Books by Charlotte Dennett

Released: Jan. 1, 1995

Though chilling, this unfocused narrative fails to illuminate the purported relationship between Nelson Rockefeller, missionaries in South America, and the modern genocide of Amazonian Indians. Colby (DuPont: Behind the Nylon Curtain, not reviewed) and investigative journalist Dennett detail Rockefeller's rise to power (both unofficial power through his family's oil interests and official power in government); this is coupled with a description of William Cameron Townsend's creation of Wycliffe Bible Translators, a network of evangelical missionaries working under the auspices of the elusively named Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). The authors describe the links between the SIL's in-depth knowledge of indigenous people and their languages and the creation of a sophisticated communications and intelligence-gathering network serving the business interests of multinational corporations and the anti-communist policies of the US government. Also important is the documenting of Rockefeller's powerful role in the development of US policy toward Latin America and his early vision of a ``peaceful conquest of the world'' through economic aid and political manipulation. But beyond this, it is unclear how Rockefeller fits into the devastation of the Amazon's indigenous people. In seeking to document global changes of epic proportions, Colby and Dennett present themselves with an impossible descriptive task, with virtually no opportunity to either analyze their voluminous historical data or focus on any one of the many interesting issues they raise. Only three-quarters of the way into the book do the authors actually discuss the conquest of the Amazon, and the description of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Amazonian Indians is insubstantial; at one point, the authors simply list a series of decimated Indian groups, providing the dates of SIL ``occupation.'' Only in the case of the deaths of striking Bolivian miners is it clear who is responsible and why. This falls considerably short of its potential as a major study of the tragic destruction of the Amazon and its indigenous people. (24 pages b&w photos, maps, not seen) Read full book review >