the premises
contained in particular indigenous knowledge systems. Once scientization
152
has taken
place, knowledge is no longer attached to its social context and it becomes impossible to
characterise it as indigenous. Re-localising knowledge is a fundamental of re-
territorialisation. There is no way indigenous peoples can claim rights over a knowledge
that has been scientifically generalised, validated, catalogued and made available for
industrial use.

In Chapter One, when defining the scope of this research, it was pointed out that there have
been two distinctive perspectives on approaching the question: ‘are there similar cognitive
devices behind the different cultural models of nature and if so how can we access and
conceptualise them?’ (Descola and Pálsson 1996). Cultural ecology has seen cognitive
devices as the by-product of the adaptation processes while structuralism has
emphasised that without such devices nature could not make sense. Some of the
narratives analysed in this dissertation, referred to the changes of the landscape which
reflect the encounter of ideas rooted in both, indigenous systems knowledge and
western techno-scientific projects. Thus, it may appear more clear at this stage that both
perspectives, culturalist and structuralism are complementary. It seems obvious that
attempting the study of Tukano indigenous knowledge systems required the
development of a methodology that allowed for assessment of both, cognitive devices
and behavioural changes of the Tukano forms of territorialisation
153
.

The USA and Amazonians
In Chapter Five it was shown that the distinction between state security policy and
corporate business strategy has never been clearly differentiated by USA governments.
As a consequence, militarist projects, –one of the most common methods USA
governments have adopted to protect corporate interests– are likely to expand on a
global scale. However, the expansion of the militaristic project in Amazonia would be
less likely to occur if the USA did not enjoy the support of conservative forces inside
South America or if the rhetoric of ‘the fight against drugs’ were to be exchanged for
real political action towards the regulation of financial markets.


152
I have borrowed the neologism from Agrawal which he uses to indicate the process through which IK
is particularised, validated and generalized by scientific establishment (Agrawal 1999:179).
153
A methodology that facilitates the assessment of cognitive and behavioural components of particular
communities as ‘systems’ in an holistic mode has been called ‘ethnosystem methodology’ (Slikkerveer
1991:172).

213
National and international support for environmental NGOs such as CIC, when their
projects seek to enhance environmental security by preserving pristine environments
and excluding people from natural reserves, threatens indigenous people’s security by
undermining their ability to ‘manage the world’. The key point here is that for
indigenous peoples such as the Tukano, we cannot distinguish between environmental
security and human security. They do not see themselves as distinct from the
environment in which they live, they are part of the ‘world’ and in managing it they
instinctively manage themselves. Thus, rather than translating polemic, globalised,
security discourses into pseudo scientific environmental terms for the world at large, we
might do better to consider translating the Tukano concept of ‘managing the world’ in
order to inform international discourses on sustainability.

To talk of an autonomous indigenous territory, even when assured by international and
national laws, remains a Utopia. Wars in Latin America are directly linked to the
expansion of profitable businesses, the majority of them illegal and none of them
delivering any real benefits to the peasants or indigenous peoples of Northwest
Amazonia. The case of Plan Colombia (now the Andean Initiative) illustrates how the
future of the rainforest and its inhabitants is not in the hands of indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples have no power to protest against the international security policies
that have been developed so far away from their reserves. The obvious way forward for
indigenous organisations was to make alliances with NGO networks in order to increase
their capacity to denounce such policy.

It is important here to highlight that the policy towards Northwest Amazonia does not
only concern its inhabitants. It concerns us all, not only because of the probable effects
that transformation of the Amazonian forests may have on the global environment, but
especially because the case seems to illustrate the transformation of global politics into
something quite distinct from a social contract. Thus, how is it possible to maintain a
social contract in the 21
st
century? If globalisation is not the arousal of opportunities for
cultural enhancement and coordination of social mobilisation, but rather the
enlargement of a unilateral power for planetary administration, then we have to ask
ourselves what new strategies can social movements adopt? How can we respond to the
new constraints to social mobilisation? And more importantly, if current political
organisations are incapable of carrying out the reforms needed to assure that minority
groups (such as the indigenous peoples of Amazonia) can exercise their rights, what can

214
replace those organisations? And, what will be the role of the various stakeholders
incorporated within the so-called ‘civil society’? Is the concept of ‘civil society’ still
applicable? Whose partners are within?

Examining the case of Plan Colombia in Amazonia it may seem that indigenous
people’s ‘participation’ in the governance of their own territories is purely rhetorical.
However there were some gains, the most prominent being the placing of education
services for indigenous peoples in their own hands. In spite of a ferocious fight by the
less progressive factions of the Catholic Church, and government officials in Amazonia,
the coalition between indigenous organisations and NGOs managed to force the Nation
State to comply with national law and international agreements. This success is,
however, partial and the chances of the Tukano’s and other indigenous peoples’
perspectives influencing a new global semantic of ‘security’ seem very limited.

Research and Activism
Chapter Six aimed to answer the question: are we as researchers – ethnoscientists
included activists or colonisers? It should be noticed that in Chapter Nine it was
suggested that this question worries both researchers and indigenous peoples. In fact,
the condition that allowed me to continue my visit to NWA in 2002 was to clarify to the
authorities of one of the indigenous organisations whether I was a researcher or an
adviser. It seemed that indigenous peoples of NWA, after recounting the events of the
1990s (Chapter Three), came to identify researchers as white-people getting things out
of them, propellers of the re-territorialisation process; while advisers were those that
supported the indigenous territorial ordering process. It was important for me to
question this division and thus I tried to explain that research is not per se incongruent
with indigenous peoples’ causes. Given the fact that the organisation requesting the
explanation gave me permission to continue my journey, it seems that such
differentiation between researchers-villains and advisers-heroes was effectively put into
question.

In Chapter Six it was concluded that in contrast with the early explorers and the first
ethnographers that visited Amazonia, our contemporary values are not linked to
evolutionary theory, although we have inherited from those explorers a commitment to
systematic enquiry. In contrast to early ethnoscientists we no longer consider as valid a
distinction between economic botany and ethnobotany, we pay attention to the

215
relationship between peoples and plants and more generically, between people and the
environment. In searching for an holistic approach, it has become evident, that all
branches of the sciences are integrated and that interdisciplinary and interethnic
research is vital for the construction of political ecology.

Tracing the origins of ethnic studies in Amazonia we found that ethnosciences were in
fact shaped by imperialistic motives, and that there may be some truth in the suggestion
that anthropology came about from a feeling of guilt in western society. But we also
found that ethnosciences, and anthropology in particular, have provided a space of
interaction for the other (otherness) and us to redefine ourselves together. Indigenous
peoples have tried to take advantage of this space as much as we have and examples of
partnership are now taking place. The ethic we have, which helped the formulation of
principles of environmental management, allows us to gather information that
contributes to the development of all places and especially, of those societies where
most of this information is generated.

It was concluded in Chapter Six that even though there are imperialistic campaigns
going on at the global scale, and there are scientists and environmental managers who
collaborate with these campaigns, this fact should not make other scientists afraid of
intervention. We must face and overcome Leví-Strauss’ warning, “the society we
belong to is the only society we are in a position to transform without risk of destroying
it” (Lévi-Strauss 1973: 392). And this is possible now that it is no longer possible to
conceive of cultural purity. In fact, with the advance of ICT, cultural hybridisation is
accelerating.

There have been both celebrations and condemnations of ‘globalisation’. The advocates
have pointed out that it enlarges the possibilities for cultural and material trade for
everybody, including the poor. The critics look at the problems of cultural loss and the
disparities in access to trade between the rich and poor, which lead to the increase of
inequalities. What is certain is that ‘globalisation’ is here and that it occupies a central
position within political debate. One aspect of these globalisation processes, highlighted
in the narratives presented here, is that the lives of indigenous peoples and the
conservation of the territories they occupy and develop are matters which they feel are
being taken out of their hands. Is there any chance, given the enormous and growing
inequalities in access to ICT, that minority groups will gain significant political space?

216
This question cannot be answered here. However, it may be that it is our responsibility,
(the peoples and institutions with access to ICT and other advanced means of
communication) to intervene in the political processes that determine the future of
Amazonia and its people.

Form the analysis provided in Chapter Six, we can deduce that science-based policy is
not neutral and that there is an historical context from which the principles of
environmental management arose. Also, it could be added that ‘cultural purity’ and
‘political objectivity’ are untenable concepts. Inasmuch as there are dialectic
relationships between people and their environments, they also exist among cultural
interactions in the contemporary world. To be fair is not to be objective, but to clarify
where one stands: where we are coming from. The political debate on the future of
Amazonia would gain much if each political actor could and would express their own
subjectivity clearly and without hesitation. Research will achieve little while focusing
solely on the development of methodologies for the study of indigenous
ecological/environmental knowledge. Additionally, it must focus, and this has been the
attempt in this dissertation, on how power structures knowledge. And this, it has been
suggested, is the way to achieve the aim of working in the interest of minority groups
(Agrawal 1999: 108).

The role of ICT
Even when there has been some degree of translation accomplished by ethnoscientists,
other stakeholders (among them some conservationists) have realised that indigenous
ways of dealing with the world might not be compatible with their own ideas on how
Amazonian environments should be managed. And, for good or bad, fairly or unfairly,
each group has a way of intervening and exercising a certain amount of power to
modify the global political agenda for the governance of Amazonia in function of their
own particular interests.

There are varied political groups competing for the governance of Amazonia. It is
expected that better-informed indigenous peoples are likely to be in a better position to
make decisions with respect to the governance of Amazonia. In this respect (ICT) might
facilitate analysis and political action. At the present time, the indigenous peoples of
Amazonia have very limited and precarious access to ICT. Thus, their perspectives on
territorial ordering are less likely to be represented than those such as conservation

217
agencies, multinational developers, insurgent and mafiosi groups, all of which have far
superior access to ICT.

All technological adoption/adaptation has diverse effects in the life and development of
society. People living within the society that is adopting them and the outsiders that are
analysing cultural change perceive these effects in different ways. The assessments of
‘usefulness’ or ‘risk’ a society makes when adapting/adopting technologies are linked to
the conscious and subconscious present and future scenarios into which the society
places itself alongside other societies. If the rest of the world wishes to respect
Amazonian indigenous peoples’ rights of self-determination, they should not intervene
in the ordering processes of indigenous territories. But there are a number of
impediments for this to take place, two have already been pointed out, one is differential
access to ICT and, related to this, the second is the incapacity of indigenous peoples
directly to influence global environmental management discourses on their own terms.

Narratives and Counter-Narratives
Replication of narratives is a common strategy used by all groups aiming to make
alliances and enhance their power. However, the responses analysed in Chapter Eight
seem to indicate that a large group of people (at least from the academic sector) is
unhappy with the assumptions behind either populist or hegemonic discourses with
respect to rainforest management. This group seeks new ways of environmental policy
making as they have acknowledged that political conflict has derived from policy
formulated elsewhere, and derived from an epistemology alien to local inhabitants.

A very interesting outcome of the analysis of surveys is that the group of people that
kindly answered, most of them linked to academia and environmental management,
seem to be aware that the concept of “sustainable development” its rooted in Utopia.

If political resolution of conflicts could be speeded up by confronting all stakeholders
with questions about their arguments, maybe some of the outcomes of the analysis made
in Chapter Eight may help. From the group of respondents analysed we have noted that
none of those who argued for the need to harmonise the concepts of indigenous reserves
(IR) and protected areas (PA), or those that emphasised sustainable development as a
desirable aim that has not yet been reached, or those that argued that IRs are better than
PAs had been to the Amazon (in total 21 % of respondents). None of the respondents

218
arguing that IRs might be better than PAs had been in Amazonia, while one of the two
that argued that IRs are ineffective had visited. Those respondents that have visited
seemed more aware of the problems of territorial ordering caused by the imposition of
regimes based on alien concepts.

The survey results can in no way indicate a general tendency and thus they may leave
the reader in a void, expecting the author to deliver a concrete conclusion. I cannot
provide one, but what I can do is to present the challenge of further questioning. Do
research interests depart from some kind of Utopia? And, is it a characteristic of social
movements to aim at modification of social order and to challenge established
paradigms?

Challenges to the Social Movement
154

In the final fieldwork chapter of this dissertation we mentioned some important changes
taking place in Amazonia. Additionally we made some suggestions with respect to the
political motivations of NGOs. We pointed out that while the biggest NGO network
operating in NWA has developed around the production of sustainability targets for the
Amazon Basin, basic developments are still missing among the indigenous
organisations they are helping to constitute. It was suggested that such disparity might
well reflect the need of NGO networks to expand their scope as centres for education in
environmental management.

Without doubt, the most important outcome of the political activism of this social
movement is that the indigenous peoples will finally get control over the administration
of educational services in their territories. That is not exclusively an achievement of
indigenous organisations but also of the NGOs supporting the 1991 constitutional
changes. A way forward in the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights is to determine
which principles (such as intergenerational and gender equity) should be reflected in the
aims, protocols and contracts to be supported by NGOs.

Environmental management plans in NWA cannot take place without adequate
understanding of the changes occurring in indigenous people’s management of

154
The Social Movement should be understood in its own terms. When asking indigenous organisations,
NGO workers, neighbourhood associations of Leticia and Tabatinga, the association of colonos and the
few civil servants involved, they all say that: The coalition of stakeholders of NWA Amazonia has been
formed to carry out a Territorial Ordering Process or for the ‘re-ordering’ of territories. In COAMAS’
director’s words: the purpose is “to construct Amazonia”.

219
agroecosystems. The key role of women in the management of chagras has to be
recognised and they must take part in any research concerning agricultural practices.
Conservation organisations would not be able to develop partnership projects in
conservation without treating indigenous people as equal interlocutors and in order to
do that, indigenous requests for training and specialised education must be fulfilled.

Although the guerrillas constitute a permanent obstructing force, making it difficult to
develop dialogues among indigenous movements, conservation organisations, the
churches and NGOs, this has not prevented ‘civil society’ from developing national and
hybrid projects for a better management of Amazonian forests. Although illegitimate
armed groups continue to harm social movements’ initiatives, the only way forward
(having taken into account the inability of the government to provide security to the
Nation) is to fortify the networks that link the various stakeholders together.

In the Colombian Amazon, the only governmental actions that have actually helped in
the protection of indigenous peoples are related to judicial verdicts forcing the executive
power to comply with the National Constitution. The executive power, represented in
the Governor’s Office and the officers from Central Planning, has not made any
advance in the administration of State resources. The military intervention has proven
ineffective at protecting either infrastructure or the lives of civilians. The way forward
for the central government may therefore be to fortify the system by expanding and
reinforcing judicial power. In this way the Government may gain the trust of the
sceptical Amazonian inhabitants.

220
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229
Annex 1
Northwest Amazonian Boundaries

In the context of the discussions presented in this disertation an important question
arises: According to which criteria – geological, environmental or cultural – should we
establish the boundaries of Northwest Amazonia? The following attempt at delimiting
this region is undertaken solely for the purposes of clarifying the situation for the
reader.
Figure 2: Drawing of the Amazon Basin


Manaus has been the renowned centre of Brazilian Amazonia; it marks the confluence
of the Amazon and the Río Negro. Manaus is located almost at the centre of the
Amazon’s journey from Iquitos in the mountains of Perú to Belém, the Brazilian port
where the great river enters the Atlantic Ocean; it is a strategic location for trade. It was
not until the end of 19
th
century, however, that Manaus became such an important
commercial centre. The city was built on rubber taxation (by 1910 rubber accounted for
40% of Brazilian exports). The rubber industry, formerly managed under a regime of
terror, would transform the lives of all Amazonian inhabitants in one way or another.
One hundred years later Manaus has been consolidated as the centre of Amazonia.

Down the river From Manaus there are no significant bio-geographic discontinuities,
such as that marked by the confluence of the Río Negro and Amazon. Halfway between
Manaus and Belém the Tapajós enters the Amazon, close to Santarém, from whence we
can refer broadly to the lower Amazon. From Manaus up the river, the middle Amazon
could be said to extend to the point where the Japurá River meets the Solimões. The

230
Japurá rises in Colombia, where it is known as the Caquetá. The Solimões is the name
given to the upper reaches of the Amazon within Brazil, although once in Colombia and
Perú it is again called Amazonas (Amazon).

Leticia city is located nearly 400 miles up river on the Amazon from the mouth of the
Japurá/Caquetá. It is the only Colombian port on the Amazon and the place where Perú,
Brazil and Colombia meet. 200 miles further up river from Leticia, the Amazon receives
the Napo and a few miles later the Ucayali, at Iquitos, the main Peruvian port on the
Amazon. This is western Amazonia; the environments, peoples and politics we will be
talking about in this dissertation are to be found in this region to the North of the River
itself, between the mouth of the Japurá/Caquetá and north of Iquitos.

The Northern boundary of these territories is demarcated by the Orinoco river inasmuch
as it forms part of the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The transition from the
Llanos Orientales (savannah-like plains of Colombia and Venezuela) ecosystems to the
Amazon forest ecosystems is related to the link between the two river basins, which is
clearly visible when travelling along the Casiquiare channel that connects the Río Negro
and the Orinoco.

The main entrance to Northwest Amazonia is the Río Negro, which arises from the
headwaters of the Guainía, original territory of the Curripacos (Arawak linguistic
family). From the Negro travellers reached the Tiquie and Vaupés rivers, home of the
Tukanoan speaking ethnic groups; and also inhabited by the Yujup (Makú-Piunave
languages). The other two major tributaries of the Amazon that linked the area to
colonisation and exploration were Japurá/Caquetá and the Putumayo. Of all these rivers,
the Putumayo is the only one that is easily navigable. Progress along all of the others is
hampered by the presence of numerous rapids and falls. The Putumayo has two major
tributaries, the Igaraparaná and the Karaparaná, home of the Witoto and Borá ethnic
groups.

The Apaporis is a vast tributary of the Caquetá, with a total length of some 1,350 miles.
It begins its journey to the Caquetá at the confluence of two rivers, the Ajaju and the
Macaya. The upper Apaporis goes through the ridge of Chiribiquete, nowadays a
Colombian National Park. It is not certain who carved the rocks of Chiribiquete, but the
petroglyphs may have been made by the ancestors of the Karijona. From Chiribiquete

231
the river flows relatively calmly through low forest for around 300 miles, before it
encounters the Cananarí, home of the Taiwano, who still inhabit the area, together with
the Kabiyarí (Arawak). A few miles further down the river are the Jirijirimo Waterfalls.

The transition between the middle and lower Apaporis is abrupt. This transition is
evident bio-geographically and it is culturally identified too. Two sets of rapids precede
the Iañakopea (Yayacopí) waterfall. Iañakopea is a Tanimuka name and the territory of
this group (and that of the Tukanoans) has its boundary there. A mile down the river
from Iañakopea is the Yapiyaká, which is connected to another major tributary of the
Apaporis, the popeyaká, home of the Letuama (another group of the Tukano linguistic
family speakers). popeyaká is linked to the Guakayá, a tributary of the Mirití-Paraná.
This was the original territory of the Yukuna (Arawak).

Further down the Apaporis one encounters the Pirá-Paraná, core of the Tukanoan
territories and linked to the Río Negro by the Tiquié and Papurí. Another major
tributary of Apaporis is the Ugá home of some of the Yujup (Makú-Puinave languages).
Just a few miles before entering the Caquetá, the Apaporis is joined by the
Royeyaká/Taraira, (the international boundary between Brazil and Colombia). Other
major tributaries of the Caquetá, besides the Apaporis, are the Yarí, with its tributary,
the Mesaí; a territory covered by extend savannahs, and the Cahuinarí, the Borá-Miraña
territory, where another National Park has been established by the Colombian
Government.

232
Annex 2
Survey Form




PRIVACY POLICY: Email addresses will be used only to send out materials related
to this survey. Aggregate survey results may be distributed, but all personal data
will be kept strictly confidential. No information about individual users will be
disclosed to third parties.



233
Annex 3

Summary of the Technical work of www.kumoro.com

The most demanding work was designing the pages that would contain indigenous
territorial maps. CAD versions of the map would have to be transformed into image
files suitable for Web use. In order to do this ArcView-GIS (Geographical Information
Systems) software was needed. A picture of the map could be easily generated in
ArcView-GIS, and to a certain extent, editing and colouring could enhance some
features. But such a map or, more precisely, such a picture of the bi-dimensional
representation of the Tukano territory remained inadequate for publication in
WebPages.

“The pics were to heavy” (I would learn the ICT design jargon), meaning that the
memory used to store, load and unload these pictures was vast. Besides dividing the
map and generating pictures of several areas, these pictures needed transforming to
make them ‘lighter’. This meant that the pictures had to be edited and the storage
format had to be changed in terms of the colour pallet and resolution (a maximum of 72
dpi). Most importantly, the pictures should look better!

An early version of PhotoImpact
TM
was used to change the colours and other features as
well as to design the icons that would be used to identify the hypertext links between
pages. However, the software was not appropriate for the task and the ‘pics’ were still
too heavy. The design was poor, too rigid, with inappropriate colours and, worst of all
the ‘weight’ of the maps would not allow for easy loading of the images by potential
users. To change the maps (pics) again, Photoshop
TM
was used, while major design
transformations were achieved using Fireworks
TM
software. For the actual montage and
edition of the whole web-site Dreamweaver3
TM
was used. A similar process was
followed to generate the vegetation map, which was adapted from one of the
Amazonian Vegetation maps generated by Puerto Rastrojo. The introduction to a
political ecology taking as a case study the Yaigojé Resguardo, was originally a single
text (preliminary version) but following the advice of critical reviewers, this page was
divided into six parts.

3.7 State Reforms and the Indigenous Territorial Ordering Process..................................................... 58 3.8 Radicalism and Conflict ................................................................................................................... 59 3.9 Conclusion: Amazon and the Complexities of the Territorial Ordering Process............................. 62 CHAPTER 4: THE MARCH OF THE MANIKINS. AGROFORESTRY PRACTICES AND SPIRITUAL DANCING .......................................................................................................................... 64 4.1 What this Chapter is About .............................................................................................................. 64 4.2 Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability............................................................................................. 64 4.3 Rituals and Myths: there and here ................................................................................................... 68 4.4 The Place and the Peoples ............................................................................................................... 72 4.5 The Origins....................................................................................................................................... 74 4.5.1 The Lake of the Manikins .................................................................................................. 76 4.5.2 Who are these characters and what do they sing about?..................................................... 77 4.6 The Performance .............................................................................................................................. 77 4.7 Discussion ........................................................................................................................................ 81 4.8 Conclusions to Chapter Four ........................................................................................................... 83 CHAPTER 5: THE SEMANTICS OF HUMAN SECURITY IN NORTHWEST AMAZONIA: BETWEEN INDIGENOUS’ PEOPLES’ ‘MANAGEMENT OF THE WORLD’ AND THE USA STATE SECURITY POLICY FOR LATIN AMERICA ..................................................................... 85 5.1 ‘Human Security’, Security for Whom?............................................................................................ 85 5.2 The ‘Nation State’ and ‘Human Security’ ........................................................................................ 88 5.3 Exploring the Local Perspective in NWA ......................................................................................... 90 5.4 The Management of the World and the Challenge of Extractive Economies ................................... 92 5.4.1 White peoples’ ways of living compete with traditional indigenous ways of ‘Managing the World’ 94 5.5 Diverging Discourses Surrounding Amazonian Territorial Ordering and Indigenous Peoples ...... 96 5.6 Is Indigenous Territorial Policy Plausible? ..................................................................................... 98 5.7 The USA and Counter-Insurgence.................................................................................................. 100 5.8 Conclusion: Plan Colombia or the Closing of a Vicious Cycle ..................................................... 103 CHAPTER 6: INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE AND THE SCIENTIFIC MIND: ACTIVISM OR COLONIALISM? ........................................................................................................................... 106 6.1 Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 106 6.2 Part One: The Path to Ethnosciences ............................................................................................ 109 6.2.1 The ‘others’ and ‘me’ ....................................................................................................... 109 6.2.2 Behind economic motives ................................................................................................ 110 6.2.3 Reminiscences .................................................................................................................. 112 6.2.4 From ‘exploration’ to ‘economic botany’ ........................................................................ 114 6.2.5 Ethnobotany: the ‘other’ as ‘equal’? ................................................................................ 119 6.3 Part two: The Path Towards a ‘Political Ecology’ of Northwest Amazonia.................................. 125 6.3.1 ‘Modern democracy’ in the Colombian Amazon ............................................................. 125 6.3.2 Complexities and transformations.................................................................................... 128 6.3.3 Getting the job done ......................................................................................................... 130 6.3.4 The specialists: the changing of ‘power structure’ ........................................................... 132 6.3.5 Varied outcomes............................................................................................................... 134 6.4 Conclusions to Chapter Six ............................................................................................................ 134

2

CHAPTER 7:

SKETCHES FROM INSIDE................................................................................. 137

7.1 Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 137 7.2 On Technological Gadgets and Cultural Contact .......................................................................... 137 7.3 Filming Project, my Framing ......................................................................................................... 139 7.4 Sketches of the Use of a Video Camera in an Indigenous Settlement of NWA ............................... 142 7.4.1 Sketch one ........................................................................................................................ 142 7.4.2 Sketch two ........................................................................................................................ 142 7.4.3 Sketch three ...................................................................................................................... 143 7.4.4 Sketch four ....................................................................................................................... 143 CHAPTER 8: TECHNOLOGY IN NORTHWEST AMAZONIA. VIEWS OF VIEWS: SUSTAINABILITY, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT AND TERRITORIAL ORDERING... .................................................................................................................................. 145 8.1 Aims................................................................................................................................................ 145 8.2 Deconstruction of an Internet Generated Discourse...................................................................... 146 8.3 Views of Indigenous Environmental Management ......................................................................... 147 8.4 The Contrasting Discourses Obtained from the Questionnaires.................................................... 149 8.5 Website Evaluation......................................................................................................................... 150 8.6 Q1 – Are Development and Sustainability Compatible? ................................................................ 151 8.6.1 Development first ............................................................................................................. 152 8.6.2 SD: human - environmental security ................................................................................ 152 8.6.3 Sustainability is an aim..................................................................................................... 152 8.6.4 The need for local definitions........................................................................................... 153 8.6.5 Semantics and the economic imperative .......................................................................... 154 8.6.6 SD inconsistent with the present ...................................................................................... 155 8.6.7 Greening politics .............................................................................................................. 155 8.7 Non-conclusive comment on Q1..................................................................................................... 156 8.8 Q2 - Is there a relationship between ‘Indigenous Reserves’ (IR) and ‘Protected Areas’ (PA)?.... 159 8.8.1 Harmony or the need for it ............................................................................................... 159 8.8.2 Utopia ............................................................................................................................... 160 8.8.3 Contamination and cultural imposition ............................................................................ 160 8.8.4 Analytical responses......................................................................................................... 161 8.8.5 The politics involved ........................................................................................................ 162 8.9 Non-conclusive comment on Q2..................................................................................................... 163 8.10 Q3 – Do you think that the concepts of ‘Protected Areas’, ‘Indigenous Reserves’ (IR) and ‘Sustainable Development’ are useful for Environmental Management’ today?................................. 166 8.10.1 Environmental indians and contamination risk ................................................................ 166 8.10.2 Principles as instruments .................................................................................................. 166 8.10.3 Risk and protection........................................................................................................... 167 8.10.4 The need for integration and its impediments .................................................................. 168 8.10.5 Dynamism ........................................................................................................................ 169 8.10.6 The need for new concepts – Q3 ...................................................................................... 170 8.11 Non-conclusive comment on Q3................................................................................................... 170 8.12 Q4 - Should Environmental Managers get Involved in the Territorial Ordering Process (TOP) of Amazonia?............................................................................................................................................ 173 8.12.1 EMs are the ones: ............................................................................................................. 173 8.12.2 EMs and scientists figure out the solutions and take the decisions: ................................. 173 8.12.3 Indigenous peoples direct EMs ........................................................................................ 174 8.12.4 EMs have equal rights to participate as other stakeholders .............................................. 174 8.12.5 The apolitical EM:............................................................................................................ 174 8.12.6 The political participation of EMs.................................................................................... 174 8.12.7 EMs as facilitators of the dialog between IK and WS:..................................................... 174 3

8.12.8 8.12.9

Capacity, ability and quality of EMs:............................................................................... 175 Political risks, EMs have a tough job: .............................................................................. 175

8.13 Summarising Q4........................................................................................................................... 175 8.14 Non-conclusive comment on Q4................................................................................................... 178 8.15 Discussion .................................................................................................................................... 178 8.16 Conclussions to Chapter Eight..................................................................................................... 186 CHAPTER 9: ACIYA IN THE 21st CENTURY........................................................................... 187

9.1 Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 187 9.2 Getting There: an Environment of Political Conflict ..................................................................... 187 9.3 Indigenous People’s Resistance to War ......................................................................................... 189 9.4 Indigenous Development? .............................................................................................................. 192 9.5 External Help and Sustainability ................................................................................................... 196 9.6 COAMA: a Bigger Picture ............................................................................................................. 205 9.7 A Way Forward .............................................................................................................................. 206 CONCLUSIONS .................................................................................................................................... 208 Adaptation and Shamanism.................................................................................................................. 208 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights .................................................................................................................. 209 The USA and Amazonians .................................................................................................................... 212 Research and Activism ......................................................................................................................... 214 The role of ICT ..................................................................................................................................... 216 Narratives and Counter-Narratives ..................................................................................................... 217 Challenges to the Social Movement ..................................................................................................... 218 REFERENCES....................................................................................................................................... 220 Figures: Figure 1: Map of the Yaigojé Resguardo………………………………………………………………….74 Figure 2: Drawing of the Amazon Basin………………………………………………………………...229 Tables: Table 1: Q1- Do you think that ' development' ' and sustainability' compatible?……………………..158 are Table 2: Q2- Do you think there is any relation between ' indigenous reserves' (IR) and ' protected areas' (PS)?…………………………………………………………………………………………………...…165 Table 3: Q3- Do you think that the concepts of PA, IR and SD are useful for Env. Management today? ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………173 Table 4: Q4- Should or should not environmental managers (EM) get involved in territorial ordering process in Amazon?……………………………………………………………………………………...177 Annexes: Annex 1: Northwest Amazonian Boundaries……………………………………………………………229 Annex 2: Survey Form…………………………………………………………………………………..232 Annex 3: Summary of the Technical work of www.kumoro.com………………………………………233

4

PREFACE Why Amazonia? There have been calls to preserve biodiversity. since when (1992) Bogotá has become a place to visit while Amazonia has become my home. while working with NWA indigenous peoples’ organisations. The next trip I made was to Colombian Northwest Amazonia (NWA). My first journey to Amazonia took place in 1991. all of which are seen as imperatives for planetary survival (Hirsch 2002). Thus. However. What happened on that trip. the questions that puzzled me and how I got involved with Indigenous Amazonian Peoples provides one of the narratives of this dissertation (Chapter Two). the importance of the Amazon basin has been emphasised in the media. These experiences forced me to think about what had happened to me and to the social movements of Amazonia during the 1990s. Initially I went to Amazonia looking for a place to rest. At that time. Someone suggested that my friend might find comfort if treated by an Amazonian shaman he knew. 5 . It has been claimed that Amazonia represents one of the World’s largest reserves of biological diversity and an invaluable genetic reserve. That it is a regulator of planetary climate and a vitally important sink for carbon dioxide and thus significant in terms of countering the effects of increasing concentrations of so-called ‘greenhouse gasses’ in the upper atmosphere (EMBRAPA 2002). I needed to understand the events I was involved in and this was the main reason to start the process of deconstruction of political speeches referring to ‘sustainable development’ and the environmental politics of NWA. conserve tropical rainforests and maintain cultural diversity in the Amazon basin. I did not get involved in the environmental politics of Amazonia for any of these reasons. a friend of mine with whom I used to go mountain climbing had recently lost her mother. During the last thirty years. she had been brutally murdered in Bogotá by a criminal gang. I would be forced to leave the region following a guerrilla eviction rule (Chapter Three). Eight years later. I went to Amazonia to accompany my friend on a trip that was to transform my life.

the NGOs’ discourses were no longer mine. In 1999 although unable to travel to Northwest Amazonia (NWA) I decided it was worth to go to Colombia and visit the people of COAMA (Consolidation of Amazonia). This approach is not novel. This was no longer possible due to the eviction imposed by guerrillas. Nevertheless. while working as an advisor for COAMA. I still wondered how I might continue to do PAR (Participatory Action Research)1. I had the tendency to generate narratives as if there were placed in a core. Thus. from then on I could reflect on them from an outsider’s perspective. whilst maintaining my distance? I thought that I could attempt a monograph of the discourses of the indigenous peoples. 6 . and to assay the main political contradictions and conjunctions derived from them in the context of Northwest Amazonian environmental policy. I remained very much attached to indigenous peoples’ causes. One of the aims of the indigenous organisations COAMA helped to establish and continued supporting was. This was an important realisation. to enhance indigenous peoples’ political autonomy. (although it was for me) Escobar suggests that cultural variations in biological and historical discourses are constituents of reality. The first difficulty was that even while I was detached from the NGOs’ discourses. I was and I remain indebted to the Indigenous Peoples I worked with until 1998. what I needed to do and what I have been developing over the last three years is a way to locate ‘fieldwork’. and is. I was detached. I needed to transform the methodology I had been using and adapt to the circumstances. government agencies and NGOs of NWA. I wanted to understand what was essential to these discourses. a distance created by an absence of one year (1998-1999). which involved long periods of ‘fieldwork’. a network of non-governmental organisations (NGO) I used to work with. which we can deconstruct in order to interrogate their essential elements (Escobar 1999a). Breaking the monopoly with Participatory Action – Research’. I talked to excolleagues and realised that I was reflecting on their words from a distance. I decided to take such an approach. Fals Borda and Rahman 1991. Therefore. and that core for me was no other than the perspectives of the indigenous’ peoples I lived with. One of the tasks ahead of me in 1 See ‘Action and Knowledge. and to a restriction of one of the scholarships I was awarded.Why Political Ecology? I was used to working with indigenous peoples in their own projects. to connect the narratives I had constructed with the wider context.

Because in this way. and armed groups produce different discourses. I hope the time and effort I use while being outside Amazonia will be of some use to its inhabitants. Many of the chapters of this dissertation provide narratives based in ethnographic fieldwork and the revision of secondary historical and ethnographic information. Political Ecology of Northwest Amazonia What I mean for ‘a political ecology of NWA’ is the process of identification and analysis of discourses of territorial ordering and environmental management. governmental and non-governmental organisations. An on-line survey was designed to gather that information. and think it could be no other way. but I hope the reader would concede at the end that I have managed to ‘de-construct’ my own work. Whatever else these chapters may portray. that the narratives developed here have a personal framing. Chapter Eight incorporates other peoples’ framing. How successful I have been at presenting these narratives within a wider context must be for the reader to decide. “sustainability”. how the fabric of discourses entangles the conflicting reality of NWA. these discourses will be analysed in terms of meaning. The subject of this dissertation is the political ecology of NWA but all of the chapters refer somehow to the struggle to accomplish the fulfilment of indigenous peoples’ rights experienced by the inhabitants of the Yaigojé Resguardo Indigenous Reserve. “protected areas” and the politics derived from them. I acknowledge. indigenous organisations. 7 . It will be shown. The chapter includes the analysis of discourses on “indigenous reserve”. “development”.1999 was the de-construction of my own work as an advisor of NWA indigenous organisations. along the various chapters of this dissertation. they all present an individual reflexive understanding of events and texts. narrative structure and political aims. Stakeholders in NWA such as churches. “environmental management”. In contrast to those chapters. Why? Because this is the way I have found to reconstruct my life while contributing to the peace and territorial ordering processes of Northwest Amazonia.

The economic process requires the use of energy and therefore it has an entropic cost: “the economic process is actually more efficient than automatic shuffling in producing higher entropy. 8 . This contradiction was evident since it was proposed. waste. Following the two laws of thermodynamics he stated that the matter we use today could not be used in the same way in future. will not have high quality energy to use in the same quantities as we do today. and without. By using the resources now. we will do with a quick revision of the construction of the term ‘development’ with. Despite its vagueness the concept of sustainability had made its way onto the international political agenda.1 The Making of ‘Sustainable Development’ Thirty years ago Georgescu-Roegen pointed out the “development contradiction”. then sustainable development: a development “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987: 8).” (Georgescu-Roegen 1971: 21) Thus. Therefore future life forms.CHAPTER 1: SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. including our own species. For now. AN INTRODUCTION Vandana Shiva 2000 1. if development implies a reduction of possibilities for future generations. It was deliberately vague and inherently self-contradictory to promote debate among academics and to provoke development oriented politicians (O' Riordan 1993: 37). i.” (Georgescu-Roegen 1971: 282). Defining the fundamentals of an alternative paradigm for ‘sustainable development’ is now in vogue and in Chapter Eight we will present an analysis of different perspectives.e. we are reducing options for future generations: “There can be no doubt about it: any use of natural resources for the satisfaction of non-vital needs means a smaller quantity of life in the future. Today sustainability is a moral principle and ‘sustainable development’ is the alternative utopia to the dominant paradigm of ‘development as economic growth’. INDIGENOUS MANAGEMENT AND POLITICAL ECOLOGY. is a contradictory statement. the ‘sustainable’ qualifier.

that of poverty as lack of material wealth: “A common confusion is the assumption that development means overall continuous material growth. (such as the International Monetary Fund . the World Bank – IBRD. positive science facilitated the development of the technology of war. prized the continuity of a paradigm that perpetuates the primacy of western systems of knowledge over any other. it has failed to eliminate poverty and the risk of biological destruction. to qualify. Even though technological development has increased life expectancy and the realms of communication. To dissociate growth from development is difficult. the World Trade Organization. and that of development as material wealth. because of the almost universal commitment among the political and economic leadership in advanced. In order to maintain the paradigm.WTO). On the contrary. understand its laws and. While sciences were able to abolish superstition in religion and produce rational useful responses for concrete problems. the science of economics had not only to provide instrumental tools for the expansion of corporations and international regulatory bodies. make the most out of the resources available for the benefit of human development. Economics is arguably the most politically influential discipline in the shaping of the ‘third world’. colonisation and. The development of positive sciences had immense repercussions in every aspect of human life. in the light of the sustainability debate. but also to reform its own perspective on development. not only knowledge were unlimited. In fact science was there to provide solutions to any problem that mankind was to face in respect of progress. developed economies to largely undifferentiated perpetual growth” (Caldwell 1994: 193) Therefore “economic development” was the unidirectional answer to the problem of poverty: 2 In order to gain access to the scientific establishment it is necessary to follow the institutional rules and. apprentices have to follow a ritual and make commitments to the paradigm in vogue and the school that provides him/her with support to develop a scientific career.1. the General Agreeemant on Tariffs and Trade – GATT and. Religion off Positivism and the enlightenment movement inspired generations of scientists in their desire to dominate nature. There’s been 2000 years of marketing that if you want to be a scientific person you’ve got to keep your mind free of the fetters of religion” (Stark quoted by Larson and Witham 1991: 81).IMF. Once positioned with a title. it also created its own sacredness2.1. The primacy of economics in development comes from one of the fundamentals of conservative thought. 9 . From this perspective. resources. the new scientist has to publicly reject any (other) religious belief.1 Science on.

instead they postulated. Economists referred to developing countries as embraced in a cycle in which limited industrialisation and lack of capital meant low productivity and limited markets.CEPAL (Economic Commission for Latin America) challenged orthodox international economics by pointing out that lack of capital was related to the deterioration in terms of trade. development was under way. had been involved with modelling not only for the production of goods and services. ‘development’ became ‘economic growth’. economic science. However. like no other sciences. In Latin America. There was evidence that the premise of capital over people had implications. in order to cope with the premise of neutrality in science. or even principally. a material entity. “The coming into dominance of modern economics meant that many other existing conversations or models were appropriated. Or even less that a culture might be directing its energies towards spheres others than economic” (Sachs 1992: 162). But CEPAL did not challenge the basic assumptions of the paradigm. During the 1970s some analysts started to assess the work of development economists.“There is hardly a mention of the idea that poverty might also result from oppression and thus demand liberation. suppressed or overlooked” (Escobar 1995: 62). a way of producing human subjects and social orders of a certain kind” (Escobar 1995:59). through dependency theory. of the periphery. but so was the increase of poverty and unemployment (Escobar 1995: 80). would have to follow a process of industrialisation by import substitution. that to gain capital. Other schemes such as diversification of exports were also aimed at the accumulation of capital. and turn into efficient societies. “The economy is not only. claims to achieve objectivity. which did not account for peoples’ life projects or their relation with the natural environment and social context. Or that sufficiency might represent a strategy of risk minimisation. In order to become efficient countries would have to attract capital. The indices of GNP of countries in transition were rising. which was accumulated in the industrialised centre. therefore other alternative ‘developments’ have to be supplanted. but also for the reproduction of power institutions and the shaping of societies. The imposition of western knowledge systems is another of the fundamentals of the traditional paradigm of development and. the Comisión Económica para América Latina. In other words. which is essential for long-term survival. On the contrary. developing countries. this cultural background and different social aesthetics of multicultural Latin 10 . The economic discipline. It is above all cultural production. silenced or replaced.

Kane et al. Societies appeared as malleable objects of planning and implementation agreements formulated by the political economic elite. democracy and transparency in electoral processes seems to be the paradigmatic model for democratic transition in the configuration of the ‘new international order’ ” (Left 1992: 47 – translated by the author). The Bolivian insurrection (April-2000) against privatisation of water services. The political project of development was to insert individual material wealth into the cultures and minds of the people that did not fit within the model. The CEPAL theoretical framework of the 1970s and 1980s can also be criticised in as much as it appears to view Latin American societies as mere subjects of development. The “cultural defoliation” of developmental education was denounced (Ke-Zerbo. The educational process has been designed to transmit the expertise required in the complex 11 . More recent political conflicts of the 1990s between ‘states’ and ‘minorities’ in Latin America could always be related.America was usually pictured as marginal and economists and politicians refer to the need to ‘convert’ these societies. as if they were offering no resistance to these developmental models. the indigenous insurrection of Brazilian indigenous peoples that claimed the right over the lands lost at Portuguese hands 500 years ago. the two-year conflict for the exploitation of oil in the Uwas’ lands of Colombia. to the confrontation between the governmental elite addressing neo-liberal policies and the minorities searching for protection of their community rights. 1997).2 Reductionism versus Holism Criticism of “development”. We have to study with care the changes operating in the symbolic world (semiotics) and political world (governance) among Latin American societies when they encounter the neo-liberal project.1. Education reflects the major forces of the paradigm. with or without the “sustainability” qualifier expanded during the 1990s. and that later joined the the movement of “peasants without land” (April-2000). Amerindians have played a special chapter in this scenario: The Zapatista revolution of Mexican Chiapas. 1. at least partially. all of them are indicators of such a conflict. “The economic neo-liberalism. Dependency theory did not take account of the process of cultural transformation needed to ‘accommodate’ tradition and modernity.

placing little emphasis on the implications of our present treatment of people and the planet (Reid 1995: 148). “If we have learned something from modern cosmology. the principal modification to the conventional development paradigm aimed at by a substantial group from the scientific establishment itself. this is. proceeds independently of cultural experience and. scientists will have to make new agreements with other social groups. The criticism revived the holistic versus reductionist dualism. challenges the division “subject – object”. This call is. perhaps. to incorporate the other’s perspectives into political action and. implying that the world does not exist in a definite state without being observed. Therefore. is that everything is always and everywhere interrelated” (Boff 1996: 94 – translated by the author). This criticism is related to reductionism within science. is unaware of many non-western systems of knowledge. In Latin America by initiative of Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef a new paradigm within development was proposed. now in the hands of specialists. they become precarious or insufficient when dealing with global environmental problems. It was named ‘Human Scale Economics” and the group of people that promoted it referred to themselves as ‘barefoot economists’. For studies aiming to develop a political ecology. instead of assuming neutrality from science. As models are simplifications of reality. from ecological reflections. Human development. to accept the involvement of other systems of knowledge. The acceptance of quantum theory. molecular biology. from the new anthropology or. which is the fundamental base for experimentation in positive sciences. The postulation that development was about people’s wellbeing and not about material wealth was 12 . the modern view of the world that comes from quantum physics. And models have been the instrumental tools of developing expertise. They stressed that development policy had proved to be biased and that the debates surrounding development were made by technocrats far away from the realities and cultures of the people involved in development (Max-Neef 1986). like developmental economists did.modern world. this means that human populations whose systems of knowledge had been ‘objectified’ or ‘silenced’ have had much to contribute to the formation of a new paradigm of development.

as EE framed it. Some economists began including environmental costs in the national indices. Different aspects of this problem were addressed. The most refined analyses take into account the bureaucratic gain from environmental measures including ‘probabilistic’ or ‘risk assessments’ prefiguring the response from public sector willingness to impose measures that will imply income reduction from tax. To make the correct allocation of resources it was imperative for economists to establish valuation of the environment.1. (the basic. The willingness to pay (WTP) technique to establish the monetary value of environmental assets was established. participation by consultation was incorporated into economics. fines and bribes. The environmental costs that were not being taken into account by the polluters. was that of considering natural resources unlimited because they were unvalued. had to be internalised. there 13 . The problem is that this premise hides the assumption that value is always and everywhere monetary value. economists estimate environmental value and compare it with the value gained by society when damaging or developing and. If consuming now is better than in the future. unchanged utility function). that developmental policy would gain accuracy if the growth indices such as Gross National Product –GNP could reflect the costs involved for the environment. By asking people how much they would pay to prevent environmental damage or to preserve the environment. EE persevered at estimating the marginal cost of pollution and providing firms with cost analyses to facilitate the decision-making process to decide if they should convert to a more environmental-friendly technology or proceed with pollution and pay taxes and/or fines. The problem. In this way. called externalities.3 The same old ‘development’ is now ‘sustainable’ During the 1990s environmental economics (EE) developed new ways of valuation of natural resources as a tool for achieving sustainability. they use cost-benefit analysis to facilitate the decision making process. The argument went. in this way. but other fundamentals of this approach were going to have an impact. 1. the new school of EE has dedicated itself vigorously to valuation per se. Finally. population sector or enterprise. Other economists developed models to measure the social costs of environmental damage caused by a particular business.fundamental for the reform of the paradigm.

3 4 See “Economics of Natural Resources and the Environmen”. all of which are defined as threats to the free trade4. And we should notice that the term ‘third world’ comes from first world academia. in any case. unemployment and protection of cultural diversity. these methods of internalisation of externalities are incapable of confronting the matter of intergenerational allocation because the majority of externalities have future. Thus. they were accorded high status in development hierarchies. Hotelling’s solution is to allocate exhaustible resources equally over time. In the World Trade Organisation –WTO. The question they address is how much marginal utility is lost by postponing development. exactly the opposite to the premise of discounting. uncertain. 14 . public health. biodiversity. objectivity was claimed.3 All these efforts are important in the sense that they try to address the moral principal of intergenerational equity that was key to the WCED definition of sustainable development (WCED 1987: 8). where the individual maximisation of utility is the base of the model. And. However. while the voices of minorities from the “third world” were unheard. It does so through the direct and indirect imposition of economic and political sanctions on governments that try to protect their environments.1.has to be some way of measuring the interest rate which the current generations will have to pay in order to use future generations’ resources. 1. we will be ethically forced to question how future generations might discuss the discount rate applied by present generations.4 Why bother about ‘Sustainable Development’? Throughout the history of development economics the statements of economists became sacred. irreversible effects. minimising future regrets (Guha and Martinez-Allier 1997:177). Refined techniques for establishing discounting rates and achieving the internalisation of externalities had been established. the ‘proposal making’ role of industrialised countries’ representatives contrasts with the ‘approval-rejection’ role of the third world countries. WTO works in agreement with The International Monetary Fund –IMF and the World Bank –IBRD. not only immediate effects. The WTO rules over environmental measures. These dominant discourses encompass corporate strategies. Pearce and Turner 1990. The tool for achieving this is ‘discounting’. population health or cultural diversity. The scientific discourse was never impartial but. following the premises of positive science.

Aesthetics: The relations between species (including humans) and the environment have an aesthetic component which is defined outside economics. recognition. which could satisfy multiple needs without wasting resources. if these were impossible to foresee. For traditional developmental economics. (so they can become luxury needs). Models are partial views of reality and objectivity cannot be claimed when based upon them. then in finding solutions to environmental problems we have to take into account possible effects. which means finding solutions.This hidden global government of corporations was challenged in Seattle in 1999 when more than 200 NGOs and 40. The fact that local people all around the world have decided to denounce the currant paradigm and that their voices are making a difference drives ‘civil society’. are basic needs susceptible of infinite expansion. Value does not simply mean monetary value. it is through the continuous effort to maintain high quality energy. there is distinction between needs and satisfiers. housing. The needs of health. The model of unlimited needs and life directed by utility functions is partial and unreliable. figuring out the consequences and. things such as food. Through the above summary some of the problems of the traditional development paradigm have already been identified.000 demonstrators manifested opposition to WTO initiatives (Retallack 2000: 30-34). The life projects of people are not relegated to economics and even less to monetary value. Integrity: If there is some kind of sustainability to achieve. In other words the use of resources has to be restricted to low entropy action but accomplishing satisfaction of limited needs. esteem and others can be synthesized as the basic need of being (Max-Neef 1986). So what should be the bases for a new paradigm of sustainable development? Holism: If everything is related to everything. The challenge is to find multi-satisfiers. then taking the ‘precautionary principle’. otherwise habitats and species will be driven to extinction. health and security services. Under the barefoot economics paradigm these goods and services could provide satisfiers for needs. to transform the traditional paradigm. clothes and. At the universal scale all resources are limited therefore everything that we do use should be indispensable for life. In the barefoot economics proposal. 15 5 . Needs are limited too5. and academics within it. Without a principle of sufficiency it would not be possible to preserve ecosystems.

1990. Mora et al. which indicates millennial management (Andrade 1986. homology. I. When trying to write about evolution he realized another book “every scholar knows” should be written to explain concepts such as entropy. Mora et al. Denevan 1996. that adults who educate their children were(are) not able to explain (Bateson 1979). 1998). one that meets limited needs at minimum entropy cost.2 Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability The current debate in sustainable development places indigenous peoples in the middle of ideological confrontations. etc. Northwest Amazonia (NWA)7 in particular received special attention. description. Schultes. Without this training. got involved in a long-lived ethnosciences project with the aim of unifying indigenous In the introduction of “Mind and Nature” Bateson calls attention to the fact that education is offered in such a way that students have no idea of the fundamental concepts of the social and biological sciences. But also because of the interesting findings on “sustainable” indigenous management models or the academic controversy about how researchers categorise. Cavalier. the rainforest is seen as an atmospheric and climate regulator and. incorporate or select discourses of indigenous sustainability. With increasing concern about global climate change. . metaphor. We need to transform education by prompting scholars to challenge and debate the economic order. it is difficult to create a plural society willing to transform ideologies and establish better bases for the scientific paradigm. Amazonian indigenous peoples have gained new importance as ‘keepers’ of the rainforest. 16 6 .g. 7 See Annex1: Northwest Amazonian Boundaries 8 E. 1992. Ethnographers and ethno-scientists in general have pointed out the importance of studying indigenous Amazonian rainforest management systems. that inspired naturalists and ethnologists. Wallace 1889. Whiffen 1915.- Education: Bateson referred to the attitude of finding solutions without figuring consequences as the traditional paradigm (in Sale 1980: 27 and in Reid 1995: 6)6. Cavalier.. and ways of producing and validating knowledge. From archaeology and ethnohistory we know there has been a long period of domestication of plants and fruit trees in the Amazon Basin. life styles. a North American botanist that visited Northwest Amazonia as early as 1943 while working for the “Rubber Development Corporation” (Schultes 1953). 1. I. topology. There is a better chance that the people educated on this basis would aim to elaborate the social contracts for a more sustainable society. maybe because of the impact of accounts from early explorers8. Koch-Grünberg 1995.

confirmed a series of propositions about the shamanistic management of the rainforest environment. called jaguar-men. After Reichel-Dolmatoff’s call for long term research on Northwest Amazonia a number of ethnographers visited the area. During the 1960s. and to the Yujup. Reichel-Dolmatoff proposed a framework for the ecological analysis of the rain forest. He advocated in favour of preserving indigenous culture and rainforest as biotechnology reserves: “The perspicacity of the Amazonian Indian is unbelievable. Tanimuka Shamans are mediators of indigenous people who negotiate energy compensations with spiritual owners of game. 10 Von-Hildebrand refers to the Tanimuka as Ufaina.knowledge and biotechnology. These approximations echo Rappaport’s theoretical proposal of religious conceptions and practices as tools for human adaptation. The study of shamanistic practises and cosmology of the Tukano9 indigenous peoples from the Pirá-Paraná caught the attention of the ethnographer. and that interactions between humans and supernatural and spiritual owners is tantamount to claiming rights over these resources (Reichel-Dusan 1987. 1997). They are concerned with finding out how the cognitive models of indigenous people are The term Tukano or Tukanoan is used in this dissertation when referring to any of the nearly 20 ethnic groups which speak languages belonging to the Eastern Tukano linguistic family. impose diets and sexual abstinence as a way to restrict the use of resources and keep an energetic balance with animal-people and plant-people. his daughter studied the Yukuna. fish or plant peoples (Forero 1999. the reader will find references to the Yukuna and Cabiyarí. He is literally master of his ambient vegetation. The author worked mainly with the Makuna. Barasana and Tanimuka from the Apaporis area. She confirmed that access to natural resources implies knowledge of ecosystem dynamics. von_Hildebrand 1983). the Matapí and the Tanimuka of the Mirití. Letuama. speakers of Makú – Puinave linguistic family. His knowledge of the properties of the plants of his environment is deep…Unfortunately. Its loss will be disastrous for the progress of humanity as a whole” (Schultes 1991:264). speakers of the Arawak linguistic family. and that it was given to them because they were supposed to act as keepers of the ash left to them by the last warriors (mythical heroes) (Forero 1999). claimed that the term Ufaina meant ash people. 17 9 . Yahuna. the name given to them by the Letuama. Additionally. Tanimuka shamans. a tributary of the Mirití10. In a set of works he proposed Shamanism as a tool of ecological adaptation: “Tukano concepts of cosmology represent a blueprint for ecological adaptation and the indians’ acute awareness of the need for adaptive norms can be compared with modern system analysis” (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1976: 307). Von Hildebrand studied the Tanimuka in Guakayá. Some informants contacted in La Playa – Apaporis in 1994. it is in great danger today of being lost…Much of this precious knowledge is disappearing faster even than the trees in many regions where forest devastation is rife. Following Reichel’s approach.

S. Ethnographers also directed their attention to the ways of life of gatherers and agroforesters. traditional approach had relegated indigenous gatherers and agricultural societies to the lowest level of development. The same was shown for the Ka’apor speakers of Tupí-Guaraní (Balée and Gély 1989). embarked on projects to understand indigenous ecological systems and to integrate their practices with “modern technological know-how” (Posey 1983: 225). Hugh-Jones. having plentiful means for scarce wants. They were pictured as very poor people unable to cope with minimum ‘civilised standards’. he made clear. Posey was to describe how Kayapó classified and managed plants on a long-term basis. has to do with hegemonic characterisations.appropriate to the biological well-being of the actors and ecosystems in which they participate (Rappaport 1999: 364). 18 . 1979. Sahlins challenged these thoughts and showed that gatherers’ life was nothing like poor. The materialistic. manipulating forest areas. The poor indigenous societies were a bourgeois construction. just a different type of people. transplanting and domesticating numerous species of plants and also of animals. were impressed by the apparent rate of destruction and. an almost identical conception to that of the Tukano. and a refined management to improve productivity of the ecological systems (Posey 1985: 139-158). Seeking the optimal use of their gardens required agreement on the use of energy and the relations with other types of people. the same as the concept of “civilisation” (Sahlins 1986). Kayapó were shown to have knowledge of the concepts of microclimate and habitat. Some ethnoscientists that were witnessing the developmental processes in Amazonia. Yukuna have different kinds of gardens. They conceive of plants and animals as categories of people. which are classified in relation to forest succession but also to rituals aimed to regulate relations between these different types of people and the Yukuna group. C. (Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996b: 257-269) In the Pira-Paraná the Barasano have similar agroforestry techniques and also the same conception of animal-people and fish-people (Hugh-Jones. It was demonstrated that Yukuna-Matapí believe that there is a limited amount of energy to share between all living forms. “Poverty”. Studies in the management of forest succession were carried out at Western-Amazonia among the Yukuna and Matapí.

In fact the river changes its name to an Arawak word ‘Pare’ when reaching the Cabiyarí’s territory at Jiri-jirimo waterfall. Humans. other vernacular societies also have this integrity principle that makes them inclined to preserve the undifferentiated environment through the unified management of social and ecological systems. and even similar images for interpretation or variants of discourses with semantic parity (Narby 1999).1979. which corresponds to Schultes’ division between the Middle and Lower Apaporis. animals and plants are involved in the same system with equal importance. Or at least the similarity of the language used by researchers when explaining indigenous systems of knowledge. Schultes made a description of the Apaporis River (Schultes 1953) dividing it in bio-geographical areas. 19 . 1990). It is a ‘perspectival vision of the world’. Hugh-Jones 1999). It has been suggested that there are common bases of models for interpretation of the origin of life. One common characteristic of these conceptions of the world is that although they reflect indigenous society they are not human-centred conceptions. “by ‘perspectival’ vision of the world I mean that it appreciates the world under different perspectives and from different seers’ point of view” (Århem 1990: 119 –translated by the author). their ethnographic research becomes a media instrument through which indigenous knowledge reaches non-indigenous people. The same has been documented for the Makuna from the PiráParaná and Apaporis (Århem 1976. which coincide with territorial divisions made by indigenous peoples. 11 Chapter six.3 Scope of the Research One can notice similarities between indigenous systems of knowledge and modern ecological thinking. ‘Indigenous Knowledge and the Scientific Mind: Activism or Colonialism’. The above proposition must be developed11. This characteristic is not exclusive to Amazonian indians. For the time being we can begin with some examples that seem to illustrate these processes. An alternative proposition is that cultural hybridisation implies that at the same time that researchers translate indigenous idioms. This division was then taken by Domínguez and is the one currently used in bio-geography (Domínguez-Ossa 1975b). 1981. was written in an attempt to do just that. 1.

Similarly. the social order is independent despite its ties with the environment (Murphy 1970: 165). Århem uses a myth to illustrate how the spiritual essence cycles among different life forms within the Makuna cosmos. in the other the emphasis is made in the need of culture for making any sense of nature (Descola and Pálsson 1996:3). the intention here is to advance in the proposal of the new paradigm13. based on the Desana explanations of ritual trade of vital energy (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1971. plausible and equally incomplete12. human behaviour. From the second perspective. In one the emphasis is made around the constraints that nature impose on culture.Another example of this Western Sciences (WS) .Indigenous Knowledge (IK) hybridisation is Reichel-Dolmatoff’s ‘ecological footprint’. Thus.viii). 1976). inter-link all living things within a single categorisation: ‘masá’ (peoples) (Århem 1990). social institutions and specific cultural features were seen as adaptive responses to environmental constraints (Descola and Pálsson 1996: 3). Culture conforms to certain material constrains but according to a definite symbolic scheme which is one of many possible (Sahlins 1976: p. Further more. 12 20 . Anthropologists have an old question in this respect: Are there similar cognitive devices behind the different cultural models of nature and if so how can we access and conceptualise them (Descola and Pálsson 1996)? There have been two main approximations to explain the common basis of ‘models or structures’. that of structuralism. It has been suggested that the two approaches emphasise a particular aspect of a polar opposition. “…culturalist perspectives tended to treat individuals largely as creations of the sociocultural orders they inhabited” (Watanabe and Smuts 1999:99). cognitive devices are seen as the by-product of the adaptation process of human kind. From cultural ecology. sociobiology and some brands of Marxist anthropology. With the development of a methodology that incorporates evidence from both perspectives in NWA. We second the idea that both perspectives are valid.

‘sustainability’ and ‘territoriality’ in Amazonia. In order for this to be possible both. Crumley 1994. which is encrypted in the landscape. In order to do that. this dissertation. Following the development of the proposition outlined.4 Aims The context where indigenous knowledge meets post-modern ecological thought is one of global markets and cultural hybridisation. spirituality-health. the semantics and the formal structure derived from mythological corpus and shamanistic practices must be outlined. an aim of the current research is to advance in documenting the transformation of indigenous peoples’ management of Northwest Amazonian environments. Translation however is always interpretation. A Political Ecology of NWA must inform us of the arrival of new paradigms and their effects on ‘development practices’. ‘conservation’. and myth prescribes ritual performance. a critique of the discourses and practices of different stakeholders must be presented. society-governance. And it has been suggested that after such ontological separations are made there might be no way out (Pálsson 1996: 63-5). 13 21 .and reconstruction15. a narrative will be presented to illustrate how among the Tukano. We must open channels to connect indigenous knowledge systems and post-modern ecological thought. See “Historical Ecology: Cultural Knowledge and Changing Landscapes” . it is aimed to advance in this direction14. ‘policy making’ and ‘social transformation’. 15 Chapters Four and Five. and how these ideologies are contested by the systems of knowledge of indigenous peoples.1. Other authors have already shown the dialectical relation between human acts and acts of nature. Therefore. Another aim is to uncover the ideologies behind the transformation of the concepts of ‘development’. even as mere starting points for de. One of the arguments developed in that chapter is that these complementary parts are inherent to Tukanoan territorialisation. other than to acknowledge the problem and proceed with the analysis. 14 In Chapter Four. ‘The March of the Manikins’. rite re-creates myth. The indigenous “management of the world” practised by Northwest Amazonian indians is almost impossible to translate into western knowledge semantics without reference to the spheres of nature-technology.

Without it they would be unable to cope with the tough environment they were being brought up in. The information I collected showed me that there were competing forms of territorialisation. The most impressive transformations of Bogotá were related to migration processes. my work was related to the socialisation process among children from a very depressed area of Southeast Bogota.CHAPTER 2: GETTING THERE 2. The concept would influence my perspective of urbanisation conflicts. mainly related to the expulsion of people from rural areas due to economic depression and violence. this suggested possibilities for studying the transformation of the concepts of territorialisation themselves. livelihood strategies and lifestyles. and that the children were learning this information as part of their socialisation process. The new urban populations were changing their aspirations. Specifically. It seemed clear to me that new conceptions 22 . What came out were maps of territories. Many people went to the city in search of alternatives to the traditional rural ways of living. developed by the National University of Colombia. Once in the city all these people had to adapt to new ways of living. I asked children attending a State School in the area to draw their neighbourhood. they knew the places were the drinking water fountains were placed and the distances to them. The “Anti-Oedipus” had been translated and the concept of ‘territorialization’ presented in the book caught my attention. in 2000 it had almost 7 million. In 1984 the city had nearly 4 million inhabitants. They also included drawings of special places with religious significance (Forero 1990). I had the opportunity to work in the Proyecto Interdisciplinario de Accion Comunitaria –PRIAC (Interdisciplinary Project for Community Action). they knew which places would be safe to visit and at which times. People from different cultural backgrounds were forced to live together in depressed neighbourhoods. Territorialisation was treated as a dynamic process (Deleuze and Guattari 1985) and.1 The Beginnings In 1990 I was still an undergraduate student interested in urban anthropology. Migration was the product of many factors. Children knew perfectly well where the drug dealers and robbers hung out.

The water and the river itself were considered free resources. and the few people living in the area that were interested in preserving their environment. Finally. In the valley where stone crushing industries were located. Peasants complained about contaminated water affecting the production of the farms and their health. peasants. As Deleuze and Guattary proposed there was a possibility of re-territorialasing and I felt I was witnessing the processes. Individuals within an age range from 18 to 30 that were not able to find jobs in the new industries and who could not make a living from their smallholdings were forced to leave town in search of work. They worked 23 . As a social response. in the highest part of the mountain. Up the mountain.of territory were developed by people from different backgrounds when faced with new environments. They found jobs in Bogotá. I was trying to understand how peasants and rural workers reacted to the environmental changes and I got involved with locals. The Municipality of Guasca did not even bother to plan inspections. the river was used for the disposal of residues.2 More on Territorialisation The dissertation I presented for the degree of Anthropology was about the conflicts that arose among different uses of land and water in the area surrounding the river that flows out of Siecha Lake. The Municipality of Guasca. As a consequence the urban territories were reshaped. the pools constructed for trout industry operations had no filters to retain residues and no treatment was carried out of the water leaving these pools. environmental threats increased. 2. but also creating visual contamination. which I called “incomplete migration”. which then got into the underground waters. had no means to regulate the practices of the new trout. carried out interviews and also went to the public school to repeat the experiment I had undertaken in Bogotá. following the river path. Environmental impact assessments were never done before locating these industries and the effects of their activities were not measured. The export flower industry changed the scenery of la Trinidad town affecting not only the water with residues of pesticides and fertilisers. created an association to start discussing these issues. I found a particularly interesting form of social resistance. flower and stone crushing industries. in charge of the environmental management of the area.

Thus migration was not related to physical movement but cultural movement. rural traditions and the attachment to land. rituals and shamanism among the rainforest peoples of Colombia. never heard their languages (except for one class in Witoto I took). Shamanism was a very important subject of study for anthropology and I had read the literature like any other student. No. Sometimes they stayed in Guasca with grandparents or spouses that had managed to get jobs in the local industries. -an activity that was starting to take place even in Bogotá. Mauricio explained to me.3 Knowing the Rainforest People In 1991 a lawyer and friend of mine spoke to me about an indigenous shaman. I was suspicious of the 24 . and I had not visited their territories. which prevented them from getting better jobs. They did not have university training. This was an example of competing forms of territorialisation. who lived in the Guayuyaco Resguardo reserve in Putumayo. waitresses. As he would explain to me latter. Hilario was not dedicated to giving hallucinogens to tourists and visitors. In order to maintain family ties. the hallucinogenic vine under the shaman’s supervision. The seeds of the peasants’ organisation resided in this identity recognised in the selfclaimed noun of Guasqueños. When I asked them where they lived they always answered “in Guasca” or “We are Guasqueños”. However. besides the revision of literature. My friend had taken Yagé (Banisteropsis caapi). Hilario Lopez. people from Guasca assigned another meaning to “migration”. this was a real honest man who offered advice to his people and opened his house to people with health problems. I had also been captivated by anthropological studies of mythology. I had little idea about indigenous people at the time. I never had lived close to them. they did not consider themselves inhabitants of Bogota but of Guasca. My friend was not involved in social research. 2. They were forced to live in Bogotá but went to visit their relatives at weekends. his ‘visions’ seemed very real and offered him explanations to personal questions.delivering documents in offices. but had met Hilario by chance. as cleaners. But. etc. cooks. To resist the pressure coming from changing land use and transformation of the rural environment they reacted by revitalising community ties through the recognition of identity and mobilising themselves towards the defence of the environment.

When we arrived to Puerto Guzmán we had being travelling in an old bus for twelve hours along a rough track. He laughed at our amazement and went away. We found him in the streets. We decided to wait for him anyway. This meant we might get stuck. for several days. it would not harm him and he thought it could be pleasant to travel to Amazonia and meet indigenous people before heading to the Pacific cost of Ecuador where he would like to stay for a while. She informed us that she had just seen Hilario in town and he was getting ready to leave. being a graduate in psychology thought it was in his interest to go. if he. after all. He told us he was going to be absent for a couple of days as he was travelling to Puerto Asis. I was convinced that only by acknowledging this de facto process would it be possible to respond to the environmental problems associated with the loss of cultural diversity. Hilario could not guarantee when he would return to his house. We just had two days of travelling and it would be Christmas in five days time. he told us.anthropology of indigenous people and wondered if it was not a form of colonialism16. We would have to find someone who could take us to his place by boat and should tell his wife we were going to wait for him. I was not going to play the anthropologist looking for an object of study. 16 I was thinking in this same question when writing Chapter 6: Indigenous Knowledge and the Scientific mind: Activism or Colonialism? 25 . that was clear to me. He perceived our concern. who knows where. I might also find the trip interesting. Then he looked at us directly in our eyes. My friend Mauricio had instructed me to look for a young North-American missionary woman that could give us instructions on how to get in touch with Hilario. However. my friend the lawyer suggested that Hilario might be able to help. When knowing that one of my best friends was passing through a depression period due to the murder of his mother. Why didn’t we study the anthropology of the wealthy? It seemed to me that we already lived in a transcultural world and that the study of indigenous peoples was not the key to stopping the cultural homogenisation process that takes place when attempting the production of goods and services at the global scale. something he had avoided before. I talked to my friend. if we wished we could go to his house located at the mouth of the Guayuyaco river. My friend agreed that whatever shamanistic performance occurred. I noticed something blue-grey in the retina of his eyes as if he had cataracts.

She managed the house alone. The daughter of Hilario. seemed older. I spent the next few days walking in the forest. look for fish and throw the spear with sufficient force? It was inconceivable to me. Sometimes I felt myself being observed and once I saw a pair of black 26 . when we woke up. It seemed impossible. He saw his patients. When I mentioned that I was studying anthropology I noticed she got suspicious. Hilario had already gone for wood. who never spoke to us in Spanish and that always told us a different name when we asked hers. came to us enquiring about the motive of our visit. She invited me to go further inside the rainforest to her house. telling us to wait for him once more. looking for a conversation with the shaman and wondering if we could also take the Yagé and how would it affect us. Three days passed before Hilario arrived home one evening. For a boat they used a small. at about seven.2. We mentioned Mauricio and his experience and she was happy to speak to us. I had an inflatable mattress. How could they navigate through the currents.4 The House of the Shaman Hilario was about 80 years old and his wife. who was the ‘governor’ of Guayuyaco Resguardo. I was amazed by the fishermen I saw. but the occasion never arose. but had to stand up. scarcely hollowed out tree trunk they called a “potrillo” (colt). And then there was us. but told us we would have to speak later as he was going to his rainforest house and to seek some herbs he needed. bathing in the river and observing and talking to the visitors. eaten something. carrying the spear they used to fish with. a woman in her late twenties. Next day. a woman with pain in her kidneys. despite the many people who went there expecting a cure for their pains and illness. There were indigenous people coming all the time looking for some remedy. I said I was happy to do so. tall and could have weighed no more than forty kilograms. visited and given medicine to his patients and was ready to go to Puerto Guzmán again. herbs.40 m. I told her I was not there in search of information and that this was my first visit to the rainforest. They could not sit in it. She was a fine lady about 1. I used it as a boat and managed to go almost six kilometres up the river on it. I wouldn’t have dared try it. By the time we arrived there was a black man with a fracture in his left foot and.

concerned woman in her forties. delicate movements. and a young woman of twenty-two held close by the man. She went to the creek and after an hour or so of chasing her. 2. someone ran away. In that instant. That same day at noon we had new arrivals. He pointed out where their neighbours lived. but it was as much as I could do to keep up with him. she started running away. He agreed. The mother said they had travelled from Ibagué.5 Healing Shaman Hilario promised to attend his new patient. Next day at four o’clock I was up with him. This was completely absurd. He recounted all he had seen to his padrino and the latter decided that he was particularly suited to yagé. They sat her at the table behind our hammocks. After picking some leaves and roots and inspecting other plants he decided we should return. She said the young woman had been in a mental hospital but had escaped twice. jumping around and laughing in a very noisy way. “What for?” he asked. We went to pick up wood for the next two days. We walked about two miles. I wanted to know what he did and it might be a chance to get to know each other better. he named many plans and started to talk to me about “yagecito”. His “padrino” (godfather). I was sweating and breathless. as the ambient temperature was about 35° C in the shade. He was in training continuously for twelve years. The river was clear and it was excellent to be in contact with the cold waters. had given him tobacco and yagé to test him. I had no idea how to use the machete. I understood his tutor in shamanism. I struggled to put a few branches on my 27 .eyes peering out from behind a bush. drank some coffee and went. his mother. However. we took a cold bath in the river. her brother running after her. He started his training before he was seven. I asked him if I could accompany him on his journey next day. her brother released her. He told me that his knowledge was revealed to him through yagé. receiving larger doses of the plant beverage every time. the brother finally managed to catch her again. Her mother was calling her. The drugs were not effective and they were desperate for her to get well. a large. a city more than 800 km away in search of a cure to the madness of the daughter. When he took the plant. The older woman explained to me they were her son and daughter. He appeared to make slow. I have to say that I could hardy follow him. I had not noticing the thousands of small mosquitoes that were biting me. There was a man of about twenty-seven. As she seemed calm and they wanted to feed her. ‘it talked to him’. When I called.

she did not take the bait. Before leaving he gave Henry and I a cuya17with a black liquid inside instructing us to give it to his new patient. lying with me touching my chest. excusing us. running. Hilario laughed. huddling. after much effort. coming to my hammock. I was. the wood I had picked up apparently was not the most suitable. he said. I managed to get some of them home. “We are so sorry” I said. which is used largely among indigenous peoples of Amazon rainforest. She was getting exited. jumping. I felt dizzy and went to the hammock. Hilario stroked her hair tenderly and looked at her in a kindly way. The woman rested for the rest of the day. the mother replied. and the patient could take some bites of sugar cane after drinking it. he assured me. But worse still. She refused. 28 . He had some sweet candy in the shape of teddy bears. Hilario was going to take some medicines for the patient he had in Guzman. When she awoke I offered her the beverage. 17 Guard container. took up the challenge. This was not going to be easy. My pile of wood was one-fifth of his and he had returned with it half an hour before. Hilario came back between three and four o’clock in the afternoon. No but you are going to marry me. You heard mother. as his wife explained through a series of gestures of disgust and laughs. What he was actually meaning was “we will rest”. He talked to her warmly: “My daughter this is to cure you. I smiled as I said “this is good for you”. I could not eat a thing. Again I was rejected. Comparing myself with him I did not feel useless. Bad trick. walked towards me and said: “you are my husband. Hilario took the cuya and went to the woman. My friend Henry. he is going to marry me”. “we did everything to try to make her drink it but she refused”. the psychologist. She stood up. It was half past eight I needed to bath again and to rest. He took a tranquilliser pill he carried and put it in one of the candies. It was bitter. “She will rest for a while”. her brother under the shadow of a tree seemed numb. By midday we had made no progress. Besides that.shoulder and. just to get rid of the taste. The mother assented with her head. Two hours passed by without success. Hilario had already made the first visit to his patients and prepared two beverages with the plans he had picked up. You must drink it”. talking faster. My day of following Hilario had ended before it really started. “Yes dear he is your man and he is giving something nice to you”. the girl was getting anxious and her mother was getting worried. She drank it all.

He prepared himself.We spent the afternoon looking at Hilarios’ drawings. “In the third world I went to lives your god. I had a peace within me that is now difficult to describe. He now knew my life and from then on he called me amiguito (dear friend). I felt clean. He just submerged into a dream he could not remember. a ladder hanging. DNA and the origins of knowledge". The drawings were made with coloured pencils.org/Ayaharmadine. at least for me. onions or greasy food. I took these drawings to a Congress in Bolivia. smoking cigars and singing for hours. The drawings showed small people floating in the clouds. Hilario looked at me saying that he had seen what I had. using some necklaces. I know him. Henry had not seen anything.html 29 . It might be that he did not take more Yagé after feeling sick. Yagé showed me some ‘pictures’. Then he gave us the yagé. In the night Hilario told us to bring the hammock. and. cigarettes and a flashlight. I will not go into detail about what I saw. So far I have been in twelve worlds. and then. as many people have described the yagé visions and they seemed to vary little from person to person18. We spent Christmas day with one of his grand children who loved to stand on my shoulders and was really easy going. “These are the paths I take when I drink yagé”. We wanted to avoid staying in the house as sometimes the girl would come out of a dream and become hysterical again. Before we went to rest in the hammocks Hilario announced that we were going to take Yagé the next day. Since we had arrived he had told us not to eat garlic. it began to have an effect. “This is the path. I could see a palm and a vine standing out from the rest. He made us walk to a house further into the jungle where he said it was better to receive yagecito. He said Yagé does not like garlic. all of them are populated by spirits of different power”. because he guides the dreamer. these pictures used to be called “pintas” (painted visions). the anthropologists invited me”. “These are the worlds I have visited. which was the 25th December. It made us throw up at first. Additional information is also available on-line at: www. We had not eaten much that day and he advised us not to eat the next day. Next day we came from our sleep as if to a new life. the god of white people. we really didn’t know what to do. this is yagé”. Narby 1999. 18 See "The cosmic serpent.biopark.

He explained to me. if he had so much power and helped all. was he not the governor? And. But people from the rainforest also have different political institutions. his only apprentice had been a young white man from the interior of the country who had died during the land slides caused by the eruption of the Ruiz volcano. the good “yasha”19 could go to all the worlds above and over us. I told my friend that until then I did not understand what “otherness” meant and it was imperative for me to return to the rainforest. he said. My skin had worsened as the mosquito bites were infected and I got a fever. Hilario knew we had to go because we wanted to continue our journey to Ecuador. Henry noticed the peaceful state of the previously hysterical woman and wondered how the treatment would end. 2. I felt sorry and said it. A liquid concentration of dark color obtained by filtering ashes through a piece of cloth. but sadly.Later that day he explained to me how he could see inside the person. He insisted on giving me lejia20 to heal my skin. as ‘environmentalists’ in Colombia at that time? What were the links between the two? What could I have said to Hilario when he told me that none of his sons or grandsons was learning what he knew? How could I really help? 19 20 Another word for shaman used in some areas of Amazonia. What was the relation between shamanism and territorialisation? Could the territories and forms of territorialisation within the rainforest be compared to the kind of territories peasants and urban groups were establishing? What was my role as ‘anthropologist’. I said good bye to my friend. but this time the pintas I had seen after taken the Yagé became clear and once the fever had passed I came to a determination. look for sickness and. help the patient to recuperate.6 A Year Later Many questions arose from my time in the rainforest. I was delirious with the fever. why did they have governors? I understood indigenous people from the interior of the country were forced to adopt certain political structures during colonial times and they had since been maintained. he had nobody to teach what he knew. 30 . In fact. What was the relation between the shaman and the rest of the community? Why. What followed on the way to Ecuador was unpleasant.

He had gone to Macarena and spent six months there. the delegate of PNR in Puerto Leguizamo –Putumayo. truly interested in the wellbeing of the peoples from Putumayo. not eligible for such support.7 Territorialisation and Conflicts I spent six months in Putumayo. he said. I had to learn the procedures and jargon used in the public sector when dealing with developmental projects. after listening to me. I gave A. In Putumayo I went to visit several indigenous communities. She needed help at the office. and some others lived within the Park (Conservation Area) boundaries. Her house was a meeting point where 21 This was an initiative designed by the Presidency of the Republic. some of them were living in small Resguardos (Legalised Indigenous Reserves). Its purpose was also to facilitate the dialogue between civil society and governmental authorities with the intention of contributing to the peace process. 2.Nearly a year had passed when I received a call from a friend who told me students from the University of the Andes and The National University had gone to different places to offer help as assistants to governmental agencies. others lived in lands without titles. They would pay for the ticket and give me something to live on during the six months I was going to stay. Years later it became the Red de Solidaridad Social (Social Solidarity Network). Sarmiento a buzz and he connected me with an anthropologist of the Plan Nacional de Rehabilitacion –PNR (National Rehabilitation Plan)21 who. 31 . Lotero. Indigenous peoples wanted to use the resources available for their own purposes but were always denied access by functionaries assuring them they were unable to follow the procedures or. connected me with Martha L. I wrote a chronicle as my report to PNR and gave a copy to the Director of National Parks as I thought it was in the interest of the Park authorities to know about other perspectives on the management of conservation areas. Martha Lucia was an indefatigable promoter of development. It was made with the intention of facilitating the process through which communities in marginal areas of the Country will get help from governmental institutions to design and implement development projects. One of the people running this initiative was a common friend: “May be this is the chance for you to go back to the rainforest and have a break from that dissertation of yours”. especially with indigenous people and I could visit the National Park La Paya and think for myself about the problems related to the management of Natural Reserves.

there was the war. or so they said. I was putting into action years of training and it was difficult. His approach was that of Carlos Castaño. I had to figure out a system for explaining what governmental agencies meant by a ‘development project’. In summary. Trafficking of wood. The Peruvian soldiers on the other side of Putumayo also detained colonisers. Inside indigenous communities there were internal rules. The Colombians complained but the armed forces never lifted a finger. he explained. as I was to find out in the year ahead. What I witnessed was the searching of colonisers’ and indigenous peoples’ boats. The trafficking network extended everywhere and resistance to it meant to risk one’s life. debated and planned actions to make possible the improvement of the quality of life in Putumayo. social workers. ports or anywhere else. ornamental fish. etc. But. their humiliation and. The Chief of the Paya Park at the time was Oscar Vargas. (two Peruvian army boats were bombed at the time) and this made the situation even more tense. in some cases. it was a “paper park”. to complicate things even further. A hard task to achieve in a conflict torn area with such diverse but in many ways fragile environments. the National Parks Director of the time.biologists. the town needed 32 . the only crop that would yield enough money to buy the groceries they needed and to pay the school fees for one of their kids to attend the Catholic School in Leguizamo. The army fought the drug dealers. competitiveness for power but also solidarity and a strong sense of belonging. Colonisers in the park and elsewhere were cultivating coca. and robed and tortured them. Social conflicts worsened everyday and the tough position of functionaries did not help at all. Leguizamo. There were people speaking other languages and reasoning in a different way compared with governmental agents or me. unplanned and. The big buyers of illegal drugs were known and yet never detained in the airport. The park had no management plan. live animals and illegal drugs were all combined. had problems related to urbanisation: lack of adequate services for water and electricity. There were conflicts all along the Caucayá river. the only river in the park with a cabin. community leaders. I went to advise indigenous people on the elaboration and presentation of projects. on the other hand. their detainment. “Decree 622 had to be applied”. housing was poor. which meant that the Park was to be protected from the people. The guerrillas did.

land for expansion. And of course there were the traders. From the social side. There was no co-ordination between the authorities of the Park. giving shotgun cartridges. that controlled the credit and made the most out of it. precarious and distant. All the training I had received in University was insufficient. batteries and flashlight to indians for hunting the Arawana (Osteoglossum bicirrchosum) and getting the baby fish. and the rest of the town living on the other side of a metal fence. The people who really wanted to remain and bring up a family had problems finding a place for their children at local schools. owners of the shops. to make the functionaries attend meetings and to make the National Rehabilitation Councils a space of peace and reflection about political problems. The ornamental fish traders came for a month or so twice a year. All these people came to make a fortune in a day with the hope of enjoying the money inside the Country. an attitude I was going to encounter in many flourishing places in the rainforest. There were the ornamental fish buyers. This was the rainforest of Colombia. which the mother keeps in her mouth. I ended up being the secretary of the Councils and preparing the debates. making it impossible to take environmental measures or start regulating the exploitation of natural resources or the use of land. There were the timber men.CAP (Autonomous Corporation of Putumayo)22 and the Unidades Municipales de Asistencia Técnica – UMATAs (Municipal Technical Assistance Units). The council of the city had one independent member. I could not turn my back now. Many of the people felt they did not belong. charging exceptionally high interests rates. There was also the local government. the Corporación Autónma del Putumayo . drug dealing and the related violence. 33 . bars and brothels. There were always people passing through. Martha Lucia used all her personal skills and legal instruments to help fishers cooperatives. there was a division between the navy and army officers living inside the base. and which is so characteristic of extractive economies. I decided I needed to go to 22 CAP was the governmental authority in charge of the regulation of natural resources at departmental administrative level. the occasional miners also. There was prostitution. The first elected major was a young woman that had never attended a public meeting. the rest were part of the traditional parties. people cutting and transporting wood and.

For me it was clear that some co-ordination had to be in place between functionaries of the Municipality. to finance a project called “Parques en Peligro”-PEP (Parks at Risk). In fact. 2. and members of the council discussing the issue of territorial ordering. and to buy food and supplies for the cabin. and La Paya was one of them. making all procedures far more complicated. A Ministry of Environment was created and a new Director for the renamed Administrative Unit of National Parks. I was doing the same at the Ministry of Environment. I went through the routine of exams and interviews. who was to carry out a social appraisal. to demonstrate that such designations did not have to jeopardise local people’s cultures and livelihoods. I wanted to change people’s perception of Natural Reserves. the CAP and the Environmental 23 The southern Andean Department of Colombia 34 . explain the legal situation and try to establish good relations with them. Martha. with the results from the Consejos Municipales de Rehabilitación – CMR (Municipal Councils for Rehabilitation). an NGO from Colombia. A special commission for the territorial ordering process was established in Congress as mandatory. I wanted to introduce myself to everyone living inside the park. Apart from that I was working with Martha Lucia. nobody had ever visited the main rivers crossing the Park. They also hired another anthropologist. as the park depended directly from this office. I went to meet her and expressed my wish to help with the Paya Park management. Senceya and Caquetá rivers. the Municipal People’s Attorney. We were going to visit the Mecaya. to let them know I was there to talk and the problems were to be solved between all of us. which showed the need to clarify boundaries and jurisdictions of State agencies. I already knew Leguizamo but I did not know the Park completely. We would speak to the people living there.Bogotá finish my dissertation. was appointed. Natura helped by providing resources to pay salaries for two functionaries and me. obtain my degree and comeback to the rainforest as soon as possible. Fundación Natura. which were to be taken in Pasto23. none of the functionaries did. Martha Suarez. was receiving funds from The Nature Conservancy and other international bodies. was trying to persuade the presidency to address this issue in Putumayo as a way to attempt to stop the violence. the maintenance of the outboard engines and boats.8 A Functionary of the State The constitutional reform of 1991 had just happened.

colonisers living illegally in properties without titles (because they were either inside the Park or inside the Resguardo boundaries). guns or gasoline. A. educators. some representatives of the colonisers. From an evolutionary political view the cacicazgo is seen as pre-State political structure. some governors of the Resguardos. a delegate of the Agrarian Bank and. were inhabited by colonisers and indigenous people as well. 24 See “Diagnóstico Socioeconómico y Cultural del Parque Nacional Natural La Paya y sus áreas aledañas”. Here white people were living under community rules established by indigenous authorities. a Christian sect introduced by an American evangelist. The audience was attended by the President of the Territorial Ordering Commission. who co-ordinated his work with the resguardo governor. In the Resguardo El Hacha things were different. The majority of the colonisers were producing coca. And also. We went to the most remote places inside the Park and some of them thought we were the army and got scared and hid their machinery. The Indigenous Resguardos that bordered the park or that were at the same time a part of it.9 A Public Audience and the Same Old Political Business We managed to arrange a Public Audience of the Congress in Puerto Leguizamo. the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy in Puerto Leguizamo. the chagras (indigenous gardens) were practically abandoned and they had no intention of undertaking any political or economic activity. Lagos_Zapata 1993. they were simply waiting for death and the joy of encountering paradise. community leaders and some members of the Municipal Council were present. the Minister of Environment. But they were in charge. the Director of National Parks. (the hired anthropologist) presented a report containing information from people living inside the park24. 2. Four families had become Jehovah’s Witnesses. Indigenous people were divided. The majority of the population was white. the Director of CAP. Lagos. In one of them the authority was held by the cacique25. The “cacicazgo” is a political structure where a leader is in charge of redistributing goods and services. It was also a priority to establish agreements with the inhabitants of the park be they indigenous people or colonisers. 35 . It was really sad to see indigenous youngsters contradicting their parents and grandparents.Ministry in order to bring some rationality to the use of natural resources. 25 Indigenous political leaders had been called sometimes this way.

that their schools needed improvement and that the park functionaries should help to find ways of co-operating as I was doing. The legislation considers that when a coloniser has made a clearing within the rainforest to cultivate crops this is an ‘improvement’ to the land which implies an economic value that has to be estimated. This meant 100.000 hectares would have to have double legal status of resguardo and national park or. I agreed with them. Before the audience I had told the colonisers from Caucayá that I was there for dialogue and that the problems were to be solved between us. sought some kind of authority to regulate conflicts related to trade. INCORA (the National Agrarian Reform Agency) had to estimate the ‘mejoras’26 that had been made and then establish the amount of compensation owed to the farmer. they needed to resolve the problem of land titles. killed or go missing at any moment. ‘Mejoras’ means improvements. suffered from the attentions of the army and. but in such cases whole communities were accused of being guerrilla supporters. Where would those families go? And what about the other families? If they were not legally entitled to land and compensation. but a scene of conflict. In the case of dispossession of the land in favour of Parks or Resguardos.000 hectares were impossible to manage with the resources and functionaries available. become exclusively resguardo. the lack of work and the dominance of drug trafficking in economic activities were creating a climate of war through the entire Department. This authority came from the guerrillas. did it mean that they could be evicted without compensation? The park was not a place of joy and entertainment for the people of Putumayo. However. paying him the ‘mejoras’. For the first group. The colonisers and indigenous peoples did not have much confidence in the local authorities. it was obvious that the 422. but wood and live animal trading were to be stopped. The problems of territorial order experienced by families of colonisers were different. 36 26 . Some indigenous communities living within the park or around its boundaries needed recognition of their territories. Some of them had been living there since before the Paya Park was established and some had arrived after. That was of course in theory. in some cases. I also told them I was not going to allow trafficking of live animals nor the cutting and marketing of cedar wood. the State has to compensate the coloniser. They could be tortured. The problems related to urbanisation.In the case of the Park.

I went there and told the functionaries to get on with the legal procedures. The next day the ship was in Leguizamo right in front of the CAP office. but I should not attempt to send another ‘legal requirement’ to CAP. I had to transport the wood to the place were it was to be put in custody. I needed witnesses and I needed a custodian. We had no fuel and no means to organise the whole operation again.000 tons of cedar wood. The only person that was capable of maintaining custody was the commander of the naval base and he agreed to do it. They would not move. The functionaries of the Park and I would construct facilities and buy food for the animals that needed to be re-adapted to life in the wild. 37 . while walking to the public market in Leguizamo two men I had not seen in town approached and told me I should leave my post. while things cooled down. The municipal solicitor accompanied me and I was very careful to fulfil the legal procedures. By the time I had finished the ‘requirement document’ the boat had already been moved. and after the Director of Parks had spoken to the CAP director. However to my astonishment one of the functionaries at the park told me another ship loaded with wood was coming down the river. After a week of terrible stress.I used the four functionaries of the Park to control traffic in live animals. Martha Lucia advised me to stay at her place for a week. I was urgently requiring another State functionary to act in accordance with the law and functions assigned to the public post. I had only two boats and had to stop the cargo ship before it left the park. When the audience took place. The bureaucratic process I had to go through was time consuming and the functionaries became exhausted. Some were confiscated in the park and others at the airport. Then they vanished. I did. I also confiscated a ship carrying 6. We went through the entire town and there was not a trace of them. I went to the office and made out a document claiming that as a State functionary. I had to be accompanied by a representative of the local authority. I did it all. the Director of Parks informed me there was going to be collaboration between governmental offices from now on. I asked the park functionaries that were in town to help me identify them. The procedures for this were far more complicated.

were to be made. Matapí. Miraña. Andoke. Letuama. it was better for me just to let things go on as they were. What I got out of the meeting was the advice not to do much. I was to understand that if I wanted to stay I had to be blind to many things. Barasano. 27 Payment for the ‘improvements’ to the land. “sanamiento de mejoras27” in the case of colonisers. as there were no resources to do so. We also visited other communities along the Caquetá river: Puerto Sábalo. Indigenous people from these cultures like to distinguish themselves from each other. As the main problems with the management of the Park had already been identified and had to do with re-establishing boundaries. 2. They manage their own traditions and keep their own languages.From the functionaries that attended the public audience we heard the discourses of peace and progress.10 Getting to know the Indigenous Movements in the Amazon Before taking the post at the Park I had accompanied two anthropologists from the GAIA foundation on a long and intense trip. This allowed them to meet together and plan a common strategy to assure self-governance. By then I had already met many different peoples from a variety of ethnic groups: Muinane. as well as indigenous peoples from the Mirití and Apaporis rivers: Makuna. We made a one-month trip from Araracuara to Pedrera in the Caquetá River basin. The new Constitution provided for the creation of Entidades Territoriales Indígenas – ETIs (Indigenous Territorial Entities) and the provision to obtain State resources for development. and. Los Monos and Puerto Berlín. Nonuya. Yukuna and Tanimuka. All were agreed that the process of territorial ordering was important and that further steps had to be taken. however they were also acquiring a collective identity as ‘indigenous rainforest peoples’. INCORA had to do the valuation and carry out the necessary procedures to legalise the lands and issue the land titles. Indigenous peoples were seen as guarantors of the rainforest and their ways of living as instrumental tools to achieve preservation and development at the same time. Nobody from INCORA attended the meeting and if some recognition of indigenous land or. Witoto. Indigenous peoples from Amazonia started building associations and organising to discuss the issue. 38 .

11 Tukanoan Territory During the meeting that indigenous authorities held with GAIA. it was something that should be catered for immediately. 2.Six months later. It is the largest network of NGOs working in Northwest Amazonia. Every person I interviewed told me that the payés29 and captains were in charge of guarding indigenous territory and that it was important to follow them so no sickness or evil would befall before them. “How come the Program for the Consolidation of Amazonia. they defined two main problems that had to be solved. I had to remain for many days in each community before they would start opening up. The legalisation of the indigenous land that was outside the boundaries of the Resguardos and. the world has spiritual owners not material ones. I also interviewed every family living in the Yaigojé Resguardo. I wanted to know how they perceived their situation. They made me understand that ‘the land’ was a vision of white men. They felt oppressed by the fact that white men have the power to impose things. the director of COAMA28 told me. their problems and how they thought it might be possible to solve them. A meeting had just occurred in Apaporis and the indigenous authorities had agreed to ask for advice from GAIA foundation. if I wanted I could go to Apaporis and spend six months there. The majority of the people were wary of talking at first. I made a census of the people living in the lower and middle Apaporis river. getting to know the people. 29 Payé is a vernacular name given to the Shamans 39 28 . their circumstances and the processes they were involved in. I understood that the problem of the Resguardo boundaries was perceived as a responsibility of the ‘captains’ (indigenous chiefs). even less if translators mediated talks. the availability of money to buy the basic foreign products they depend upon and to pay for the education of their children at the Catholic Schools. They disliked the idea of land as property and understood that white men were appropriating the territories of all the peoples from the rainforest. They did not like to talk to a “Gaua” or “Cariba” (white man). If captains considered that the titles were needed. They often told me that this world (the Tukano conception of the world) was ‘given’ to them to live in and to respect. that there was no boundary between them and the forest and that the safeguard of sacred places was vital.

There was very little circulation of money in indigenous communities. machetes. The household level work was to be carried out by indigenous authorities and leaders. flashlights. A lawyer from GAIA foundation came with legal advice and. It has been suggested that a horticulture revolution occurred with the arrival of iron tools (Denevan 1992. cloth.resguardo level. 1998). in the second year. we started to work together. People still consider metal axes. river. Besides this. An association of traditional authorities was set up and an organisation established at river .land that was given to us by our own god is now claimed not to be ours?” they asked me. the need for money. indigenous movement and the departmental and national political levels. Indigenous people always struggled to buy them and to pay for accommodation and education of indigenous students at internee Catholic schools. community. The integration with other organisations and the assumption of political roles at departmental and national levels was planned to take place in the future. knifes and fishhooks to be of great value. The other problem. and open and specialised workshops were held at community level. there was work to do at many different levels: household. I became deeply involved with the 40 . resguardo. matches. and the promotion of indigenous experiences was slowly being organised. In order to be able to advise indigenous people. have to be purchased outside indigenous territories. The other major goods from white people that also contributed to major socioeconomical changes in Amazonia were salt (NaCl) and ‘carbines’ (shotguns). Since the first iron tools reached Amazonia great changes had occurred. was far more complicated than it might look. There had been a system of reciprocity that was being modified because of their relationship with white men. Training courses were provided for leaders. after the consolidation of organisations. catering equipment. batteries. These artefacts changed the production technology and hunter-gatherers are dependent upon their supply. cotton hammocks. Collaboration with other foundations and programmes. During the first year I worked alone inside the Resguardo. soap and other minor products.

At the same time. Laborde (the legal adviser) and I. In the following chapters I will present an analysis of the ideology that supports the actions of indigenous movements. 2. as we were involved in the process of legalisation of indigenous territories. The events described demonstrate that transcultural processes have already impacted the rainforest environment from within. Indigenous leaders were subjected to attacks from different organisations. I will offer for the following argument: discourses of all stakeholders had had repercussions for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and the conservation of Northwest Amazonian rainforest.organisation and the indigenous movement. particularly R. guerrilla groups. governmental agencies. living half of the time among indigenous people and the other half in Bogotá. 41 . During the last two years I worked in Northwest Amazonia.12 Conclusion of Chapter Two The policy towards Northwest Amazonia does not only concern its inhabitants. environmental movements and other important political actors. the discourses of biological and cultural diversity preservation and “sustainable development”. The European Community and DANIDA (Danish Agency for Developmental Assistance) also gave support to local organisations and the activities of the research group. In the next Chapter: Territoriality and Governance in the Colombian Amazon. when continuous arrangement of political activities was taking a great deal of time. have been taken up by social movements that look for feasible strategies to maintain alternative ways of life in the context of globalisation. their Associations of Traditional Authorities. so were the staff of the GAIA foundation and. arranging funding for the projects. an interdisciplinary group of researchers from GAIA foundation was established and dedicated exclusively to work with the people of the Apaporis. Despite the difficulties. I aim to describe what followed. indigenous leaders and the Apaporis group of researchers working with them received the full support of COAMA and GAIA foundation. and also. involved with promoting participation of indigenous organisations in the political scenario.

This apparent contradiction might be clarified through the study of the ideologies that are involved in a particular scenario. 42 .

and that the process of territorial ordering is far more complex than simply providing political tools for democratic participation. 3. such as environmentalists. in this way.1 What this Chapter is About30 This chapter describes how indigenous organisations in the Colombian Amazon have used new legal and political instruments to access governance while fortifying territoriality. Through the use of indices. It is concluded that determining the conception and structure under which territorial actions are developed could help to foresee the arrival of conflicts in governance. social groups or individuals. (already introduced in previous chapters).CHAPTER 3: TERRITORIALITY AND GOVERNANCE IN THE COLOMBIAN AMAZON 3. mark their territories. It also analyses how other parties interested in governing the region. have reacted to the indigenous territorial ordering process. and regional politicians. set out the scope of their power. I wish to express my thanks to the Society for Latin American Studies that gave me a grant to attend the Conference and to all the participants that kindly made suggestions and constructive criticism. and. The chapter attempts an analysis of the development of jurisprudence through two safeguard tutela actions presented by an indigenous organisation from Colombian Amazonia. and the implication of these actions. making it clear that alliances with other groups or individuals will be based on understanding these territorial limits (Forero 1992). postulating that such development is important for future implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights. the Catholic Church.2 Territoriality The concept of territorialisation. A previous version of this chapter was presented at the 2001 SLAS Annual Conference. guerrillas. was used by urban anthropologist to describe the relationship between human groups and the geographical space that constitutes part of their environment. The term Governance should be understood as the process through which a group of people creates and regulates the political institutions that exercise the control required for the maintenance of the group’s identity and territory. 43 30 .

There is a relationship between the two concepts as they both refer to territorial control and the exercise of power. To differentiate the concepts it may be useful to have an example:

3.2.1 The case of informal workers in the garbage recycling process in Bogotá The garbage recycling workers (GRW) are organised in bands. Each member of the band has a little cart built of wood, with roller bearings and decorated with materials salvaged from the ‘rubbish’ (Salcedo 1988). Each GRW band defines the limits for its territory, among other things, by painting symbols at different locations in the streets. Indeed, the bands are sometimes called “parche”, meaning the sign left by painting, often with used car oil, a sign on the wall or in the street. The boundaries encompass assured working areas, which usually relate to city neighbourhoods, where each group exercises its power. Within the territory each member of the band expects solidarity from his/her partners. This solidarity is exercised by defending a member from abuse by the police or from an angry restaurant owner who might attempt to beat somebody “messing with the garbage in front of his/her business”. But most important, all members of the band are ready to protect their territory from intrusions by other bands. When there are newcomers to a neighbourhood they have to go through a certain procedure in order to be accepted by the band, or conflict would break out. These procedures, however, are not formally institutionalised. And it is only recently that the State has decided to get to grips with GRW’s problems and that the Mayor of Bogotá has social advisors. Today, the leaders of the GRW’s informal association are elected and can represent the interests of the GRW when dealing with state institutions, such as the welfare office or the police. When these leaders are officially recognised and assume political functions, we can speak of ‘acts of governance’ but these are differentiated from the activities of non-State-institutionalised social actors, such as the GRW bands, which are better understood as ‘acts of territorialization’. Governance is linked to the institutional processes, which structure interaction with the state, while territoriality refers to processes of informal organisation which establish boundaries and structure power relations within them.
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3.3 Territorial Ordering Process among Indigenous Amazonian Peoples After the Constitutional reform of 1991 Colombia started a process of territorial ordering. The previous constitution of 1886 was criticised because it was considered that the administrative functioning of the state was centralised. The process of decision making occurred in Bogotá, where the President and his Ministers intervene. With the regime changes that came from the constitutional reform, budgets were assigned to each distinct territorial entity, and today each is responsible for the design of their own governmental plans. Publicly funded projects have to be designed and implemented locally and approved by the Departmental Assembly. The execution of the programme of activities is the responsibility of the Governor of each Department. There are regional organs of State control, which are balanced by the rights of ‘civil society’. If disputes cannot be resolved at the regional level they are referred to the national authorities. Furthermore, all governors, as well as the town and city mayors, are elected by the citizens. The decentralisation has been complex and the participation of Colombian ‘civil society’ has been considered fundamental to the process. The idea was to stimulate each region to evaluate its performance in the development process of the country, and to establish its own targets. This would allow all social groups to express their opinions and to participate in the development projects. This would avoid exclusion and facilitate the peace process. One of the minority groups that acquired new constitutional rights, were indigenous peoples. They can now participate in the processes of governance not only as individual citizens but also in the institutional guise of ETIs (Indigenous Territorial Entities). The new rights were not hastily drawn up but were the result of indigenous resistance, lobbing and campaigning. Prior to the adoption of the new Constitution, the indigenous peoples had already recorded some significant achievements. Around 20 million hectares of rain forest were already recognised as “Resguardo” reserves. The Resguardos policy was used intensively by President Virgilio Barco Vargas (1986-1990), who was responsible for establishing the largest Resguardo in Colombia: “Predio Putumayo”.

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Resguardos are “the collective property of the indigenous communities for whom they have been constituted and, in pursuance of Articles 63 and 329 of the Political Constitution, they are inalienable, unmortgageable and imprescriptible.” (Art. 21. Decree 2161-1995). This definition has evolved through a long process of legislative reforms. Law 81 (1958) halted the dissolution of Indigenous Colony resguardos; Law 135 (1961) made possible the creation of new resguardos in what were called Tierras Baldías: waste- or unfounded-land. These two pieces of legislation allowed the indigenous anti-colonisation movements to have legal instruments that were used in their search for political autonomy as well as territorial ownership. The laws were more confusing in respect of the definition of “indigenous” and group identity was usually established formally in law without the participation of the indigenous peoples themselves. Since Independence, indigenous people have not shared the same rights as the rest of the citizens. They were considered to be in a state of transition in a continuum that ranged from ‘savagery’ to ‘civilisation’. At the same time, the concept of ‘culture’ was that of acquisition of customs and uses. Both concepts were behind the legislation that considered indigenous people as minors and in process of development. The political aim was to integrate indigenous peoples by destroying their identities and converting them to civilised citizens. Correa refers to this political project as one of integration-disintegration (Correa 1992). It represents an act of governance in pursuance of the establishment of nationhood and is a common feature in the political history of many newly independent countries. In 1988 a variation in the concept was introduced into the legislation by Decree 20011988:
“It must be understood that an indigenous partiality or indigenous community is a group of Amerindian descendent families that share the feeling of identity with their aboriginal past, maintaining characteristics and values from their own traditional culture, as much as internal forms of government and social control that distinguish them from the other rural communities”. (Art.2).

The decree does not refer to indigenous people, and only defines their social affiliation: community, such affiliation is made by the community itself and is not subject to external structuring principles, but still defines indigenous people as groups that maintain tradition: somehow groups of the past.

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The major achievement with respect to indigenous legislation before the constitutional reform of 1991 was the ratification of Covenant 169 of the WLO (World Labour Organisation) by Law 21 (1991). While previous legislation referred ambiguously to “indigenous”, or to the communal character, the new law refers to “indigenous peoples”, recognising not only the collective affiliation, but also making it clear that indigenous individuals can also assume their own identity. This legislation enlarged the room for manoeuvre for indigenous peoples as a minority and also as citizens. Even though Paragraph 3 of Article 1 of Law 21 states that this recognition “does not imply the recognition of rights in international legislation”, it nevertheless improves on previous indigenous rights. Since Law 21 (1991) was adopted it has been possible not only to claim property rights, but also other rights related to territorial governance:
“The interested [indigenous] peoples should have the right to decide their own priorities with respect to the development process, when this affects their lives, beliefs, institutions, spiritual well-being, and the lands they occupy or use in a certain way; and to control, as far as possible, their own cultural, social and economic development. Furthermore, these [indigenous] peoples must participate in the formulation, application and evaluation of the regional and national programmes and plans of development that could affect them.” (Art. 7 Nm.1) (Translation by the author).

The 1992 Constitution creates the ETI, but it is subject to the “Organic Law of Territorial Ordering”, a law that has not yet been submitted for consideration of the Congress. Different organisations have used various legal and political instruments to claim their rights to political autonomy without waiting for the proposal and sanction of the law. 3.4 Indigenous Territoriality For anyone who had lived among Amerindians in Northwest Amazonia it would be obvious that their use of resources and the environment, while being a constant matter of study, is not the only fundamental aspect of indigenous life, it is accompanied by constant concerns and worries and a range of religious practices. The philosophical relation with the world is a daily subject of discussion among indigenous peoples. In our contemporary world, there are still some groups that depend greatly on agroforestry strategies for their livelihood. However, even though there are certain aesthetics in reference to land, which have been reflected in rural studies, there is rarely any reference to ritualisation. From the perspective of historical materialism this fact would be explained by arguing that the agricultural societies of today are involved in the capitalist mode of production,
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is based on the capacity in which society copes with environmental limits and develops its means of production and reproduction. Arawak and Yujup–Puinave linguistic families. However. as a social structure. but also for the survival of their cultural identity and of the rainforest itself. It may be inappropriate to name such practices as ‘sustainable’. which indigenous people have found is at the same time. this constitutional recognition has not been regulated clearly in legislation. For the indigenous peoples of Colombian Amazonia this has been studied in some detail. living things. the conception of territory is not only fundamental for the survival of people as a community. The complexity required in the indigenous management of environments. social organisation and environmental functioning are carefully explained. the term does not encompass the sacred and aesthetic dimensions managed by the Tukano.and therefore their conception of environment simply casts the land as a means of production. economic. religious and aesthetic aspects of environmental management. often results in the development of management systems in which people are understood as integral parts of the system. In contrast. Religion. Thus. Furthermore. Elsewhere. First. such as those of NWA. indigenous societies. the human mind. socio-political. have a communal attachment to their land and therefore cultural elements play a different role: the conception of territory plays a much more fundamental part in a society’s survival than that of land as a means of production. have captured the attention of different specialists. structured by pre-capitalist modes of production. The indigenous peoples. there is contradiction and lack of clarity in what 48 . because even if we accept that the concept of sustainability might embrace socio-political equality and the management of ecosystem energy cycling. I have described the environmental management process carried out by Tukano People in the Yaigojé Resguardo (Forero 1999) and in Chapter Four I will develop the thesis that the structure of different rituals relate to ecological. The recognition of territory as a fundamental right is therefore an essential legal tool for the survival of indigenous people. the only way to guarantee cultural survival. speakers of the Tukano. in the case of Amazonian indigenous peoples. Amerindian cultures have an extensive mythological corpus in which the origin of the world. the priority is the conservation of rainforest.

Since the resolution had been made. there is discussion about what is more fundamental as a right. 49 . but as stated by Isaac Makuna. how they were able to make a pretty good map in two days. There were communities working with tools that had been acquired in the1960s and. the indigenous peoples’ claims over their lands or the rights of other citizens to preserve or use ‘national resources’ according to development plans or conservation laws. leaving unprotected ‘sacred places’ and leaving out of the Resguardo the Tanimuka territories. fishhooks. This vast knowledge contrasted greatly with the lack of financial resources. second. These conflicts are to be solved by jurisprudence. The traditional authorities were concerned with two main problems. 3. A lawyer from the Foundation was present during the meeting. The second problem they were concerned with was the lack of financial resources for building new schools. health centres and other important infrastructure they considered necessary for the wellbeing of their community. thus.5 Indigenous Governance and the Defence of the Territory This section reveals and analyses the political and legal procedures engaged in by the indigenous peoples of the Amazonian region of Apaporis and the importance of this process for future indigenous peoples’ demands for the development of jurisprudence in Colombia. including the community of La Playa. knifes or other manufactured products they were used to and that were considered indispensable for their daily activities. there were no means of getting cloth. First the Resguardo resolution did not offer recognition of the complete Tukano territory. They were even less able to understand what was meant by the term ‘sacred place’ and the importance of such places to the Tukano. And. The GAIA Foundation lawyer was impressed by the knowledge these indigenous authorities had of their territory. which identified not only the limits of the territory but over eighty places of sacred importance. local indigenous leaders or ‘captains’ had been conscious of the problem. In 1994 some of the traditional authorities of the Yaigojé Resguardo asked the GAIA Foundation for help with the organisation of a meeting to discuss territorial issues. (who received the title in the name of the Tukano people in 1988). the functionaries did not understand how this territory was formed or what kind of use indigenous people made of it.exactly constitutes the territory.

as people perceived that work opportunities should be available for everyone. In 1994 they were the first Resguardo which developed projects for the use of ‘Territorial Transfers”. Both processes required long periods of training for the local captains and a good understanding of the communities’ members. They were targeted at specific projects dealing with education. GAIA helped authorities to organise meetings. as well as access to state resources for the development of community projects. The procedure for the collecting of money. 50 31 . Each community was also involved in workshops on ‘constitutional pedagogy’ and on the preparation and presentation of projects. International bodies donated funds for the realisation of the organisational project in Apaporis32. There was preparation and training of young leaders on the administrative functions that the organisation required.DANIDA. 32 Among them were Cultural Survival. health. The largest and most multiethnic community was divided into three.From this moment onward a partnership between the indigenous peoples of Apaporis and the GAIA foundation was established. and the European Union. infrastructure. communication and economic activities. There was restructuring of some communities. The Danish Agency for Developmental Assistance. the administration of resources. the national resources that central government grants to the Governors of each department and that can only be used by the territorial entity for which the governor is responsible31. The changes inside communities and in relation to the higher levels of organisation were remarkable33. This association set out the legal requirements for the Resguardo enlargement. and provided legal advice for the establishment of ACIYA. Schools were built and there was some money available to pay teachers and privide for their training. 33 In Chapters Six and Nine a critique of the impacts of social transformations due to this intervention is developed. the accounting and control of the state transfers proved to be very difficult. GAIA offered legal and social advice with the purpose of overcoming the two main problems identified by the traditional authorities: the enlargement of the Resguardo. Both indigenous peoples and advisers from the GAIA foundation were working together on the A more detailed account of the discussions that took place inside the GAIA Foundation at the time is presented in Chapter Six. and the development of economic and political activities that would allow them to have access to the basic tools and goods they needed for daily survival.

The functions of the Traditional Authorities Assembly were defined. to be held by an elder of the Resguardo elected by the traditional authorities. and a general secretariat was appointed. According to mythology. a functionary of the Governor of Vaupés Department. He would be accompanied by the authorities’ secretary and.1 Violation of a Sacred Place The person in charge of the school’s construction was the police inspector of Libertad. which was supposed to be used in the payment of communal projects. by another local leader. the authority in charge of the state funds lost some money. During a meeting in the Playa community (2328 February of 1996) some reforms were made to the organisation in order to give it more political power. it was there that the great hawk was killed by the four sons of time. an education committee was formed with the function of elaborating the first appraisal of education inside the Resguardo. But the first major misunderstanding between ACIYA and the State happened when a group of governmental functionaries decided to build a primary school near the Yuisi waterfall (called Libertad by white colonisers).development of a coherent organisation. But the major problems came from outside the organisation. The State’s lack of capacity for assuring the development of territorial processes affected all regions in Colombia. Inside the organisation. and in Amazonia many of its functions where developed by COAMA. Even when the majority of the projects were carried out in accordance with the contracts. this mistake provoked difficulties for the organisation. the cultural heroes that were learning how to manage the Although the Agreement was not honored by the Governmental Institution that would remain inactive until they could transfer their responsibility to a Private Organization following a reform in the laws that was by the time in Parliamentary discussion. The school was being built close to a rock formation near the waterfall called Yuisi by Makuna and Libertad by white colonisers. No training was provided by the State and there were delays on the transfers of money. But these developments were not without problems. 51 34 . 3. In this same meeting an agreement with the Health Department Services was made in order to have a support system in the Resguardo34. in cases where help was needed. This place is of outstanding importance for indigenous peoples from Northwest Amazonia. This was one of the unprotected sacred places outside the boundaries of the Resguardo.5. Perhaps this was one of the reasons behind the establishment and definition of the functions of the post of Vigilante.

the ACIYA decided to send Isaac and Rondón Tanimuka as representatives of the Resguardo. as inspector.world and whose teachings constitute a legacy for the management of environmental issues to this day. INCORA assured them that the process of enlargement had begun and that a visit was needed to complete the process. Captain Rondón Tanimuka presented a safeguard legal action35 to the Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca. because it is believed that from there fish spread throughout the Apaporis and its tributaries. ACIYA worked with GAIA advisors compiling the information about the primary school construction and the development of the conflict. Sadly the inspector reacted violently to the petition. we handed in the map with explanatory documents. Sickness and death would not be controllable by payés if this construction were to continue. Finally. in the name of the traditional authorities. the traditional indigenous authorities. They had to make it clear to the Instituto Colombiano de la Reforma Agraria –INCORA (National Institute of the Agrarian Reform). in Bogotá. 52 . They would also have to do whatever necessary to make national authorities aware that a sacred place was being violated and that this was of primary importance for the conservation of the rainforest and the survival of the indigenous peoples of western Amazonia. Rondón and the author worked intensively in the elaboration of a detailed map of the Tukano territory. Yuisi was also where they cut down a sacred tree. He explained to him that the violation of this place would have an impact on indigenous life. which is considered the original event that gave birth to the river. asked the inspector to suspend the construction and look for another place. a group of 35 Known in Colombia as Acción de Tutela. He told Isaac that he. In Bogotá. the institution responsible for the legalisation of the Resguardo enlargement. Isaac. Isaac Makuna. The magistrate Benjamín Herrera called the parties together: The Governor of Vaupés Department. after several attempts had been made to persuade the police inspector. had the authority to place the school were he considered adequate and that Isaac’s title was not official. He not only regarded the old man’s knowledge as superstition but also questioned his authority. This place is also sometimes called ‘the Yuruparí of fish’. Then. that protection for the communities and their sacred places was needed urgently.

5. The tribunal ordered the Governor’s office to cease works and abstain from initiating any other work in the area (Tribunal Admininistrativo de Cundinamarca . The tribunal considered that the rights of religious freedom had been violated.2 Forcing an Administrative Procedure through an ‘Acción de Tutela’ There was a second case in which ACIYA. Until then it was understood that a Resguardo could be created or enlarged when it was proved to be in use by indigenous peoples. Reasons for the delay of the visit to the Resguardo were addressed37. a functionary of INCORA must pay a visit to the area to be enlarged and determine if the indigenous group soliciting the enlargement can prove that the area has been used by them. 53 . yet uses may continue for twenty to fifty years depending on the crops36. The rainforest agroecosystems require the rotation of forest areas. gathering and agroforestry activities in the traditional way there is need for large extensions of land. (as determined by law) would mean the possibility of facing a safeguard legal action for violating a fundamental right. we see in the tribunal’s decision that the right of indigenous people over their territory was threatened by the fact that the State was weakening their cultural integrity by violating a ‘sacred place’ and denying the shamans’ healing powers. as seen by indigenous peoples themselves. 37 Following the legal procedure for enlargement of resguardos. ACIYA had made a legal petition (derecho de petición) in which an inquiry was made to INCORA. The author was called to provide information on the characteristics of Tukano religion and bring ethnographic information about their cultural beliefs. (the second from the Colombian Institute of Anthropology) who had worked among the Yujup indigenous community that lived near the waterfall and whose children were attending the school. Therefore in future cases when an indigenous group could prove that the action of the State. this tribunal decision will serve as a precedent upon which the respective tribunal can base its judgement. through legal action forced the State to rectify its actions.independent anthropologists: Anamaria Ospina and Leonardo Reina. INCORA sent a functionary to the area because failure to respond within twenty days to the derecho de petición. In Amazonia it is understood that to maintain hunting. 3. assuring the right of indigenous peoples to their territory. 36 In Chapter Nine there is a description of how these practices are changing and of the implications of this changes. was causing religious damage to the group. or a third party.1995). represented by Rondón Tanimuka. But further than this economic justification for land.

the functionary in charge of the visit did not consult with the traditional authorities. the only two men in the community at the time of his visit. Captains Rondón Tanimuka and Isaac Makuna. that as the Resguardo straddles the Departments of Vaupés and Amazonas and two different procedures should be carried out. 54 . He permitted the testimony of people from outside the Resguardo he had brought with him. Even though the decision of the tribunal did not refer to the cultural damage as the motive for protection. 1996). He did not visit the entire Resguardo and committed several administrative blunders. but to the failure to follow correct administrative procedure. it should be understood that it was complementary to the previous decisions.Dec. The tribunal considered that the INCORA had not followed the correct procedures and that a new visit should be made (Tribunal Administrativo de Cundinamarca . He claimed he was there to assure the inclusion of La Playa community within the Resguardo. Both tutelas were accepted and the complementary aim was to protect the right of indigenous peoples to own and manage their ancestral territories. One of them was that he incorrectly informed some indigenous peoples with whom he talked. the only community where the functionary stopped. This would leave the territory enclosed by the southern extension subject to future legal procedures in Vaupés Department. It was argued that the delay in the process of enlargement was affecting the communities outside the Yaigojé Resguardo and was leaving indigenous peoples without legal tools to protect their sacred places and. therefore. Captain Rondón instigated a new Acción de Tutela against INCORA’s failure in the administrative procedure (December 16 of 1996).However. He had taken a map. This corresponded to the Northern extension of the area solicited by indigenous people. It was clear from the movies that the functionary had given false justification. elaborated by ACIYA and GAIA foundation. had a lack of knowledge about the area and the cartographic work. all of which lay inside the boundaries of Amazonas Department. the rainforest area they wanted to preserve. A fundamental proof was a film38 that indigenous people had made in La Playa. as it was impossible for him to elaborate an accurate map of the area to be enlarged in one day –the time he had for the visit. and created a lot of confusion among Gilberto and Jaime. who had been elected by the ACIYA assembly to deal with territorial ordering problems had to go to Bogotá again.

1 The conflict provoked by different perspectives on ‘environmental management’ The conception of the world and its management from the Tukano indigenous peoples’ perspective has been summarised by one of the shamans of Apaporis: “The world”. a stream of Royeyaká (Taraira) river. If indigenous people have presented documents where education. As recorded at the beginning of this chapter. form Netherlands. education. religious. rituals such as that described in the following chapter encompass medical. 41 The payés usually sit on a little wood bench (kumoro or kumuro) at the ritual place. and economy are different chapters. at least in theory. Chapter Seven develops the events that took place while the SW project developed 39 Budare is a clay plate on which cassava bread is made. in Popeyaká River. Forero and Laborde 1997) The management of the environment is holistic and the aim of acts of territoriality is to manage the world. “the payés have to agree”. this world in which we develop and live together with the other living things. the Axe. is not sustained by itself alone. said Serafín.6. La Libertad (Yuisi) waterfall. crash into the endless fire. and donated equipment to the community of La Playa. The knots of these cords have visible points over our land: The Araracuara waterfall and the Angosturas stream both in the Caquetá River. the principal aim of the State with respect to indigenous people was integration Small World (SW) foundation. 1998. Serafín said. The same way the world is sustained. these knots will be loose. This organisation of the State responds to a rationality that follows the organisation of modern Science. that exist in a world visible to shaman only. sociological and political activities. (Interview to Serafín Makuna. 55 38 . health. the world would fall down.3. “this world we step on. In contrast the State tends to organise administrative institutions based on the centralisation of governmental functions and specialisation: secretaries of finance. created by the badness of men. “Without clean thinking that liberates them from pollution and dustiness. These golden laces are tied to the four cardinal points and sustain the sitting thinker in his bench41. health. this has been done by accommodating to State institutions. transport. Healing and agroforestry practices are not differentiated when performing an act of territoriality or governance. etc. 40 Payés and a kumua are the shamans of the Tukano. but it is understood these benches are a representation of ‘other state’s benches’. also called pensadores (thinkers) meaning philosophers with power to transform reality through casting spells. the Tequendama fall on the Mirití River. It is tied by golden laces that are like the magic cords that sustain the life of a thinker40. The world would become ashes and every living thing would perish. “The payé has to maintain these knots”. the biggest waterfall of upper Pirá-Paraná river.” “That is why”. environment. parts of which were presented in Forero 1999. adequate responses in public management. he continued.6 From Territoriality to Governance 3. and that allows. had given training to an indigenous leader on filming. Ñenorika. The world is like a big budare39. On the contrary. this last one is a connection with Parí Cachoeira in Brazil”.

Domínguez described that process for the Apaporis region during the 1960-70s. the principal measures taken by the UASPNN had been related to the development of norms and other judicial tools (Ministerio del Medio Ambiente 1998a: 127). Their knowledge of the rainforest is poor at the moment of migration and their livelihood strategies are based as those of Andean peasants or cattle ranchers. In respect of environmental management. limiting or prohibiting use and management by other parties. Only five areas have no human occupation. the State in Colombia has followed legislation from the USA. This makes it very difficult for any kind of collaboration between park managers and local communities. but by 1998 UAESPNN was focusing on just twenty of them. have made a different use of the land.2 The Colono’s Perspective In contrast to the State perspective and in opposition to indigenous conceptions. and in sixteen of them there are extensive process of Colonisation. then a new rainforest patch has to be felled and so the degradation process continues. pointing out that colonisers usually became poor and economically subjugated by rubber dealers. have to accommodate to existing rigid schemes. However. in order to obtain the nation financial resources to which they have a constitutional right. There were thirty-eight areas which needed to accomodate human populations. frequently having been forced to leave by armed groups or due to social exclusion. They came from other parts of the country. UAESPNN (the National Administrative Unit for the Management of Natural Areas) have recognised that part of the problem of managing parks has been the preconception that conservation is only possible without people. among other minorities. Even when conscious of the problem. just as indigenous peoples were (Domínguez-Ossa 1975a. In Colombia forty-two of the conservation areas are inhabited. the colonisers. In order to protect the environment and avoid the perceived danger of communal property. 1975b). the reform of institutions is slower than society’s willingness to undertake administrative changes and therefore indigenous peoples. attempting to force human populations to move elsewhere (Ministerio del Medio Ambiente 1998a: 146). 56 . The state is trying to accommodate to new democratic participation schemes in policy making. pastures are grown and cattle are maintained precariously. 3. but almost everywhere else in Amazonas. Soon the land they clear is depleted.6. legislation appropriates Conservation Areas as State property. who have not yet established themselves in Lower Apaporis.into the civilised world.

they always need to move periodically to a new patch of rainforest to make a new clearing and continue with their survival strategies. based on equally different misunderstandings of indigenous governance and territorial actions. learnt to eat manioc in the forms of cassava bread and fariña grains. Communal property is seen as 57 . colonisers are locked into economic values. While indigenous peoples value the land in a much wider perspective than that of a means of production. where open access for an extractive economy is the only feasible possibility they are contemplating in order to develop and progress. Therefore they believe that indigenous society should follow and learn form the representatives of this society in order to develop.Colonisers that have remained in Amazonas have done so as miners. they express concern about family property. Intermarriage between indigenous people and colonisers has occurred and mestizos participate in indigenous rituals and acknowledge their languages. Thus. There have been changes in the life styles of colonisers: they have adapted to indigenous food. roots and fruits from the rainforest. The colonisers’ families work as independent units. traders and governmental officials. When living independently. It is inconceivable for the colonisers that indigenous territorial and governance actions could be a better way of managing society and the environment. when living among indigenous people inside a resguardo. And it is impossible because part of their proudly held principles are based on the assumption that colonisers are closer to civilisation than indigenous people. the State and indigenous peoples. Colonisers share with the State a common hate of communal property but for different reasons. there is a basic aspect of the colonisers’ cultures that has cause conflict among them. conserving and consuming seeds. coca planters. Their identity has been built on their supposed superiority as members of the ‘civilised society’ that governs the nation. They are forced to rely on shamans for healing when affected by sickness in regions where the public health service is deficient or absent. Therefore they seek open access to resources and private property ownership. and are not used to communal production of any kind. they now use indigenous procedures for transforming. This process has been called the ‘indianisation of colonisers’ (Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1990: 195) Despite this assimilation process.

indigenous peoples’ explanation of the problem revolve around the younger generation’s adoption of new ways of life distant from traditional cultural ways. Chapter Four provides an example of traditional management. there were two symposia in which the participation of indigenous people was welcomed. there have not been any proposals of colonisation that have contemplated the possibility of communal property. This proposition will be developed further in the following chapters. 3. and the capacity of nature to renew the creative and innovative forces of our peoples. and in Chapter Nine changes in traditional management systems are proposed as plausible causes of depletion. Chapter Five analyses the premises of conservationists against those of indigenous peoples. rather than innate problems with the use of common property resources. It had assumed a conservation pattern in which western scientific treatment of ecosystems and centralised environmental management was the only feasible remedy. including financial institutions. The State sees a risk of the “tragedy of the commons” occurring in indigenous territories. The State had assumed that communal property leads to environmental damage. the State confuses communal property with open access property. Erroneously. The principles of exclusion behind the structure of bureaucracy do not change at the rhythm that society wishes or as provided for by laws. 1997 (Ministerio del Medio Ambiente 1998b). like territoriality. should be the most prized values in future ” (translation by the author). A declaration was made in which 650 participants joined the call from FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations). that in any of their types of implementation were superposed over indigenous territories. 21-28 of May. This results from a different source than that of colonisers. But colonisers are not to blame for the misconception. and autonomous forms of dealing with and using the resources they embrace. when managed in accordance with traditions42. must recognise the fundamental rights of local communities. the State searched for new ways of dealing with indigenous peoples.primitive and. Contrary to the State vision. The aesthetic. but in terms of environmental management there is an avoidance of communal property. The State had accepted indigenous communal property. as well as the contribution to the development of individuals. 58 42 . the State. does not contemplate these forms of property when establishing developmental projects. spiritual dimension. IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) for the Ministry of Environment of Colombia to comply with indigenous peoples’ rights over their territories: “The preserved areas. until now.7 State Reforms and the Indigenous Territorial Ordering Process After the Constitutional reforms. During the first Latin American Congress of Parks and other Protected Natural Areas that took place in Santa Marta. with the creation of the Environment Ministry and the decentralisation of political process.

None of the Tanimuka captains signed the agreement. induced ACIYA in Apaporis to sign an agreement on the establishment of a nature reserve within the indigenous Resguardo (Forero 1999:194-203.8 Radicalism and Conflict The Yaigojé Resguardo illustrates the political complexity of territoriality and governance problems in Amazonas. It was stressed that a preservation area would not be established within indigenous reserves without petitioning from indigenous peoples themselves. The complete recognition of territorial indigenous rights. and in superimposed areas between preserved areas and indigenous territories. CIC as well as State functionaries from the Vaupés Department. 59 . surveys and diagnostic reports on the development of the territorial ordering process in a way never seen before in Amazonas Department. 3. are fundamental conditions for a just and effective conservation policy of biodiversity” (translation by the author). which was not translated into Tanimuka language. UAESPNN. It is worth mentioning that representatives from GAIA foundation. Fundación Natura –FN (Nature Foundation) and Conservación Internacional Colombia –CIC signed the declaration. in 1998 the elected Governor embarked on a large-scale consultation for the elaboration of the Department’s development plan. Benjamín Tanimuka wrote a letter to ONIC (National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia) describing the circumstances and asking for advice: “Many captains did not understand the document. The indigenous organisation was divided.A declaration from the symposia “Integrating our Human Environment” emphasised that natural areas were to assure the recognition indigenous peoples territorial rights: “4. as well as respect for their selfmanagement process. The indigenous peoples presented maps. 206-207). Representatives from the World Wide Fund for Nature .WWF and IUCN worked on proposing a new category of natural reserves where the two entities could merge without violating WLO agreement 169. At the regional level. through a dubious process. the FN43. All indigenous peoples from Amazonas had the chance to participate in the round tables set up by the governor’s office. Despite the declaration of Santa Marta. Captain Julian Tanimuka and I did 43 FN was a signatory of both the general Congress Declaration and of the symposia declaration.

Meurkens from Small World foundation. The right wing extremists called paramilitaries (sometimes associated with 60 . Finally it was considered that all institutions sponsored or receiving international funding represented a risk to Colombian sovereignty. The assumption made by the guerrillas was that indigenous people were not able to manage their territory and that their land was for the use of every citizen.not sign the agreement. Fisher from “Médicos del Mundo”. This is clearly illegal and constitutes a violation of Law 21 of 1991. were detained by FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in Bocas del Pirá. or environmental management plans. did not stop FN and CIC from promoting nationally and internationally a project for the new Natural Reserve area..M.. and all the members of the GAIA foundation that remained in the area were ordered to leave the Resguardo. because they benefitted indigenous peoples alone and colonisers needed land for development too. which ratifies the 169 Covenant of the International Labour Organisation. The Ministry of Environment. There is a common perversity in these assumptions and the result of this has been the weakness of ACIYA. I want to know your opinion over the validity of the agreement. to the Pirá-Paraná River. J. The reasons for the action stated by guerrillas were varied. once the legal terms had ceased and the Resguardo was officially enlarged. J. They pointed out that the recent events showed the indigenous people’s lack of capacity to manage their territory. that the policies of the Resguardos were prejudicial. the same community where the meeting had taken place. Also.”(May-15-1998). The Governor of Amazonas was shocked by the intrusion of extremists into the Department. however. made a resolution binding the Resguardo reserve to the agreement made with the radical environmental institutions. These events. and therefore of indigenous ecosystem management. One week later some advisors from GAIA that were travelling up the Apaporis. This assumption is similar to that of radical environmentalists: that indigenous people have no means to develop their territorial ordering processes. Some days later they expelled the Defler44 from the Mujutupia lake area.

the right wing paramilitary groups. The governmental development plan as well as all the other administrative reforms that were made in 1998 by the authorities of Amazonas Departmental through the democratic process.the State Army) had also made their presence felt in Amazonas. Dr. before a reform in the administration could be achieved. and because it recognises indigenous languages and aboriginal religious practices as official. the government had not revised the covenant at that time and the indigenous organisations had not asked for its revision yet45. be they poor or indigenous. Their aim is for children from different traditions to be together. were clearly contrary to the interest of all the extremist groups: the left wing guerrillas. There was a need for training of indigenous leaders in the management of educational resources. This agreement is illegal under the statement of the new constitution because it violates the principle of equity for all citizens. Prior to the reform of the National Constitution a contract between the State and the Catholic Church called Concordato had been inplace. The proposal presented to the departmental assembly was characterised as an “evil atheist project” by the Monsignor of Leticia. The Governor made a declaration condemning the violent acts and asking for solidarity (September 1. The National State of Colombia had delegated the administration of the poorest and indigenous peoples of Colombia to the Catholic Church. protests arrived from the Catholic Prefecture of Leticia. After diagnosis of the educational situation in Apaporis and the request made by indigenous peoples for a change in the educational service in the region. 44 61 . 1998). But there were still more rigid positions to be faced by indigenous organisations and the governor’s office. learning and living in multiethnic communities were everyone receives equal treatment regardless of his/her ethnic background or religious beliefs. However. the radical environmentalists and the conservative Catholic Church. The Secretary of Education prepared a document that incorporated such willingness and the desire of many citizens from Amazonas to receive an education free from religion. Thomas and Sara Defler worked in a biological station with the help of FN. The proposals of indigenous peoples to the government office in Amazonas contemplated such training. Deffler is also a teacher at the National University of Colombia in the Amazonas.

In Colombian Amazonia some State representatives have made an effort to keep up-todate with the territorial ordering process of the Nation through a large scale consultation and the setting up of round tables for participation of all citizens. At the same time. It should be clear that the acts of territoriality of indigenous peoples enhance an holistic approximation to environmental management and that such actions encompass economic. However. These legal procedures made them take part in a governance project that aimed to correct the political failures of past State management. social and political dimensions that suit not only the reproduction of their society but the conservation of the local environment. whatever their background. In the search for territorial defence.9 Conclusion: Amazon and the Complexities of the Territorial Ordering Process It should be clear by now that territoriality and governance actions are linked. 45 The situation has changed since. (anthropological and legal in the studied example) there is an enormous potential for enhancing the organisation of social movements. and also time consuming. indigenous people made use of the law. Their success was also partial. as they failed to foresee the difficulties that could arise when trying to institutionalise the written constitutional principles and laws. some NGOs have also helped indigenous peoples to keep abreast of the same process.3. That these actions have to do not only with the development of productive forces but also with the ideological and philosophical appraisal of the world. movements and organisations. ‘Civil society’ should learn from the experience that when a legal procedure is properly presented. The two democratic approaches were politically and economically costly. a democratic participation process not only depends on the legal procedures but on the development of institutions and conceptions of territoriality and governance from other social groups. the revision has taken place. providing them with tools for the organisation and creation of governmental organisations. Chapter Nine reviews the latest developments concerning Education Services in NWA. 62 . However. and perhaps with specialised advice. For indigenous peoples the use of the legal instruments was essential in the recognition of their rights to territoriality and governance.

and the careless criticisms of the more conservative factions of the Catholic Church. It should also be understood that the process of territorial ordering is far more complex than that of providing political tools for democratic participation. The radical conservationists’ willingness to promote internationally an illegitimate agreement. are political actions that make it more difficilt for indigenous organisations and the State to negotiate with the armed forces.political management should accompany the legal instruments in order to achieve institutional transformation. The reality today is that the guerrillas and paramilitaries are trying to take control of the territory by the use of violence. 63 . It is clear that social transformation towards agreed principles is a longterm process in which bureaucracy and prejudicial practices can easily lead the way to radicalism and violence. It should be learnt from this experience that pre-determining the notion and structure under which territoriality actions are developed could help to foresee the arrival of conflicts in governance.

By analyzing the ritual and explaining the relations between rite and cultural practices in general. 64 46 . academics. a critique of the ‘sustainability’ concept will be developed.CHAPTER 4: THE MARCH OF THE MANIKINS. They have found that the distinction between nature and society seems to be an odd concept for many indigenous societies (Descola and Pálsson 1996: 2-9).1 What this Chapter is About46 Among the Tukano there are rituals that reflect refined ecological management. politicians. I have to thank the Yale Center for Comparative Research that invited me to present a second version of this essay at the 2001 workshop ‘Conservation and Sustainable Development –Comparative perspective’. Ethnoscientists have found that human involvement with the natural environment has developed in accordance with ecosystems functioning. It will be argued that a re-definition of ‘sustainability’ informed by indigenous knowledge systems (and not only western sciences) would be fundamental for the development of a new meta-language which could set new norms for environmental management practices and policy implementation. In the case of the Tukano from Northwest Amazonia the location of human beings is within the environment (ReichelDolmatoff 1996b). and many thanks to all the participants for their valuable comments. AGROFORESTRY PRACTICES AND SPIRITUAL DANCING 4. 4. I must thank the participants of the Conference for their comments and critics. ‘the Dance of the Dolls’. The ways of living of Amerindians and other indigenous peoples around the globe involve aesthetic and spiritual dimensions that contribute to the functioning of the environment and society as a whole.2 Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability Are indigenous management systems sustainable? Conservationists. among them is ‘The March of the Manikins’. Environmental policies favouring or undermining indigenous rights are justified upon arguments raised from this debate. Tukano and other NWA indigenous ways of living illustrate the ideas of Rappaport on the relevance of religion and ritualisation for the management and adaptation to the environment (Rappaport 1999: 438-98). preservationists and indigenous peoples keep debating this issue. I am grateful to the Society of Latin American Studies (SLAS) that funded my trip to the University of Hull for the 1999 Postgradute Latin American Student’s Conference where I presented the first version of this chapter.

that inventory and long-term monitoring have contributed to the understanding of global environmental problems and to the establishment of verifiable indicators within environmental management. not having the scientific or technological resources required to do so. Extreme preservationists want to isolate the environment from any form of human intervention. Reconciling environmental management. and indigenous people' rights s might be possible. have arguments supporting management styles that though differing in methodology both seek ' sustainability' . local governance.Another perspective is that of conservationists. Behind this argument there is the assumption that indigenous social systems (consciously or unconsciously) are inherently incapable of managing their environment47. In this way. Both groups. Sometimes deliberately and at others unconsciously. Indigenous peoples may get deprived of their rights. prevented from managing their own territories and finally be placed in vulnerable situations that could drive them to cultural and physical extinction (Colchester 1997: 1332). The need to implement effective policy for the 65 . At the other extreme of the debate. indigenous peoples are said to be ignorant or incapable of managing the environment. nature must be objectified and appropriate technology should be developed. Conservationists are able to show as effective results from this approach. conservationists perpetuate the ontological dualism nature/society. Political ecologists have questioned the concept of environmental management as the administration of places. but as shared space (Low and Gleeson 1998). but the controversy between conservationists and neo-indigenists continues inspiring contradictory policies. sometimes autarchic indigenous management of the environment. who advocate a specialized management of the global environment. For this management to be effective. environment must not bee seen as a material entity to administrate. Conservationists defend a position in which protection of natural areas is possible only when human intervention is controlled. For environmental or ecological justice to be applicable. which advocate authentic. there are those called "neo-indigenists" (Agrawal 1995: 414-15). conservationists and neo-indigenists.

the development of industries. Anthropological Perspectives (Descola and Pálsson 1996). A political ecology must inform the encounter between global market dynamics and local environmental management. "Ecology as semiotics” (Hornborg 1996). 1994a. There have been transfers of information used in the analysis of ecosystems. The hybrid model is not easy to implement. promoting their own interests but at the expense of a more general welfare (Rappaport 1993:295-303). See Rappaport 1993. The hybrid management operates when there is partnership between the scientific establishment and grassroots organizations. which should be analyzed in terms of power relations. 48 For compilation of case studies see "The Cultural Dimensions of Development" (Slikkerveer. 50 Following Rappaport’s concept in which maladaptation occurs when special-purpose subsystems take on general-purpose functions. Indigenous peoples have found this useful as an instrument to assure territorial and cultural rights. and sometimes. to gain control over their lives and territories. Brokensha et al. Outlines of a “contextualist paradigm for human ecology". Efforts have been made everywhere to develop hybrid environmental management systems based on participatory approaches48. Pimbert and Pretty 1999: 207-211). threatening ' partnership' environmental management?50. Ethnoscientists have been promoting this kind of partnership for many years (Schultes 1991: 264-66). 1994b. Advocates of a hybrid management argue that in the twenty-first century. the provision of services and the development of legislation. managers and grassroots leaders alike: To what extent can engaged anthropology promote social change?49 Are environmental and indigenous peoples' rights complementary? How do we deliver policy when both rights compete rather than complement with each other? How do we respond to religious and economic practices that could be maladaptive. 1999). 66 . in Nature and Society. it is inevitable to come to agreements for environmental management in which we all are involved (Posey 1999:6-7. where the link between economic development and global environmental problems is recognized everywhere. This perspective does not promote development of new managerial recipes for development but the enquiry into the relationship between management institutions and local peoples in terms of preservation of territories and the evolution of meanings as adaptive responses. 49 Engaged Anthropology also known as Applied Anthropology. in 47 The discussion was developed by Hornborg.environmental management of Amazonia has urged participants to innovate. nor from indigenous knowledge and practices. Hybrid management policy is not derived exclusively from the results of hard scientific research. There are several questions challenging scholars.

They explained that knowledge for healing or curing people. Patents require a specific act of invention. 67 . The tendency among conservationists is to manipulate rather than to apprehend indigenous knowledge. She asked the elders of some of the ethnic groups what they thought about establishing communal compensation or payment for the use of products and services derived from traditional environmental knowledge. language does not reflect but constitutes reality (Escobar 1996). (even when generated locally) should not be patented or sold. providing services and medicines to anyone who needed them. doctors in particular. The ascription of meanings to particular words guides our political actions51. The activist was promoting the recognition of communal property rights as an alternative to individual property rights (patents). She went to Araracuara and interviewed indigenous peoples. would behave within this morality. the Program for the Consolidation of Amazonia (COAMA) received a visit from an activist interested in indigenous opinions on property rights. which "is refunctionalized to serve the interests of western style conservation" (Escobar 1998: 61). They explained to her that they were not expecting money for a service that everyone should have for free. It is evident that hybridization is not a new phenomenon but the constant of human adaptation. The group agreed that this action was immoral. This can be illustrated with an example. Could we enhance such perspectives by including non-western meanings within our denominations? Such process would require re-defining concepts in such a way that it would make it possible to apprehend indigenous epistemology. Within this dialectic process meanings are reconstructed rather than replaced. thus stimulating commercialisation (Posey 1999: 11-12). The language we use reflects our perspectives on environmental management. 51 Following Escobar’s "poststructural" framework. What they were expecting was that white people. who were unable to compete with multinationals in the acquisition of them.These questions reflect confrontation of divergent perspectives and incompatibility of life styles. which were seen as a threat to indigenous peoples. The resistance to equating western science and indigenous knowledge will remain as there is political confrontation in which the western scientific establishment seeks to impose its own myths over those of non-western traditions. difficult to prove by someone other than a pharmaceutical company. A few years ago.

although I have been enjoying the last about Tukanoan dances. 4. In fact ethno-scientific studies repeatedly show that among indigenous people there is a tendency to see such intersection as a continuum (Descola and Pálsson 1996). Arhem 1998: 124149. in an attempt to develop the dialectical process refered to in the above paragraphs. sacred and profane. Rappaport dedicated much of his work to the study of rituals demonstrating that one of the aims of rituals is to facilitate adaptation. which is the name given by them to the first part of the dance. There is no evidence that the ultimate goal of the March of the Manikins is to manage freshwater ecosystems but there is evidence. teach their arts and enhance their spiritual life. Tukanoans manage their environment. That many aspects of Tukanoan rituals have to do with the intersection between society and nature should not surprise us. many specialists would agree that there remains a I will refer here to the "March of the Manikins". 52 68 . probably following the Makuna "rûmûa sahara" (the entry of the spirits).3 Rituals and Myths: there and here The Tukanoan Indigenous peoples speak of the "Baile de los muñecos"52 when referring to a ritual in which a series of characters dance over a three-day period. Even though the Tukanoan world has been studied with care since the beginning of the twentieth century53.In this chapter we will examine Tukanoan practices as agroforestry management systems. develop socio-political institutions. The motivation for this chapter is not pure enjoyment. that freshwater ecosystems dynamics are a core element for the characterization within ritual performance. leaving us the question of the value of such a distinction. Kaj Arhem refers to it as the "Dance of the Spirits". I will describe how through this ritual dance and other cultural practices. their performances for years. assuring the continuance of society and nature as an integrated whole (Rappaport 1999: 404-37). See "Makuna: Portrait of an Amazonian people". Further on I shall discuss ‘sustainability’ as a principle of environmental management and whether or not ‘sustainability’ is an indigenous practice. I do not pretend to say the ' word' art and intentions. as I will be shown.

great scope for further research. swamp forest. A group of recognised "payés" (shamans) of Apaporis let me accompany them in a journey through the Apaporis River to identify the places ascribed to the defined categories. ethnographic and anthropological studies have been written since then. All the places were of religious importance and had a level of sacredness identified by the payés. waterfalls. on one hand. For this reason ‘chagras’ (gardens) have different names as ‘yucal’" (specialized in manioc) or ‘frutal’ (specialized in fruits such as pineapple. pools. hills. Van der Hammen 1992: 334). beaches and straight linear river paths (Forero 1999: 122-30). Twenty-four categories were distinguished to differentiate areas of cultural/environmental importance.kumoro. but the first comprehensive study was "Dos Años entre los Indios. start-apple. for what reason? In previous work I recorded some of the toponomy used by several indigenous groups in the Yaigojé Resguardo. and defined habitats (Århem 1990: 105-22. My luck is that the dance happens to illustrate a particular style of dealing with what we call ' rainforest' management problems and I happened to be invited by the Tukanoans to participate in the dance54. mature ones that have been harvested. although some of them had more than one name (there were three hundred and fifty-six names) as they were included in two or more categories. Tukanoans also classify their environment with respect to agricultural. and on the other. Three hundred and twenty-one places were georeferenced using a GPS. This complexity has to do with the fundamentals of their economic activities that.com/bibliografy. 1903-1905" by Koch-Grünberg 1995). emphasise the noun.htm 54 ‘Fieldwork’ involved approximately 40 months between 1993 and 1998. a whole universe to learn from. Viajes por el Noroeste Brasileño. In the above paragraph I wrote "what we call ' rainforest' Who is this "we" and why do I ". Names also refer to stages of cultivation. differentiating among gardens that were recently opened. gathering and hunting practices.) and ‘chontadural’ (specialized in palms like ‘chontaduro’ (Bactris-gasipaes) and ‘seje’ (Jessenia bataua). such as forest sucession 53 The Tukano of Colombia were mentioned in "Travels on the Amazon and the Río Negro". These names where attached to distinguishable bio-geographical natural phenomena such as saltlicks. Is there any chance of reshaping semantics in this case? And if there is. Numerous geographical. An on-line reference list is available at www. develops a technology that aims to mimic observed phenomena. Wallace 1889. 69 . cashew-fruit. rapids. humanise the flora and fauna of the gardens. or ones that have been partially abandoned.

55 ‘Kumua’ are a specialized group of shamans that are dedicated mainly to what is called by Tukano as ‘the healing of the world’ or. when Comte called for a positive science that was to fight metaphysical explanations and the superstitions of religion (Comte 1830).) Tukanoans do not have ' rainforest'They do not refer to the ‘rainforest’ as an entity or a . By naming the ' tropical rainforest' are suggesting a new entity that has to compete with local concepts. The whole collection of territories is called "the world". Representatives of western sciences. he was calling attention to the need to establish methodologies and procedures for the development of a renewed western knowledge system. Unfortunately this message did not get through. Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996b: 264-68. But the aim of positive science was not to replace one myth with onother. This hierarchy of systems of knowledge leads to unequal bases for the process of policy making regarding environmental management. more generally. which was the abuse by religious institutions of the Judaic-Christian myth. and in many cases. that western sciences are still trying to understand. The power to search into the semantics of the myth was taken out of the public sphere by institutions that created a rigorous management of secrecy in order to maintain their privilege as a dominant group. 70 . But these terms are not equivalent to the western concept of ' rainforest' or ' rainforest management' . Comte was fighting the obscurantism. ‘the management of the world’.(Forero 1999: 148-52. This semantic incompatibility reflects a political confrontation. In the nineteenth century. subject. through science we do not find the key to the ‘truth’ but produce plausible explanations. Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996a: 4-7. This we would not be a problem if local societies had the same scope. positivism has helped supplant myths or the production of hegemonic myth making. but qualify. Indigenous systems of knowledge are regarded as cultural traditions while western society produce science. or if a dialogue had taken place. amount and extent of power as western society. use this name: ' tropical rainforest' refer to these to uncertain complexes of relations. and in fact ‘kumua’ (high ranking shamans) refer to the ‘management of the world’55. However. Names do not simply describe.

It has been shown how through naming the ‘tropical rainforest’. A contestant response to hegemonic myth making is through the empowerment of indigenous peoples. We know that indigenous ' environmental management'has some degree of effectiveness. From the positivist perspective nature is an object of study. through replacing myths and rites within the public sphere. The responsibility of environmental managers. we have created one of those ' hegemonic myths' (Stott 1999: 43-5). and depending on the structure and the scope of institutional power. we face some kind of dogmatism or obscurantism. while instrumentalism sees environmental management as a matter of developing adequate technology. through misreading other peoples’ landscapes and by replacing their history with our own constructions. From the political perspective. some institutional support is required. The hybrid model is not possible following the canons of positivism and instrumentalism within science. we could promote communication and debate. myth making may more or less have the tendency to exclude other myths from the debate (Stott 1999: 8). or both. The obvious strategy to allow new semantics of environmental management in Amazonia is participation of indigenous peoples in environmental policy delivery. Nothing can prevent us from providing semantics in the service of adaptation. From those perspectives human participation is purely mechanistic. Here it is 71 . avoiding the stasis of ‘revelation’. Stott follows Rappaport in advocating the need to find a new meta-language to explain the complex relations observed in functioning ecosystems with their ever-dynamic character. It has been documented in Colombia for the Tukano and other Northwest Amazonian peoples56. Thus. ethnoscientists and engaged anthropologists nowadays is to act as facilitators of a dialectic process in which the fulfillment of rights established by national and international laws is ensured. ‘revelation’ involves a hierarchical system. To spread the revelation of a unique truth. Therefore.When a myth is taken away from the public sphere and an organization claims to be the exclusive interpreter of its meta-language. it could be argued that hegemonic mythmaking lies at the core of maladaptation.

Hugh-Jones. wrote on indigenous music. Brazil. 1996b. took photographs of the rituals. called attention to the political problems. Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996a. The Makunas. some of which have already disappeared. the ‘maloquera’ (female head of the communal See Arhem 1998: 94 . Through examining the propositions of the ritual semantic we might enhance our perspective on ‘sustainable practices’. Today. temperature. In the Northeast of the Department of Amazonas lies the Taraira or Royeyaká River. von_Hildebrand 1983. Eastern Tukano.4 The Place and the Peoples The Colombian Amazon borders with Venezuela. spoke to shamans. wrote about inequalities among mestizos and indians. 1979. Tanimukas. rivers volume. Barasano and Itana. with whom the author lived and to whom the present chapter refers will be called by the generic name Tukanoan / Tukano. Hugh-Jones. which for one hundred and fifty kilometres marks the national border with Brazil. von-Hildebrand 1983. Van der Hammen 1992. The first classification of linguistic families was made by Koch-Grunberg57. Tukano kinship is patrilineal and residence has virilocal patterns. The ‘maloca’ is inhabited by the ‘maloquero’ (male head of the communal house) with his wife. Reichel-Dolmatoff 1975. Letuama. and opened up the Northwest Amazon to ethnographic studies. One of the principal tributaries of the Apaporis is a black torrential river called Pirá-Paraná. This will require managers and politicians to incorporate the arts and humanities into environmental management practice. 1976. until it reaches the Caquetá River at the Brazilian fort of Villa Betancourt. and MakúPuinave. the communal houses where extended families live. There are three main linguistic families in Apaporis: Arawak. C. Reichel-Dusan 1997. The Royeyaká/Taraira is a tributary of the Apaporis River. 57 German voyager that travelled during 1903 . 1996b.argued that indigenous ways of living. In these communities there is one or a few ‘malocas’. 4. The geography through which this river and the Apaporis flow encompasses most of the Tukanoan territory.123. 1979. Perú and Ecuador. Yahunas. Tukanoans live in communities of forty to three hundred people who usually belong to one ethnic group. 1997. which serves as the national frontier for a further forty-three kilometres. who made a careful description of the Tukano-speaking ethnic groups. which extends further north to the Vaupés River. S. 72 56 .1904. Caquetá is a tributary of the Great Amazon. reflected in the March of the Manikins and other ritual performances. Koch-Grunberg did classified languages but also collected artefacts. offer western society an alternative perspective. took data on rain. More on his work will be added in Chapter Six.

There were ethnic wars during the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. Most of these activities were. and communal dancing and eating spaces. and it is possible 58 For extended discussion about the maloca . which are conceptualized as tapir –people. in small houses. ‘mambeadero’ (male ritual space). The space inside is divided in family quarters. In the maloca people organize their daily activities and men meet each night to make and take the mambe (coca powder). Furthermore. The Tukanoans reconsider the management of their environment continually. 73 . it is the place where ritual dances take place. Tukanoans have rules for hunting. but the maloca remains the meeting point58. From mythology we also know that this territory was divided and each ethnic group had its own fraction. Hugh-Jones 1995. "This plate is held together by some laces. hunting. Jackson 1983. some of the shamanistic practices are becoming unpopular among the younger generations. The Tukanoan practice linguistic exogamy and alliances were made through the exchange of women60. and still are to some extent. Like in the case of fishpeople there are myths and cultural practices that Tukano culture has elaborated in order to maintain reciprocity with each species. Species may diminish considerably and can even be driven to extinction without hunting and fishing regulations. to heal.house) and the families of their sons. We do not know the extent to which these regulations were effective when clans and ethnic groups were actually forced to share the territory. female and cooking spaces. The knots of these cordons have visible points on the surface of the earth. This big plate is said to resemble a "budare".kinship relationship see "Inside-out and Back-to-front: The Androgynous House in Northwest Amazonia". gathering and agricultural activities. The maloca is constructed to resemble the Tukano universe and it is used as a calendar and a clock. 59 Although. Also. a round clay plate used to make the manioc bread called "casabe" (cassava). all which are waterfalls of Northwest Amazonian rivers (Forero 1999: 97). Linguistic Exogamy and Tukanoan Identity in the Northwest Amazonia". deer-people and sometimes animal-people in general. 60 See " The Fish People. The Tukano territory is mythically conceived as a big round plate with several upper and lower layers. The environmental rationality of this cycling could be summarized as follows: In order to control the use of the resources and therefore the amount of energy to be used by each species there are several negotiations with spiritual owners of the animal subjects of hunting. the indigenous peoples of Apaporis maintain the cycle of rituals (This transformation is discussed in Chapter Nine). They have to if they want to continue their fishing. to transmit oral history and to plan communal and ritual activities. regulated through shamanism59. there are always visitors. gathering and fishing. Nowadays the nuclear families tend to live separately.

Figure 1: Map of the Yaigojé Resguardo 4. interviews with shamans about the importance and significance of the March of the Manikins were carried out during this period. The rivers.5 The Origins The ancestral journey of the Tukano heroes is part of the shared Tukanoan mythology. (See Figure 1). with the rest of the territory. were not something presented or given to these peoples without purpose. All these activities happened within the Yaigojé Resguardo Reserve on the Apaporis River. that through their complex politicoreligious practices the Tukanoans made a system to control population size. the world is in a permanent state of change. Politico-religious practices involve shamanism and the performance of rituals. This chapter focuses on the March of the Manikins. during the 1990s the author would observe or participate in the ritual. On several occasions.that the need to expand territories was one of the causes of these conflicts (Van der Hammen 1992:22). use resources and avoid ethnic conflicts (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1976: 107-118). In their everyday life as well as in their mythology. Tukanoans did not received material gifts from their 74 . However it has also been argued. Within Tukanoan cosmology. there is nothing created from nothing. one of the rituals carried out by Tukano people every year. nothing is received for nothing. Additionally.

The smallest splinters were ‘sardinas’. During their journey the Imarimakana had to struggle and resolve problems in order to obtain what they were looking for. Generally a waterfall marks the limit for certain fish species. cannot reach The tree of life. they felled another tree to give continuity to the Apaporis. and each artifact has a spiritual owner who has the power to release the species. The different trees which were felled produced splinters that turned into the particular species of fishes that now populate each river61. (sprats) offspring of new species that would populate the river. the present day Tukano have the possibility of resolving problems that still challenge them in every day life. alive or inert. The cultural heroes placed the rivers over the territory by cutting down trees. They made it fall and the Apaporis river was running towards the Caquetá river. By relating the story. run towards the Southeast: “Then the gods cut down the tree using a guard stick. therefore the River and its tributaries. its higher branches laid down at Jirijirimo. The Apaporis was a tree situated at the point called ‘Yuisi’ (also known as the waterfall of ‘Libertad’). 75 61 . Each plant. is a leit-motif of many Amazonian myths. each animal. Indigenous people know that some species are present only in certain rivers or just at particular places along the course of a river. ‘lechero’ (Brachyplatystoma fylamentosum) and the ‘dorado’ (Pseudoplatystoma-flavicans). such as the use of resources and the management of conflict and disease. When it fell down its roots got extended to the Caquetá (another tree previously cut down) and the trunk pointed Northwest. The cultural heroes. When that tree fell down it carried a vine we call Weria. primary school teacher from Apaporis). It has been pointed out that such trees express “the fundamental characteristics of the Amazon ecosystem” (Rival 1999: 360). for example.cultural mythological heroes. the felled tree is usually a ceiba (Ceiba pentranda). acquired the essence of things. which correspond to the tree branches. and placed them in the Tukanoan territory as concrete beings. probably the tallest tree in Amazonia. forming the river Weriyaká that white people call Cananarí…” (Fragment of a myth related by Jaime Tanimuka. The tree headed towards the north where the sun sets down. There. called "Imarimakana" (the four sons of time) by the Tanimuka. which fell in a direction contrary to the direction of the flow. instead they received knowledge and instructions on how to respond to challenges. The giant catfish. and does so when asked in the proper way. the thing or the knowledge he protects and manages. As the tree was being cut every splinter became a fish species.

The third is Lake Kariaka. which is the name of a river that feeds the lake. the place where the ancestral anaconda Añapaki (father-anaconda) started looking for the course of the Apaporis River. Therefore. and the nursery places for fish and crustaceans. The second is located at 7. 4. To understand the significance of this. They only get as far as Iañakopea waterfall. 8.5 km south of the mouth of the Ugá river and is called Wîsõbo boraitara. the beach is called Bijo-masã meaning ‘the people that own the thunder’. Fishing in this lake is restricted and can only be done after shamans have asked the spiritual owner. The first is near the mouth of the Royeyaká/Taraira River. All three lakes have cultural importance and people refer to them as sacred places. It also has a rock formation.1 The Lake of the Manikins In the Lower Apaporis River there are three main lakes.) originated in Apaporis. not only fish and game.7km south of popeyaka river. Also recorded are the times at which they reproduce. All of which is vital information for freshwater resource management. The lake is said to be the shelter for the fish people Wai-masã. which marks the limit of the Tukano territory in Apaporis. There are several sacred places within the lake. and is called Mujutupia (by the Tanimuka) or Mosiro Itajura (by the Makuna). which indicates the point of origin of masãjiwiri people.5. 76 . All freshwater species have been identified and their territory marked and encoded in mythology. is recited by shamans to alleviate the pain of people that have been bitten by a snake. The second lake is also of great importance and similar restrictions are placed over the use of resources at this site. there is also the place where kuruyai (Paleosuchs spp. where they migrate from and to. it is important to note that the dance represents an act of revelation. There. Tukanoans have to sing the same sounds in the same order at the same times during every enactment of the dance. The Wîsõbo boraitara lake is also called "Lago de Muñeco" (Lake of the Manikin) because it was there that the mythical heroes invited the Wai-masã (fish-people) to dance for the first time. Each character sang their stanzas and in doing so established the ritual order. Meorosa. and finally. The first is said to have a cricket as its spiritual owner.Jirijirimo. but also the giant grass and surrounding plants have to be protected by Tukanoans.

they communicate with their spiritual owners. mashed and placed in containers sunk into the ground to a depth of 50cm and rise above the surface up to two meters. fish people are much like Tukano people. the frogs. and other animals and deities.6 The Performance The March of the Manikins takes place in February when the fruit of the ‘Chontaduro’ (Peach palms: Bactris gasipaes) are harvested. And all of them have to establish alliances and regulate their inter-species trade.4. where they migrate from and to. The palm fruit ferment and with them a drink called "chicha" is produced. the deer. The fruit are collected. It also relates their rank or importance within their group. cleaned. the wood-eating ant. which is used by the maloquero to pay the dancers. the mythical characters who enter the maloca for the three days and nights of the dance. with the same social structure. are (within Tukanoan mythology) descendants or relatives of fish-people. Tukanoans meet with the spiritual owners of the fish-people. The narration talks about the adventures they have while going up the river: where they mate. and the place where they spawn. through trance and meditation. they select their wives from an allied group and maintain reciprocity among these groups. Therefore. It should be remembered at this point that from the Tukano perspective. Other characters represent different groups and families of fishpeople. like animal-people and humans. through the ritual. or “the maloca of their breeding”. 77 . they have allies and enemies. Some characters like the hawk. Fish people as well as the Tukano had to obtain territories.2 Who are these characters and what do they sing about? Through these sounds characters praise the act of occupation that took place in Apaporis when the Tukano first arrived. cooked. establish and reinforce their alliances and maintain the energy flow necessary for both of them to survive. Fish–people.5. The fish people can become ill or perish if they do not enjoy the protection of their spiritual owners. 4. Shamans are responsible for the protection of their own people and. which involves life itself. will return in essence to their point of origin.

There was Riabitisanirõ whence Manakarú was born. Then Maniitara. 78 . came Boraitára. To paint the masks they have to look for clay of different colors: red. men usually have to follow diets and practice sexual abstinence. Before the expedition. the principal singers. select their companions and prepare for the dance. a sticky black glue or pitch obtained by burning wood. the owner of that place. the ‘harvester’ and the shaman of the group have already asked their spiritual protector and agreed with him on the pay (made in coca and tobacco) and the quantities to be picked. They also have to ask and obtain other fibers for the ‘sayas’ (skirts) they use. Their shaman asks the spiritual owner of the marimá tree for the fiber used in the construction of masks and shirts. near Bella Vista where the eagle lives was begun. He is an Anaconda. These invitations are made in person. Then came (Itoñani) Ideña.Before the dance there is intense preparation by both the maloca group and the dancing group. has to send invitations to the singers and dancers. The men of the receiving maloca have to hunt and fish. On the day of the dance the maloquero receives the payé that will be ‘healing’ the dance. but for now we should stress that the ritual. snuff and cigars. We shall return to this later when referring to the importance of the dance. even though space is given for improvisation while the performance is being carried out. This liturgical order and the relevance it has when celebrating was described by one of the shamans interviewed: “The origin of the manikin spirits is where the sun rises. usually two. the maloquero either goes himself or sends a secretary with mambe and tobacco as presents. yellow and white. Women also have to clean and smoke the fish and game obtained by the men. besides preparing the chicha. This payé is responsible for communicating with the spirits that come into this world to meet Tukanoan people during the ritual. Besides that. The maloquera has to organize women to collect manioc and make the cassava in sufficient quantities to feed the hundred or so people who will be attending the dance. After that. All these activities are ritualized as Tukano consider that they are ‘harvesting’ the prey rather that hunting. His son is Meneyawiri and his companions are Idera and Sotó. In order to prepare for hunting. The former. The making of the dance dresses and masks is demanding and usually takes two or three weeks. up from Yuisi (Libertad) waterfall. The maloquero and his secretaries and sons have to pick coca leaves and tobacco. Everything has to be ready before the dancers arrive. This happened by the Caquetá River. The masks are made of balsa wood and then covered with ‘brea’. does have a structured order. and prepare mambe. For the dancing party there is much work to do too.

was originated. Each fish describes its journey up the Apaporis. one by one. in the Caquetá river. The companion of the dance is the short "carrizo" (panpipe musical instrument). From the mouth of the Pirá-Paraná River. The Manikins where not born recently but at the beginning of time. Then they travel to waiyajido. each ancestor of each tribe. that is the time when they come. not everybody should be told. The first singer was Minayabiri. The Payé spreads incense while the rest of the people dance. casts spells and sings. In support of this he said that after the dance is performed. Then came the Letuama people. it is not a party. Depending on the sickness. so he is able to heal. I am telling you part of it. Another stanza went and big Nõkõrõ appeared. and how they are born again in riapirimi. that is the place where they finish. As our grandparents hear and learned. while taking mambe and snuff. yabinog otobojina.. There are many important stanzas when puño [Serrasalmus sp. he is the Kayarí. They danced with every stanza and then they went out62 to finish the dance. Plants are the owners of the sounds of the manikin spirits. The march of the manikins is performed only in one season. and the maloca was purified. Then came the bees singing. the tiger. without stopping. we have to finish. they have great value”. so they could dance. Other sounds came and then little Nõkõrõ. we have to cure for each person. so shall we dance. to make good deals. free from Getting out means out of the maloca. They figured out the sounds. These things I am telling have to be developed with care. the shaman. and they do not come easy into my mouth. each payé takes from them. That is the reason we are going to dance tomorrow. and everything was given. they travel to Jirijirimo. That was when Mereyabiri danced. the lighting one.] and the other fish come. there is a kind of white colored plant. Idejatañõ otebojoñõ. 63 This interview was carried out in the mambeadero. This opened the way to the fish people. With the light. That is why we must heal. From those two plants singing originated. the payés. all of them. until the right time to finish dances comes. This dance is not a game. become pure. the payé followed in order by singers. There are hundreds of manikin spirits and each one has its story. 79 62 . nothing bad could happen. The first payé – because in the dances there is always one payé who heals the dance – conducted his work with caution. another plant. coca was shared. Snuff was shared. These words I am saying to you are serious. this tail of dancing people surrounds the maloca like a serpent whose head. The maicero [Cebus apella)] manikin started first. go out. After that came copay for the protection of the maloca. sickness is kept away so no harm will come. The sound of the marimá spirit was born. That was the last night of the ritual. From there the dance ceremony began. That was what happened during the first march of the manikins. It was originated so indigenous peoples could defend themselves. the ritual male place of the maloca. Ümãwãrêrûmû. Then Iamojotañõ. If payés do not cure and heal during this season. When dance is finished. each one grabbing with a hand the shoulder of the person in front. 1994)63. heal the maloca. was born. The dance starts form the malocas down the river and continues to the next one up the river. it should not be played with. the dancers and everybody else. the path he took… Everyone sings. from whence they go to manacarú. Then they sing about the way back to their place of origin. during peach palm season. the dancers and all of those who attended the maloca. the first peach palm [Bactris gasipaes] under whose fruits. The liturgical order of the ritual suggests that the dance contains important and precise messages for the Tukano. (Isaac Makuna. without harm. Our grandfathers received this knowledge. With this dance we can perform everything we need --for good hunting. It is the Manikins that make everything. and payé Isaac' narration was reinforcing a message about the s sacramental character of the dance. but not everything can be said. near Bocas del Pirá. This is everything that was heard. Once we start dancing the manikins. we. That is the reason.Next there was Imanakariki. Once outside. this is the sound of food related manikins. healing the place and saying ‘good-by’ to the manikin spirits. for each activity we’ll do.. Then they go to the lakes Borairara y Manitara. each one sings his story. the white ant. much sickness would come.

but what really happens is that they come into you. You can see the singers coming in and out. If one of them gets it wrong sickness comes to the children. is explicitly marked by payés: “These characters are ‘the sacred’. whose bark is very easy to peel off. Many mammals. This is a serious matter. It provides the users of the mambeadero with comfort. They go out straight away and when they come in again they bring other characters with them. It is a different spirit coming into the same person. they sing one stanza after the other and never make mistakes. and that they were present from the moment the Apaporis River was formed. but more importantly. free from envy and aggressive behavior. cassava bread. and we treat it as sacred. The sacramental character of the Dance. diversity and continued presence of fish. boys and girls. I gave to him so I won’t give to him anymore"64. If you are inside the maloca you could say: "this one already came in. you have to give to him too. They are full of joy and covered with the protection they will need until the next dance season. which implies that the present world and its people are overtaken by another people from another order of reality (or in Tukano mythology. coca and snuff.” (Octavio Makuna. the palms and their fruits provide food for other species. The ‘copay’ metaphor used by Isaac is remarkable as this tree. The spiritual owner of palms release its power to allow fish people to come and reproduce into this world. The bark is also used to start fires quickly and is therefore an essential source of protection. the alliances are affirmed through the sacrament and then the light comes. it is the palm trees that are elevated here. for a moment the origin and the present time come together.sickness. We also know that the ritual and narrative are based on the myth of a structured web or chain of life. but also smoked meat. 64 ‘Come in’ means inside the maloca. – That is the reason they [the singers] must not make mistakes. another layer of the multi-layered plateau) and that. besides humans consume peach palm. is sacred. the elder said.) ignites even when green. just as it is the peach palm fruiting season that maintains fish people today. 1994) After all the fish people have visited. Their spirit comes into oneself. Isaac expresses it poetically: “they made the sound up. There are some particularly interesting points to note from Isaac' narration. women. because he is someone different from the one that came in before. One is coming in. The payment to the manikins is in food. like many species of birch (Betula spp. This is the word of the payés. in a way that makes their presence indispensable for the origin. It does not need to be dried and is therefore used for lighting the maloca. But that is a mistake. especially peach palm ‘chicha’ (beer). This dance. 80 . fish. We know that s there were spiritual characters preparing the sacrament at the time of creation. so they could dance”.

he talks with the spiritual owner and tries to reestablish the alliance. It is through the adequate use of light and heat that human and other living things can keep fit and alive.The light from the copay has an additional symbolic meaning. physically. brightness and heat is the business of shamanism (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b: 32-37). The exception to this had happened. then establishes the moment when the energy flow was broken. it is said. Although from an etic approach we could say that the dance represents the Tukano belief that ecosystem processes are susceptible to management.7 Discussion The importance of the dance from the Tukano’s own perspective is emphasized by the shamans. with which they share the world. and to avoid conflict within the group. to extraordinary powerful and helpful kumua that have escaped this circuit and cease to come to this life again. The management of this energy in terms of lightness. Its importance lies not only in its character as a joyful celebration but its value as a tool that allows them to reestablish alliances with the spiritual owner of trees. We could also point out that there are socio-political and religious processes that are managed at the same time and with the same tools. If someone from the group of the healing payé has broken the norms of exogamy or reciprocity s/he should be the one ‘killed’ or ‘punished’ in shamanistic ways. hunting. This is done by assuring the spiritual owner that his group will follow certain patterns of abstinence and by promising to send the souls of those who will die to the ‘maloca of origin’65. 81 65 . For Tukanoans all energy comes from the sun and it is distributed among all things living and inert. The shaman then treats the patient and also their family. placing them on diets and prescribing sexual abstinence. which aim to preserve health. We could imply that it is failures in the use of energy that cause disease. who point out that this celebration is not a game but a sacrament. animals and all beings that share the territory. The maloca of breeding or the maloca of origin: It is believed that all species. came from the same original place-state and that all of us will be returning there after our deaths. The alliance is reestablished through reciprocity as inter-ethnic relations are established and reinforced. the shaman tries to restore the equilibrium of energy flow that was somehow disturbed. aim to control the amount of energy that is used by humans and thereby allow for the survival and reproduction of the other species. fishing and religious ceremonies. The payé listens to the patient and their family. fish. mentally or spiritually perturbed. After this. In this respect Tukano gathering. It is also believed that some shamans have gone to this maloca of origin without dying. which could have occurred through eating a prohibited fish species during dance times. 4. When someone is ill. color. By this process the payé is said to restore the energy that had been taken away from another being. by hunting without permission or due to improper behavior with relatives or allies. including humans.

For the deconstruction of the ‘development’ concept see "Encountering Development. covers several aspects: ecological. ‘harmony’ and ‘stability’. carrying to its extreme the critique of the epoch" (Deleuze and Guattari 1993. accomplishing sustainability is a matter of homeostasis and the maintenance of energy efficiency. For deconstruction of "rainforest" and "sustainability" concepts see "Tropical Rainforest: a political ecology of hegemonic mythmaking". refers to a condition of self-sufficient systems. because even if the term could embrace socio-political equality and ecosystem management. Foucault 1973. It could be argued that something is being sustained: the ritual practices. More on the ‘location’ of ‘utopia’ within ‘sustainable development’ (concept and practice) is discussed in Chapter Eight. Indeed. rainforest'and ' sustainability' . religious and aesthetic. The noun ' sustainability' been translated into has Spanish in two ways: "sostenible" (sustainable) y "sustentable" (suitable). the maintenance of economic conditions. from there. maintenance of profits. Therefore. economists talk of ‘economia sostenida’ (sustainable economy). 68 "Utopia is what connects philosophy to its epoch…it is with utopia that philosophy becomes political. The first refers to a condition where something endures for a defined period of time. or of ‘redimiento sostenido’. But what about attempting the re-appropriation of concepts so as to place Utopia68 at the core of the environmental management practice. Escobar 1995. it certainly does not encompass the sacred and aesthetic dimensions managed by the Tukano. it is difficult to find such a sophisticated mechanism of environmental management in the Western world and it seems inappropriate to label such practices ‘sustainable’. Stott 1999. 101. And ' sustainability' comes into question again. cited by Escobar 1995. socio-political.In terms of environmental management the March of the Manikins. And. Stott 1999:22-42. economic. "Sustainability" is associated with ‘balance’. Is it possible? If we were to make a mechanical operation. the concept of sustainability is preferred by conservationists and conservatives66. replacing nouns like ‘sustainable development’ with ‘management of the world’ we would only put indigenous knowledge 66 See "Tropical Rainforest: a political ecology of hegemonic mythmaking". For ' discursive formation see "The order of things". "Sustentable". Faucoult 1973. 67 82 . political ecology gains the methodological tools for deconstructing hegemonic 67 concepts like ' development' ' . The making and unmaking of the Third World". In this case. among other Tukanoan practices. Is it possible to contest the static nature of the concept? Could we attempt a counter-hegemonic response to conservationist conservatism? The Foucauldian notion of discursive formation serves to unveil sources of power. To illustrate this. 246). the second noun.

as we have discussed in this chapter. divine-human and other alike. The epistemology from which ‘management of the world’ comes has been partially unveiled by the analysis of the Tukano March of the Manikins. for the Tukano 83 . This is part of a process of appropriation of new meta-language that avoids from the beginnings the dichotomies of nature-society. A debate based on such premises is irrelevant because. We have partially examined the Tukanoan way of constructing their environment in an attempt to apprehend Tukanoan epistemology. The Tukanoan ‘management of the world’ endures into the twentieth first century. If we want to engage in hybrid management we must construct a new semantic. Tukanoan knowledge and ritualization remain active in the Yaigojé Resguardo today. sciences-arts. Instead we could follow an "ecologic" in which we no longer attempt the resolution of opposites but the involvement of all members of society towards environmental actions (Guattari 2000: 52). In summary. May be all of these things have been accomplished. if environmental management could have a place it would be by helping the reinvention of social practices and not by supporting modern hegemonic scientific myth making.8 Conclusions to Chapter Four "Are indigenous managment systems sustainable?" The debate between preservationists and neo-indigenists has developed around this general question. We could not do so because ‘management of the world’ comes from a non-western epistemology while ‘sustainable development’ is a core concept of modern scientific mythology. the examination of different epistemologies is necessary to make an ' eco-logical' response. As we have seen.at the service of conservatism by evading the dialectics. 4. but such translation could only be possible through the creation of a meta-language that reflects the differentiated epistemologies. which must include the aesthetic dimension within ' sustainable' practices. We could not replace the western concept of ' sustainable development' with the indigenous concept of ‘management of the world’. This fact could not be immediately translated as "Tukanoans have accomplished sustainable environmental management" or "Tukanoans live in harmony with nature" or "Tukanoans possess the system of renewing energy with lower entropy cost".

while the image of rainforest (a construction of instrumental science). views the rainforest as an object of concern. could be easily identified: indigenous knowledge would be reported as something present in the minds of shamans with respect to external objects. Environmental managers may replace nouns. in need of preservation. of course is the rhetoric of participation and in the case of the Northwest Amazonian indigenous political confrontations. we can realize that something is escaping from us when we rely on western environmental managerialism: we are ignoring the spiritual dimension and things do not make much sense without it. From the examination of Tukanoan practices. 84 . claiming that a process of participation of stakeholders had been accomplished.(paraphrasing Reichel-Dolmatoff) ‘the forest is within’. This.

various social movements and actor networks have developed counter-discourses to support grassroots activists in their struggles to win political reform. The political instability that the action brought A previous version of this chapter. aim to guarantee some form of security. The chapter has been revised to include the latest developments concerning the implementation of USA security policy in Colombia and Northwest Amazonia. As an immediate result of the tests. A variety of political actors seek to legitimize policy and practice in the name of national or human security. but it is obvious that the powerful nuclear explosions increased the vulnerability of marine ecosystems and human health to environmental risks. Scientists are divided with respect to the long-term effects. In response to national and international policy. some of the changes in the chapter reflect the criticisms made by some of the attendants to whom I am very thankful. Woodgate has been published in “Human Security and the Environment” (Page and Redclift 2002). the Mururoa lagoon turned white as the blast heaved up the ocean floor and loaded the water with sediment (One_World_News_Service 1995). Greenpeace activists attempting to disrupt the test were arrested and their ships and helicopter confiscated. I would like to thank SLAS for the grant given to me to attend the 2002 Annual SLAS conference were I presented this work. The event was justified as a necessary component in the development the French national security system. On 1st October 1995.1 ‘Human Security’. which was perceived to be too dependent on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-NATO capabilities. the French government detonated an underground nuclear device at their Mururoa Atoll test site in the Pacific Ocean. 85 69 . Environmentalists claimed that the risks associated with nuclear explosions under the Mururoa Atoll were too high and that testing should be abandoned. written in conjunction with G. which not coincidentally. They have found support among a diverse audience of governments and NGOs seeking to defend human and/or environmental rights.CHAPTER 5: THE SEMANTICS OF HUMAN SECURITY IN NORTHWEST AMAZONIA: BETWEEN INDIGENOUS’ PEOPLES’ ‘MANAGEMENT OF THE WORLD’ AND THE USA STATE SECURITY POLICY FOR LATIN AMERICA 5. Security for Whom?69 ‘Security’ is a contested concept.

receive a mention despite clear evidence of the ecological devastation wrought by the so-called ‘Gulf War’. The third case mentioned. without the consent of the United Nations Security Council and was condemned even by supporters of the 1991 attack on Baghdad (McReynolds cited by Koehnlein 2001). At present (November 2002). The environmental implications of the attack did not. The attack on the Iraqi nation was justified as ‘foreign collaboration in the country’s process of democratisation’.was expressed in an international declaration condemning the action of the French Government. however. The 11th of September 2001 attack to the World Trade Centre has become an international icon used by the White House to justify unilateral action. And part of the success of German Chancellor Schr der’s re-election is due to his opposition to the USA-British war against Iraq (Schneider 2002). justified for example as an authentic effort to control international drug trafficking. As will be demonstrated. with the UN Security Council becoming little more than a decorative institution. national and international initiatives all of 86 . provides an example. the pursuance of human security in Colombia involves a complex and contradictory mixture of local. official US support may even be provided for military expansion. President Bush has been authorised by the USA Congress to take unilateral action against Iraq regardless of UN activities (News 2002). within carefully selected ‘friendly’ countries. however. International political tensions ensued: Turkey and France demanded an explanation. The US and British Governments claimed that the bombing of Baghdad on 16 February 2001 was necessary to diminish the threat of military attack by Iraqi armed forces. while China and Russia rejected and condemned the unilateral action of USA-British forces. Which implies that the sovereignty of the USA is been enhanced alone at the expense of any other nation. the USA has initiated a new campaign to bomb Baghdad and the British government has stated that they will support the USA no matter what the European Union thinks. It was carried out. To these ends. US foreign policy is aimed at enhancing the security of US citizens and promoting the development of liberal democracy around the world. In fact the French and German Governments have put the brakes on the war against Iraq. and the one upon which this chapter will focus.

‘Plan Colombia’ is an anti-drug trafficking strategy. as Amazonia and its people are both highly symbolic icons employed by industrialised countries and institutions of global governance in developing international policies aimed at promoting environmental security. Before being ratified by the Governments of Colombia and the USA it was approved by the USA Congress. Plan Colombia being one of the most notable71. why is the USA involved? Is it that there are strong vested interests in promoting such outcomes? Mairovich (ex-secretary on anti-drug policy to the Brazilian Government) has stated that the most direct beneficiaries of Plan Colombia will be the weapons and drugs traffickers themselves and the associated criminal economy (CBN 2000). an action that has been repeatedly denounced and rejected by farmers and environmentalists in Colombia and abroad (Vargas Meza 1999). 1994b).which seek to promote various aspects of human and environmental security. the Colombian Congress and public only became aware of the details of the strategy once international agreement between the two countries had been reached. The Colombian Government has claimed that: ‘Plan Colombia is made by Colombians for Colombia’. is placing the conservation of Amazonian biological and cultural diversity at risk. If the implementation of security strategies in South America. The actions specified under ‘Plan Colombia70’ include eradication of coca plantations (Chapter 5. This is being achieved by the aerial application of herbicides. the strategy was designed in accordance with the USA State Security and Anti-drug Strategies. promoting partnerships between scientists and indigenous peoples for environmental management and biodiversity conservation (Schultes 1991. 1992b. This case deserves particular attention. Ethnoscientists have corroborated that indigenous peoples strategies have outstanding significance for Amazonian environmental management and their translations of indigenous ecological classification systems have contributed to a dialogue between indigenous knowledge and western sciences. 71 Colombia is already the third largest recipient of USA foreign aid. leading to the degradation of large swathes of the Amazonian environment. However. However. Plan Colombia also sanctions military action within drug producing areas. while forest people have been seen as guarantors of its conservation (Hemming 1995). Plan Colombia). where indigenous forest people are caught up in growing coca for the illicit cocaine processing and narcotrafficking industry. after Israel and Egypt (Sweig 2002: 135) 87 70 . Images of ‘rainforest’ vulnerability have long been used to promote western environmental policy (Stott 1999).

however. Lama 2001). what are the ideological grounds that allow significant elements of civil society to accept international policy and official discourse? 5. The European Parliament voted 474-1 against Plan Colombia: “Stepping up military involvement in the fight against drugs involves the risk of sparking off an escalation of the conflict in the region” (European Parliament 2001). Ricardo 2000 . and how are they responding to international policies and official discourses? Second. First. there must be some strong ideological grounds that render this official discourse acceptable to a significant proportion of ‘civil society’. nor that it will affect the export of chemicals employed in the processing of coca leaves into narcotics from the European Union (EU) and USA (V. the militarist policy continues successfully to be justified on the basis of ‘security’ gains. and this is already occurring in Bolivia (DCRNet 2000) and drug production is also being pushed into other parts of Amazonia.It is likely that drug prices will increase with the implementation of Plan Colombia. It is unlikely that military action in Amazonia will do anything to stop money laundering activities in US and European financial markets. despite objections based on the observed outcomes of Plan Colombia and similar initiatives. a word must be said about the role of national governments in human and environmental security in general. Their economic policies are tied to the development of international markets and they do not have the same degree of autonomy in national security policy making as they did prior to the Second World War. notably Ecuador and Peru (Jones 2001. Governments in the twenty-first century are highly dependent on international finance capital and the private sector.2 The ‘Nation State’ and ‘Human Security’ There are good reasons for citing national governments as the main instigators of human security policy in Northwest Amazonia. If.G.Colombian Ambassador’s speech at Canning House 27-11-00). In this sense. the sovereignty of nation states is called into question. Private finance capital seeks out 88 . This chapter seeks to tease out these ideological underpinnings and also to explore the grounds upon which counter narratives are constructed. Before this. To do this I shall attempt to answer two questions. what does security – human and environmental – mean for the indigenous peoples of Northwest Amazonia. this argument will be explored in the context of the Colombian Amazon.

and in the indigenous rebellions of Ecuador (January 2000). and that the process of structural adjustment impacts the indigenous people and poor sectors of the country. national policies respond accordingly. legitimise government action. signed by President Gustavo Novoa 9-02-01) This is to say that local governments are located at the centre of divergent perspectives about environmental and human security. This was the case in the Bolivian insurrection (April 2000) against privatisation of water services. largely due to the close yet clandestine links between the global criminal economy and legal financial markets (Castells 2000).opportunities in locations with limited risks and fewer environmental constraints. struggling to cope with the social unrest prompted by the economic liberalisation and reductions in government spending.. aims to generate state policies to overcome the historical exclusion of the people and the inequalities created by the [economic] adjustment.” (Extract from the Agreement Between the National Government and the Native.. . the two-year conflict for the exploitation of oil in the Uwas lands of Colombia. conscious of the existence of historical conflicts not resulting in [good] relations between the State and the Indigenous People. The welfare of the labour force. which such policies demand. To make things worse. less industrialised nation states are now experiencing pressure to confront drug trafficking. In the case of nations with territories in Northwest Amazonia. any attempts at independent development planning or monetary management are restricted by international economic imperatives. In less industrialised countries this dependency is even greater. nation states find achieving the right balance between local/indigenous people’s aspirations and global corporate demands ever more taxing. stopping the illicit trade in narcotics has been an impossible task. on the one side pressured to comply with structural adjustment policies. if successful. natural environment and public health – all customary concerns of nation states – have to be developed in ways that are not perceived as threats to free markets or foreign investment (Beck 1998. we shall now turn to the first 89 . “The National Government. Having said something about the context in which national governments must define and deliver human and environmental security policy. But. and Farmer Organizations of Ecuador. the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). on the other. Castells 1999). Many Latin American countries find themselves caught on the horns of a dilemma. National policies. Social. Often reliant on the financial support of global institutions such as the World Bank (IBRD).

the wellbeing and health of indigenous peoples depends on taking care of their ‘trade’ with other beings. This encounter also prompted social transformation among the Tukano: from uxorilocal residence and matrilineal affiliation to virilocal residence and patrilineal affiliation (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b). The Tukano and Arawak shared their different experiences of what we might call agroforestry. while the Tukano were said to be river people. gamepeople’. The management of society and environment is integrated in what they call the ‘management of the world’. we now know that the Yujup were used to the manipulation of plants and did not rely exclusively on gathering and hunting. 72 See previous chapter for more explanation and references on the subject. 5. As they journeyed along the Apaporis they entered the territories of Yahunas and Letuama.3 Exploring the Local Perspective in NWA The indigenous peoples of Northwest Amazonia have been establishing and modifying their territories for centuries. Tukanoans also interacted with the Yujup-Makú that were moving around throughout the area between the Pirá-Paraná and Ugá Rivers. and further east into Brazil. This ‘trade’ is accomplished through shamanism72. According to Reichel-Dolmatoff the Tukano have social memories of their historic journey along the Rio Negro as they moved north from present day Brazil into what is now Colombia. ‘palm-characters’ and spiritual protectors of sacred places. However. When they entered the Department of Vaupés (to the north of Amazonas) they intermarried with the Arawak. While Tukano have been described as sedentary agriculturists. According to them. the Yujup had been described as nomadic (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b). the cultivation of manioc and a more sedentary pattern of life were acquired by the Tukano from the Arawak. The Yujup were said to be people of the forest. At the beginning of the twentieth century. the Tukanoan Makuna were living principally along the Pirá-Paraná River. 90 . but oscillated between there and the Apaporis. The Yujup share with the river people (Tukano and Arawak) a form of territorialisation that maintains the ‘environment within’.question. the spiritual owners of the ‘fish-people’. which concerns the meanings of ‘human’ or ‘environmental’ security for indigenous people in Northwest Amazonia. Apparently.

Iañakopea. The same was shown for the Ka’apor speakers of Tupí-Guaraní (Balée and Gély 1989). is another important place within Tukanoan mythology and shamanistic tradition. formed the Apaporis and its tributaries. The agricultural practices are linked to shamanism: the system that deals with the trade in energy among forest beings. Van der Hammen 1992). Management is carried out in accordance with multiple agroecological factors (Forero 1999. When these changes combine with differences in soils the changes are even more marked: this is the case at Yuisi. The changes in humidity produced by the water vapor that surrounds waterfalls affect vegetation composition. Rapids and waterfalls prevent some fish species from spreading up stream and therefore affect species distribution. spiritual and aesthetic dimensions are also involved. plants and animals are treated as ‘types of people’. not surprisingly. Iañakopea waterfall. from an indigenous perspective. Pirá-Paraná and Mirití Rivers. rastrojos and trochas) are ‘humanized’ and. river ecosystems are carefully observed and there are open and closed seasons for certain fish and game species. Tukanoan mythology refers to this waterfall as the place where the river was born. felled the tree whose trunk and branches. rastrojos (old gardens where particular species are preserved as elements of secondary and tertiary forest) and trochas (linear gardens along the footpaths that connect different habitats and indigenous settlements). and refined systems of management to improve the productivity of local ecosystems (Posey 1985: 139-158). is also of significant relevance to ecological structure. Indigenous management does not simply relate to subsistence production or the material growing of crops. Similar patterns have been found in Brazilian Amazonia where Kayapó have been found to have knowledge of micro-climate and habitat. The distribution of plants is therefore managed and controlled. It 91 . The place is of sacred importance to all indigenous groups in the vicinity of the Apaporis. Rapids and waterfalls have special sacred importance for indigenous people. this comes as no surprise as these places are also ecologically important. Arawak and Tukano have developed sophisticated management systems for chagras (gardens planted with diverse crops). on the Apaporis near the Tanimuka community of La Playa. The myth says this was the place where the Imarimakana.We know quite a bit about indigenous management of Amazonian environments. ‘the four sons of time’. once on the ground. All these spaces (chagras.

For more detailed description and analysis see Arhem 1990. Van der Hammen 1992. distribution and use of plants. while the height of vegetation decreases up river from the waterfall. The integration of environmental. There were the infamous rubber camps. Throughout the twentieth century. Hugh-Jones. Rodriguez and Van der Hammen 1996a. C. Our description of indigenous ‘management of the world’ here is brief73. 1998. aesthetic and spiritual dimensions within the lives of Amazonian indigenous people has been referred to as ‘ecosophy’ (Århem 1990) and has led ethnoscientists to write about the ‘humanized rainforest’ (Correa 1990). 1979. 1996b. healers. Reichel-Dolmatoff 1996b. and the management of the forests.4 The Management of the World and the Challenge of Extractive Economies Extractive economies have affected the lives of hundreds of different indigenous groups throughout the Amazon. they go beyond what we might consider agroecology when we take account of the spiritual and aesthetic dimensions of management discussed in the previous chapter. The reluctance of indigenous people to separate nature from society may explain why. However. there were several intrusions by white people into the Apaporis region. there continue to be numerous specialized roles associated with the health and well-being of communities and providing instruction on how to follow an indigenous way of life: shamans. In this context. 5. it does not make sense to attempt to distinguish between human and environmental security. Correa 1990. ReichelDusan 1997. 1979. which is found nowhere else along the Apaporis. If ecosystem changes are marked at Yuisi and Iañakopea. 1997. 92 73 . singers. There are numerous rapids. mark these indigenous peoples out as accomplished agroecologists. after years of continuous contact with western society. The mixture of vegetation provides a special niche. Hugh-Jones. islands and undulations up stream of Iañakopea until the river encounters Jirijirimo waterfall. etc. S.demarcates boundaries in terms of fish species distribution. but when studied in greater detail it reveals a way of living through which Northwest Amazonian indigenous peoples have created a form of territorialisation in which individual wellbeing relies on a close integration within both the social group and the environment. The site surrounding the waterfall is full of orchids and epiphytic plants. they are outstanding at Jirijirimo. Hugh-Jones 1999. von_Hildebrand 1975. 1996. The complexity and refinement of the growth. Forero 1999.

The twentieth century witnessed the development of indigenous rights. 93 . All citizens are equal under the law and have the right to exercise their religious and cultural traditions. they were forbidden to speak their languages and they were considered minors under civil law. Today.prospectors looking for gold and traders who attempted to build cold stores for the fishing industry. He took a photograph of this camp called ‘Libertad’. especially shamanism. The rubber camps that were built in the area around the Caquetá. following the Constitutional reform of 1991 the law now recognizes their languages. In this area of Northwest Amazonia they have always demonstrated their intention of maintaining socio-political practices. In Colombia. The path leads to the Catholic internee school of the white colonisers’ town of Pedrera. which was located in Apaporis. Today the Yuisi (in Makuna) waterfall is known as Libertad after the first rubber camp of Apaporis. Their shamanism was considered superstition. Indigenous peoples were driven to make new alliances in order to preserve their territories and their ways of living. Indigenous groups offered different forms of resistance. Koch-Grünberg reported the presence of a camp made by Colombians (‘white people’) in the Apaporis. conflicts still arise and need to be resolved among indigenous groups and. the peoples of the Yaigojé Reserve continue to believe that without their ‘management the world’ they will be driven into extinction. their territories and their right to govern themselves. indigenous people have conflicts to resolve with the ‘white people’. Apaporis and Mirití Rivers. The objective of the Colombian Republic was to assimilate them by eliminating their identities (Correa 1992). as a generic group. advances in legislation do not imply that the territorial conflicts have ceased. The camp was situated where the pathway that connects the Apaporis with the Caquetá/Japurá begins. The forms of territorial expansion and territorialisation used by the white people working in extractive economies were very different to those of indigenous people and these differences resulted in conflict. which they see as fundamental to their security. enforced the treatment of indigenous peoples as a generic class of people – ‘indians’ – who were denied some of the fundamental rights that white people enjoyed. In 1905. However. and the Catholic internee schools. In the Yaigojé Reserve.

indigenous people do not interfere with the government of white people and they should be accorded the same respect: "Many times we have been tired of white people’s government. The ‘white people’ with whom indigenous people associate are visitors to their territories. by forcing a governmental institution to correct failures in administrative procedures and proceed with the enlargement of the Yaigojé Resguardo reserve74. You want to knock down our ‘maloca of thought’. The tribunal ordered the government to rectify this. We could not build a maloca there. ‘white people’ ordered them to work and had the means to enforce such orders. There are. How could we manage the industry. indigenous people from the Yaigojé that have decided to live among white people in their towns. to start managing white people in our way. a local organisation of indigenous authorities. But we could not go to Bogotá. indigenous people from the Yaigojé Reserve received the support of the Colombian judicial system. Yuisi waterfall (La Libertad) was to be inside the extended boundaries of the reserve. ACIYA. Later on. there has not been any marriage between ‘white’ and indigenous people within the Yaigojé Resguardo. In the past. The relationship between them reflects indigenous notions of ‘white people’s power’. markets and other things that belong to white peoples? The white people would not let us manage them. 94 . The tribunal ruled that buildings. It is through documents written in the language of white people that they are now recognised to have a territory of their own. The youngest generations are willing to grab whatever opportunities may come their way. to demolish the building where the congress and the president work. a government that has been imposed over our lands and our lives. however. The older generation perceives this migration as a threat to their group’s survival. the same tribunal supported the indigenous people’s territorial rights. From the perspective of ACIYA. which had been constructed by the local government of Vaupés at Yuisi. so that sickness and evil would not visit us? …You want to take our 74 All of which has been described in Chapter Three. How could you take care of the world. and start ruling on our own. constituted a violation of the cultural and religious rights of the indigenous people. when a tribunal endorsed their entitlement to protect their cultural and religious rights.In 1997.4.1 White peoples’ ways of living compete with traditional indigenous ways of ‘Managing the World’ To date. it was ‘white people’s institutions that determined the procedures for recognising indigenous territories. 5. is looking for help from government and NGOs to provide education and employment for new generations as a way of limiting out migration.

The way these people relate to them varies from violence to paternalism and. destroying the congress and the president. the production and trafficking of drugs. some indigenous families are willing to get involved in the business: something that has already happened in the indigenous reserves of the neighbouring Department of Vaupés. Yet. The groups of people directing these activities escape the control of the Colombian State. Traders. They fear the armed groups that cross their territory and know themselves to be vulnerable to any attack. leaving us without means to defend ourselves. doctors and nurses. but ACIYA had to fight a separate battle for judicial protection of their rights. this is like erasing our inherited line of thought. Young single males are likely to be lured by the money to be earned by growing coca and this seems to be the case in a number of communities in the Yaigojé.October 26 1996). mining and. To complicate matters further. when appraised of ACIYA’s 95 .land from us. The functioning of trade and extractive economies: wildlife trading. the management of their territory and their future is not entirely in their hands. armed groups. The complexity and long-windedness of the bureaucratic process that ACIYA has had to follow in trying to secure their territory has dumbfounded indigenous people. missionaries. timber. the defenses of white people” (Extract of a letter sent by ACIYA to the Administrative Director of Protected Areas . the autonomy of local authorities within these territories and the right to have an education that would allow them to enjoy the same opportunities as the rest of Colombian society without loosing their identity. researchers and occasionally a government functionary visit indigenous peoples in the Yaigojé Reserve. usually occurs outside the law. They waited years for the Yaigojé Reserve to be legally enlarged and hoped that the enlargement would lead to governmental protection of their fundamental rights. even now they have won it. from there. to real recognition. A great deal of political negotiation has taken place since the formation of ACIYA in the mid-1990s. It is as if we were attacking you. Yet. more recently. The conservation of indigenous peoples’ territories. are the aims of ACIYA. Indigenous groups. like the Tanimukas from La Playa have refused to work for narcotics dealers but they have no means to prevent anyone entering the Reserve. ACIYA perceived a major risk when dealers offered substantial financial inducements in exchange for the clearing of an airstrip in Apaporis. It is very difficult for the inhabitants of the Yaigojé to deal with the contradictions of ‘white people’s rule’.

there is little coherence among such groups. that of protection of nature from human interference. 5. local authorities. and occasionally. the State in Colombia has copied legislation from the USA and even the more recently adopted reforms that are in tune with USA security policy guidelines. In respect of environmental management. conservationists. the regional government. Forero. They come from academic institutions. However. Even though ACIYA refused the offer. 1998. There is ambiguity with respect to indigenous management of rainforest. they know that a single family or small group of people could turn their backs on the organisation and accept the money at their own risk. In order to protect the environment and avoid the perceived danger of communal property. the conservation institutions working in NWA hold a concept of ‘rainforest management’ contradictory to indigenous organisations’ political aims75. And. New agreements between conservationists and indigenous peoples need to be made. although excluding indigenous peoples has been tragic for all: governments. there are other kinds of ‘white people’ that visit the Yaigojé Reserve. Laborde et al. NGOs. except for the fact that they are all considered visitors by indigenous peoples. This has happened in other parts of Northwest Amazonia. Christian churches. there are still some conservationists advocating a radical political position. wildlife and indigenous peoples. 96 . As explained in Chapter Three. Indigenous peoples’ supporters and indigenous peoples themselves are calling the 75 This discussion could be followed from Forero and Laborde 1997. They have diverse political ideas and different perspectives with respect to cultural and biological diversity.5 Diverging Discourses Surrounding Amazonian Territorial Ordering and Indigenous Peoples Besides those working in extractive economies. Extreme preservationists still aim to create and maintain natural reserves without people and undertake enforcement to safeguard ‘natural environments’. legislation appropriates conservation areas as State property limiting or prohibiting use and management by other parties. the Colombian authorities ignored them and their plea for protection of their territories and peoples.concern in 1994.

an area the size of France. their place of origin. Conservationists could gain much from good partnerships with indigenous peoples. Indigenous people have had a long and painful experience of dealing with political conflict and. are willing to make allies with other groups. What is surprising is that these events never stop CIC from promoting the Conservation Area internationally. ignoring an agreement they were signed up to by the Tukano. A very similar situation has been reported 76 The evolution of discussions between Indigenous Peoples. ‘kenambea’ (It is not good) in the Tukano language. While Omar Yujup was repeatedly saying ‘amombea’ (I do not want). This territory is of particular importance for the Yujup group inhabitants of the Apaporis. but for now there are still huge groups of environmental radicals that prevent a general alliance between the two. Conservationists and the Catholic Church will be revisited in Chapter Nine. a cover up for the territorial expansion campaign of the guerrillas. 97 . It is an unjustifiable argument. which is more evident now than the FARC is making the resumption of peace negotiation contingent on the withdrawal of military troops from Caquetá and Putumayo. It is not surprising that no trust has developed between CIC and the indigenous peoples of the Yaigojé76 The reason that representatives of different ideologies present similar discourses is explained partially by the fact that both aim to control the territory. facilitating the incursion of global environmental agencies. the CIC were happily taking pictures. When the FARC invaded the Yaigojé and imposed their eviction policy (Chapter Three) they argued that the establishment of the conservation area demonstrated ind