Monday, November 18, 2019

Hinky-Assed Catholic Shite In the Amazon


quillette |  While Harris and other anthropologists in the United States continued to criticize Chagnon, his standing began to deteriorate on another front. From the moment he arrived in the Amazon, Chagnon maintained cordial relations with a missionary priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco. In fact, Chagnon and the priest became such good friends that the priest asked Chagnon to kill one of his fellow missionaries for him, a man who had broken his vows of celibacy by sleeping with a Yanomamö woman. The priest worried that this could bring shame to the Salesian order. Of course, Chagnon refused, and his refusal strained their relationship. Their relationship worsened when Chagnon discovered that the missionaries had been distributing shotguns to the natives and that these were being used in warfare. Furthermore, all of Chagnon’s recommendations for preventing measles outbreaks were ignored by the Salesians, who built missionaries and tried to have the Yanomamö concentrate around them, which helped the disease to spread rapidly. Their relationship finally collapsed altogether after Chagnon cooperated with a documentary that painted the Salesians in a less than flattering light. By the early 1990s, the missionaries were increasingly worried about Chagnon’s presence in the Amazon, especially when it came to light that the BBC and Nova would be producing a new documentary in the rainforest about his dispute with Marvin Harris. By the early 1990s, the Salesians were attempting to block his lifetime of fieldwork in the Amazon, and they successfully lobbied Maria Luisa Allais, the head of Venezuelan Indian Commission, to refuse him a permit he required for re-entry.

Then, in 1993, tragedy struck in the Amazon when gold miners crossed the border from Brazil and slaughtered a number of Yanomamö, including women and children. The explorer Charles Brewer-Carías was chosen to head a presidential commission into the massacre, and he wanted Chagnon on the commission as one of the few anthropologists in the world who spoke Yanomamö. When President Carlos Perez of Venezuela learned that Chagnon had been denied an entry permit, he telephoned the Ministry of Education and ordered them to issue Chagnon with one at once. A visibly nervous Maria Luisa Allais offered Chagnon his papers. That Chagnon went above the head of the Indian Commission and was now installed on the presidential commission investigating the massacre only infuriated the Salesians further. They believed that they ought to be the ones conducting the investigation. On the very first day of their investigation at the site of the massacre, a helicopter arrived bearing men armed with machine guns and a Salesian bishop, who ordered Brewer-Carías and Chagnon to leave. With the government on the brink of a coup and unwilling to enforce law and order in the deep interior of the Amazon, the commission to investigate the massacre quickly fell apart. Chagnon was left with lifelong regrets that there had been no justice for the dead.  Fist tap Dale.