A QUESTION OF SURVIVAL for the Indians of Brazil by Robin Hanbury-Tenison

A QUESTION OF SURVIVAL for the Indians of Brazil

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KIRKUS REVIEW

If not as sensational nor as outraged as Lucien Bodard's Massacre of the Brazilian Indians (1971) (Hanbury-Tenison reports no instances of government genocide against the aboriginal population, mentions nothing of alleged U.S. economic exploitation), this chronicle of the author's trip through the jungle territory of Brazil two years ago nonetheless does confirm many of Bodard's charges: the country's primitive peoples are being robbed of their land, they are being dispossessed by the Trans-Amazonica Road Program and other development ventures, they are being oppressed and abused as cheap labor, they are dying of diseases brought by the Western invaders, they are generally despised by the authorities charged with ensuring their welfare (Bodard documented the atrocities of the now disbanded Service for the Protection of the Indians, and Hanbury-Tenison, who is much less a polemicist, tells of the callous indifference prevalent among officials of the successor organization, the Fundacao National do Indio). Whereas Bodard's book was intended as a political expose, Hanbury-Tenison's motivation is largely scientific -- as chairman of Survival International, he is most concerned that the pre-Columbian natives be permitted to go about the evolutionary process with minimum outside interference, presumably for our anthropological edification. (The blunt Margaret Mead, whom he met en route, called that attitude bunk: "" 'All primitive peoples,' she said, 'lead miserable, unhappy, cruel lives, most of which are spent trying to kill each other.' "") This is a more personal, more balanced book than Bodard's -- Hanbury-Tenison struggles against ""the danger of seeing everything in terms of black and white, devils and angels"" -- but one must wonder how much of the politico-economic forest he's missed for the cross-cultural trees.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Scribners