This Image Should NOT be Seen by the Whole World | How to be an Anthropologist

I find the Facebook meme distressing, not because of the Belo Monte Dan Project, but because the author and all of the people who share it have fed into and bolstered (even if unknowingly) a narrative that depicts indigenous people as sad and powerless and awaiting the benevolence of people from industrialized nations. This pulls into focus our own arrogance and biases against indigenous peoples. It does not help the cause or support Chief Raoni. It only makes us feel better about our lazy attempts to “save” people that we look down upon.

via This Image Should NOT be Seen by the Whole World | How to be an Anthropologist.


  1. I can only speak to my experience on the subject. Living in Canada I grew up with those condescending views towards indigenous people. Canada’s shame – the residential school travesty – left deep wounds and deeper misconceptions.

    As I grew, formed my own opinions, and broadened my horizons – I was ashamed with myself for blindly buying into social stereotypes.

    In my province there were once 64 distinctly different spoken indigenous languages. Only a handful remain, and within a few years they too will be forgotten.Words can’t describe how it breaks my heart. Beautiful reverence for our world, respect for what sustains us, and unimaginable (at least to our Christian world) grounding in life. All gone in the blink of an eye – replaced by scorn and condemnation.

    Many years ago my family was driving in a remote part of the Navajo reservation in Arizona. We pulled off the road to watch as a massive thunderstorm approached. Out of nowhere an elderly Navajo man appeared – we had our backs to him, focused on the storm; he began to speak. He told us why mother earth had sent the storm, he talked about the clouds, sky, lightning and earth. Mesmerized, I felt tears running down my face.for a moment in time the world made sense. I looked at my husband and saw him crying as well. Never before or since have I felt that sense of peace. We turned to thank him – all we could think of was to let him know his words mattered. His voice was old and tired, almost hopeless, yet we had to make him understand how he touched us. He was gone! As if vanishing into thin air. We drove back and forth along that deserted road. Our kids thought we were out of our minds. We never found him, but he changed our lives.

    That is how I view indigenous people. One with the world – open minds and hearts – fading into the obscurity of “progress”

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