The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa on October 16, 1977 · Page 21
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October 16, 1977

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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 21

Des Moines, Iowa
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 16, 1977
Page 21
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6B/ DES MOINES SUNDAY REGISTER •OCTOBER 16,1977 Civilization's impact |on a primitive culture D«» 4~*t A VflPJ~*M tf\*.rrnt\ By CLAYTON JONES and WARD MOREHOUSE III <§ 1*77 CnrHMn Sctonc* Mwritir Mm Mrvfc* Bow-fishing on the Amazon River. The move of Western civilization closer to the remaining 150,000 Indian 1 ; living in the jungles '.bordering the Amazon River could .mean the unraveling of the aboriginal societies of these ancient peoples and the loss of their culture and self-sufficiency. Two Monitor reporters, who visited one cf the tribes, discussed the problem with Brazilian officials and anthropologists. MANAUS, BRAZIL - It is the end of the day for Banja, an Amazon shaman, whose small jungle tribe huddles within a brown thatch hut, waiting to watch an Indian dance passed down over centuries. The fire casts flickering shadows on Banja's crown of green feathers and his red-painted body. He begins to chant in low grunts and stomps the earth. Staccato rhythm from a turtle- shell drum echoes into the black Amazon night. Banja leaps and crouches, imitating the grace of a jaguar which he hunts. "He says the jungle either accepts riyou or rejects you," whispers our •"guide, Willy, himself an outsider £ accepted by the Indians. ** The lonely village of Banja's tribe, *• called Tukano, sits in the rain forest t on the equator near the Brazil- t" Colombia border. To reach Western ' man's nearest outpost — if they wanted to — these peaceful, primitive people would have to paddle three weeks in dugout canoes - . on the Amazon tributaries. This night, however, Western civili- . zation moves closer to their jungle v lair as a new note joins Banja's Stone Age music. In a darkened corner on the other side of the communal hut, a Tukano boy switches on a transistor radio left by an earlier visitor. Then, while the tribe listens with one ear to their chieftain's ancient ., jungle chant, they listen with the ;. other u> the crackling, long-distance ^broadcast of an American football _£ game from Cincinnati. "* • This surreal scene of a tribe discov- -_ered only eight years ago has *" symbolic overtones for the endan- T'gered culture of the remaining f; 180,000 Indians who are spread over - the six countries that touch the «I waters of the Amazon. 4 Far-reaching radio is just one of * < the cultural attractions — and shocks * — that are unraveling the Amazon's " fragile aboriginal societies. ^- "America's Indians are an example •4 of what will happen to Brazil's ** Indians — living on reservatons in r t poverty," says Albida Rita Ramos, an anthropologist at the University of Brasilia. But unlike the slow taming of the U.S. frontier with horses and trains, Brazil's military-run government pushes for development with planes and tractors, calling for quick "integration" and "acculturation" of its majority share of the Amazon basin Indians. Since 1967, roads such as the coast-to-coast Transamazonica highway have been laid across the endless, sodden jungle, helping to relocate millions of poor peasants from the dry northeast section of Brazil and opening the untapped , territory to ranchers, dam-builders, ^and prospectors for gold, iron, ' uranium and diamonds. Sweeping ahead of civilization's road gangs and miners through the long-hidden lands are the govern• ^ment's agents ("sertanistas") from '..the National Indian Foundation /(FUNAI). They, along with 36 types .of religious missions, make the first delicate approach to the estimated , 50,000 Indians not yet contacted by Western man. (Gifts are left on a ". .platform near a tribe and, if the ',- Indians leave their own gifts, then a .friendly approach is made.) FUNAI's official task of protecting , the Indians, who make up less than 1 • - per cent of Brazil's population, often conflicts with Brazil's dream of becoming a world economic giant. But like a father guiding his children, FUNAI's director, Gen. Ismarth de Araujo Oliveira says, The greatest dream for Indians is to integrate in the nation in the condi- ' lions that give them pride to say 'I - am an Indian' and compete with Brazilians " He warns: "In 50 years, the Indians will not be known as we know them today " ;' Debate within Brazil focuses on the '' pact; of Indian integration With the ' aid of leading anthropologist*, FUNAI ta» restricted missionary market their crafts. Boundaries of a couple dozen reserves are being marked out in an attempt to retain the Indians' hunting grounds and aboriginal rights to land. The resulting protective enclaves often are referred to as "human zoos" by critics. Missionaries, who believe they equip Indians with the spiritual buffer needed for the advance of "civilization" and assist them in their desire to read and write, are accused of breaking the kinship patterns of Amazon tribes. Mission outposts unwillingly act as instruments for the penetration of economic interests, argues Brazilian anthropologist Roberto Cardoza. Indians have their own religion, says General Ismarth. "To force another religion is to bring disharmony in a tribe." Even mild acculturation into Old World ways can end a tribe's natural self-sufficiency, forcing it into a cash economy and into a rootless dependency in city ghettos. "They have a communal life much like the primitive Christians — pure socialism," explains Warwick Kerr, director of Brazil's Amazon research institute in Manaus. "The Indian is emperor of the forest and yet has become the the poorest man in our society." Dr. Kerr insists Indians should be paid the highest wages for the 'professional" work they can do and be integrated into the highest levels of society. As an example, Dr. Kerr is guiding an experiment in which Sinta Larga ("wide belt') Indians from the Aripuana River teach Brazilian students arrowmaking and other precision skills developed during centuries of living in harmony with the jungle. But Brazil's noted spokesmen for the Indians, Claudio and Orlando Villas Boas, who championed the designation of the 11,000-square-mile Xingu National Park to protect 14 tribes, say any attempt to integrate Indians is the same as introducing a plan for their destruction. "We are not yet sufficiently prepared," he says. Several dozen anthropologists, fearing imminent loss of age-old jungle wisdom, are recording the Indians' simple life and complex philosophies at posts scattered through the region's 150 aboriginal language groups. Major developers of the Amazon, who clear-cut great swaths of tall, dripping forests, are beginning to learn the hard way that the Indians' practice of cutting only a few acres at a time keeps insects under control and best replenishes nutrients to the thin layers of jungle topsoil. Strangely, Brazilians are learning, too, that many Indians are willing to be patient and tolerate Western ways, to accept foreign ideas and practices, and share their time-tested culture with opposing cultures. The humble Tukano and their Indian brothers seek simply to live in harmony with anything in their small universe, to create a continuity by establishing new links to every intrusion of industrial society. Throughout their lives, the flutter of a blue butterfly, thunderclouds that gather on the horizon, the chirping of a spray of parakeets, the howl of a jaguar — all these are nothing but the images and voices of an expanding web for the Tukano chain of life. Banja reveals this to the two visitors who came to his village in a "strange bird with machete-skin." They suddenly find themselves linked to the Indians' web. Banja's dance this night is not for the tribe. It is for us, outsiders who came to observe but I now must participate. j The Tukano chief ("paye") recites the history of his people in a dance and chant around the ground where we squat. The Milky Way streaks across the night sky above the hut. Squawks from two pet parrots mix into the sounds. Young, brown-faced children watch us with wide eyes from outside the fire's circle of light. Then, the dance ends. The radio dies out, and the fire turns to glowing embers. The tiny Tukanos head for their hammocks to rest for tomorrow. From James novel NEW YORK, N. Y. - Francois Truffaut will produce and star in The Vanished Fiance*;,' based on a Henry Jajnes novel FiUn will be uiaje in France The mystery of Drake's brass plate ByOTTOKNAUTH MtfbMf Sltff WittW In the year 1579, England's Francis Drake, while on a voyage around the world, stopped on the California coast to refit his ship, the Golden fflnde. It is believed he landed at a place now called Drake's Bay at the base of Point Reyes and 20 miles north of the Golden Gate, which he sailed past in the fog and thus missed the chance of discovering. While there he inscribed on a "plate of brass" his claim to the land in the name of Queen Elizabeth. He nailed the plate to a stout post and included a silver sixpence with the portrait of the queen, which was displayed through a hole cut in the brass. Drake later sailed as far north as the latitude of Pnget Sound, then turned south for the winter before continuing his journey across.the Pacific. Some 350 years later, in 19M, a young man named Beryle Shinn found a metal plate on a bill overlooking the shore of San Francisco Bay near San Queatin. In crudely punched letters, it bore the message: BEE IT KNOWNE VNTO ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS FVNE. 17.1579. BY THE GRACE OF GOD AND IN THE NAME OF HERR MAJESTY QVEEN ELIZABETH OF ENGLAND AND HERR SVCCESSORS FOREVER I TAKE POSSESSION OF THIS KINGDOM WHOSE KING AND PEOPLE FREELY RESIGNE THEIR RIGHT AND TITLE IN THE WHOLE LAND VNTO HERR MAJESTIES KEEPEING NOW NAMED BY ME AND TO BEE KNOWNE VNTO ALL MEN AS NOVA ALBION. G. FRANCIS DRAKE The plate contained a large hole cut in the lower righthand corner. Was it Drake's "plate of brass?" Doubts concerning its authenticity were immediately raised. How, for instance, did it get from Drake's Bay to near San Quentin? That was soon explained, in part, when a chauffeur named William Caldeira said he had found the plate three years earlier while walking not far from Drake's Bay. He said he recognized the name "Drake" but couldn't read the message. A few weeks later he said he threw it out of his car near San Quentin. Unresolved, however, was how the plate got from the roadside to the top of the hill where Shinn found it In any case, after Shinn's discovery the plate was turned over to the University of California's Bancroft Library. A comparison of the metal content with brasses known to have been made in Drake's time was done by a laboratory at Columbia University. It was concluded that it was "the genuine Drake Plate referred to in the book, The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake,' published in 1628." Nevertheless, doubts continued about the origin of the plate. Some contended the spelling WPS too modern, others wondered about the odd forms of some of the letters. Using the most modern equipment now available, a new series of tests were tecently run by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory of the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Research Laboratory for Archeology and History of Art at Oxford University in England. Samples taken from the plate were compared with samples of European brass known to have been made in the Fourteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries. The results? It was a fake, the ERDA scientists said. Mow likely, the plate was made during the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth centuries. The Oxford tests produced the same results. The results were based on the relative amounts of copper, zinc, lead and other impurities found in the Drake Plate, as compared with amounts of those metals found in the authentic brasses. The Drake Plate contained 61 per cent copper, 35 per cent zinc and 0.05 per cent lead. But the authentic brasses had copper contents ranging from 17.5 to 85 per cent Conversely, none of the authentic brasses had zinc contents as high as 35 per cent and most were under 30 per cent Their lead content also was uniformly higher than that of the Drake Plate. In addition, a microscopic examination showed the plate had been rolled Instead of hammered, and that the edges apparently were made by a modern shear rather than cut with a chisel. The problem with the earlier tests, says Arthur Norberg, head of the history of science and technology, section of Bancroft Library, was that the instruments were not as refined as they are now and, consequently, the results of earlier tests were simply incorrect The nuclear techniques available now are much more accurate. Is that the last word? Is the Plate of Brass at the Bancroft Library just the product of some modern-day prankster? "The evidence seems to point that way," says Norberg. "Bat until the person who made it comes forward, I'm not ready to make a flat statement that it's fake." After all, Drake could have picked up the piece of brass anywhere on his long voyage or from one of the many ships bt raided "'• . It could even have come fromtfbe Philippines, since Spflnlsh ships *•>« making regular runs with Philippne treasure across the Pacific to'tfce Isthmus of Panama. .' "We still haven't been able to obtain an authentic piece of old Manila brass for testing," Norberg said If the plate is a hoax, perhaps now the perpetrator will reveal himself and tell why be did it and why be left it at an isolated place where it might never have been found. On the other hand, wouldn't It be nice if some test were devised that proved without a doubt that the plate is indeed Drake's Plate of Brass? ., AT $2.88 A YD. YOU CAN AFFORD TO HAVE TASTES AS DIFFERENT AS NIGHT & DAY. 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