Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What About the Culture?

To gain access into the tribal area, each mission must fulfill many requirements. The first of which is that you must be INVITED to live there by the tribe and the village. To think that anyone could just walk into a village and be allowed to live there by the Indians is very naive. If you are not asked by them they will remove you. Themselves. Indians are not helpless children in need of anyone to "protect" them.

I find many people that seem to think WE are some how required to "protect" the Indian from any outside contact. I find this attitude to be very arrogant. The Indian is a person like anyone else, and with education is just as capable to determine their own future. Neither is their culture something so fragile that they will discard it if made aware of another culture.

Last year a Venezuelan Army General learned this from the chief in our village. The military arrived and began to announce their plan to "place" Cuban doctors in our house. The village did not want this. The General said that the village would no longer need to depend upon the foreign missionary for help.

The chief is wearing the purple shirt.

The chief, Bertico, responded that Cubans were also foreign. They also said they did not want Cubans living among them. The tribes do not like for single men to move in as it almost always creates a problem as they begin to seduce their girls.

Then the General began to accuse us. This was done by showing a folder with pictures of our family, even our children. He accused us of atrocities, such as rape, starvation, slavery...the chief, a non- Christian, became very irate!! He expressed the same opinion to the General that I have put forth here . Indians are not likely to permit someone to come in and live among them and FORCE them to do anything, and certainly not to abuse them. He actually told the General , " If anyone came in here and did those things to us...well, we are Indians, we would just kill them!! So be careful!"

At that point the military decided to leave and has yet to return to the village.

This photo was taken by another missionary in the 60's. This is the chief, Bertico, as a young man. He still weaves baskets and teaches the young men to as well.

I am often told by academics and government representatives, that the culture must remain untouched and that any exposure to something from outside will "destroy" it. I have a hard time believing this.

Consider the case of the modern day Jew. Although spread around the world, although having had to survive several bouts of genocide, the Jewish culture survives. The Hebrew language was even revived. The Jewish people have certainly been exposed to other cultures and have even taken an active part in many different cultures but has yet managed to retain their ethnic identity, culture, as well as religion.

I also point to the fact that tribal cultures co-exist, live next door to one another, and yet each tribe manages to keep their ethnicity and language differences. The Ye'kwanas share the same territory with the Sanema and Yanomamo. Each culture is distinct. Each language is completely different and do not even derive themselves from the same language family. They interact and have for centuries, but each culture remains to this day distinct from one another.

The cultures differ in the most basic areas. Their spiritual beliefs, their marriage rituals and burials are very different. The Ye'kwana bury their dead, the Yanomamo burn their dead. The tribes do not even inter marry.

A culture that has a strong moral fiber will survive. A culture that does not , will not. And, frankly, should not. I often hear Chavez sing the praises of the Ancient Aztecs, but consider the culture? Should a culture that practices human sacrifices be allowed to continue? Will that lead to a better world? Would you like to live in that culture? The Aztec culture was intent on conquest, slavery, and brutality! I am not saying they were not admirable in many other ways, but it is not a model society nor one in which you or I would enjoy living in.

Back to the American Indian of today. To maintain a culture, the most important factor is the language. That is the primary factor that will determine if the culture will continue after assimilation by what is referred to as the "host" culture The criollo culture of Venezuela is the host culture to many tribal cultures. What group of people through out the world is most dedicated to alphabetizing, translating and printing tribal languages?

The missionary! We set out to learn the language, create a written alphabet of the language, but that is not enough. What good is a written language if no one knows how to read it? And what is the motivation for the Indian to work and learn how to read, if there is nothing available in their language to read?

Anyone who has taught a child to read knows what hard work it is!!! Imagine teaching a child to read, and then the child have nothing available in print to read. Hard to motivate the child to bother to learn! More so with the adult Indian! They have a lot to do without learning to read for no apparent reason.

The missionary, of course, wants the Indian to read for himself! Why? So that he can read the Word of God for himself. And with that knowledge, be exposed to the Laws of God, such as the 10 Commandments which will only strengthen any culture if put into practice.

With the new found knowledge and ability to read and write, the culture can then flourish to a new level. Poetry, music and even science can become available to all. The Indian now has the tool needed to chronicle his own history. This will protect the tribe from falsehoods another culture may chose to perpetuate about them.

Missionaries have written for the Ye'kwana of Venezuela, in their own language, The History of Venezuela, several hygiene pamphlets, a Literacy Primer as well as the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament. We have provided teaching aids and a complete phonics program for literacy classes.

Literacy is a powerful tool that should not be denied anyone! An Indian that learns how to read is able to progress and progression is not evil! You and I enjoy our modern life. We enjoy the many things that our ancestors were able to learn and teach us. We then build upon that knowledge each and everyday and we all hope to leave the world a better place for our children and grand children.

Who are we to deny the same opportunity to the Indian?

These three young people are the children of the Christian pastor in the village. Being Christians has not made them less Ye'kwana.


Matt said...

Good post! It amazes me how many different groups of Indians there are in Venezuela (from your post) and Ecuador (just from my limited knowledge of the area). My parents have been to New Mexico and met some of our Indians (don't know what tribes, sorry!) I think you brought up a good point that when you're on their turf, you abide by their rules. I don't know about Venezuela nor Ecuador but here in the US, Indian reservations are sovereign nations that the gov't can't touch, save a few exceptions (which I don't remember!).

luvvom said...

They aren't less Ye'kwana they are more in Christ! What a great gift!

redneck preacher said...

Thank you for showing pictures of some of my family. I've not met them yet but your pictures give me another reason to look forward to our being united. I have Ye'kwana brethren, cool.


Pam said...

another informative post to educate us. It moved me to tears to see a photo of the chief as a young man and now as an aged one. That is so neat you have the photo of the younger version! See you tomorrow at OG!

Abouna said...

This was a beautiful and well written post. It was very straight forward and laid out exactly how nations should treat their native inhabitants.

The indigenous peoples are people in every way, shape and form and they deserve to be treated with respect.

BTW, I heard on Fox News yesterday, that Castro is sending hundreds of doctors to Venezuela in exchange for oil. But most of the Cuban doctors don't want to be there and they sneaking out of Venezuela as quick as they can, some are even coming here.

Jungle Mom said...

abouna, yes it is true. We had two that we had met that were actually living in a friends house. They up and disappeared... to Colombia.

SERENDIP said...

I wish I had this post a few days ago when I was debating with someone who was slandering the missionaries in VE. He is a professor in Costa Rica and virulently anti-american. You refuted all of their canned accusations/propaganda logically and with grace. Thank you.

WomanHonorThyself said...

wow..........how articulate you are!..fascinating piece Rita!

Sherry said...

I have been trying to study as well as spending more time with my family. Thank you for the inspiration. When are you leaving Venezuela? I will do my best to try to write more. God bless you and Clint!

Yekwana Man said...

I just wanted to say I love you. I knew your computer would be the first thing you touched this morning.
I am out walking or working, But I am thinking of you.

ElĂ­zabeth said...

After a person learns how to read, new horizons open. Those of knowledge...

Did I understood well? the cuban doctors were not accepted in the indian community? Yekwannas are no foolish people...

I know a couple of cuban doctors, they came to Venezuela before chavez. Very nice people. Very friendly with patients, etc. But not very knowledgeable on medicine! They wanted to operate under my son's tongue (he couldn't pronounce the "R" in spanish, just in english). I consulted with 3 different specialists afterwars, and all of them said NO! I was a matter of language therapy!!


Winston said...

essay's ready

Michael said...

Fascinating article; it shows missionary work from an angle that I have never seen, or considered, before.

Most of my experience with missionary activites was in college, as a target of the "campus missionary" types; it quickly passed from annoying to insulting.

Your comments here have given me much to think about.

Jungle Mom said...

Liz, yes along the Caura river the Cubans were not allowed in. Some are working in the Amazonia area . They do not stay long as it is difficult and they do not speak the language so their work is limited.

Jungle Mom said...

serendip, I face these oppositions nearly everyday. I find that few are willing to listen as they have bought the propaganda.

Jungle Mom said...

winston, Thanks!

Jungle Mom said...

michael, You probably knew young "missionary" types that were not well trained but very zealous! Sorry it was a bad experience for you.

A true "missionary" works and trains and usually is cross- cultural in ministry. Not that we don't share with anyone, as I try to do here on my blog.

Sarah Joy said...

I really enjoyed this! I'm always amazed by how little the leftests think of those they try to help. "All men are created equal" is not an American concept-it was God's idea first.

jennifer said...

Fantastic post!

Gayle said...

Good for that chief, Rita!

You said "A culture that has a strong moral fiber will survive. A culture that does not , will not. And, frankly, should not." That is exactly what's scary about what is happening in America today. We are losing our moral fiber and if it becomes corroded badly enough, our neither our culture or our nation will survive.

A most excellent and informative post. Thank you and God bless!

Harry said...

Great lesson in this post. I have to wonder if the fools who claim you are destroying native cultures have an argument against teaching the Indians to read.

Heather Wheelock said...

Hey Mrs. Vernoy - Just wanted you to know that you are now the subject of an exciting children's missionary story. I found your blog through Jackie's while checking up on her & Brian. I've been checking it out regularly to find out where you all were headed next and since we are following things in Venezuela now that our "friend" Mr. Correa has taken over here in Ecuador. Anyway, I've been doing missionary stories with my Wed. night kids class here in our new church and have covered several of the "old time" missionaries and was trying to decide where to go from there. While reading your blog and thinking about my class I decided that the kids needed to know that missions work is not just work of the "old days", but is happening right here and right now, so I printed off a couple of your stories and some pics and used them for my class missionary story for tonight. The kids loved it and couldn't believe that people still lived like that :-) Their favorite part was the John 3:16 in the 3 languages. They all tried to read it :-) So, that brings me to my next question. I don't know if it would be possible, but if one of you could read that verse in the indian language and e-mail me the audio, I know the kids would love to hear it. Anway, just wanted to thank you for your faithfulness and your testimony that was able to be shared tonight with Ecuadorian children who also need to learn the need to share the Gospel with the entire world and that there is a work for all of us to do for Him. When you get your book done, make sure you let me know so that I can get a copy to use for my class :-)

jennifer said...

Rita thanks for stopping by when I was sick. This is more for you ....I tried one of the links on your side bar and it comes back with 2 http's.
just thought you'd want to know!
Have a great Thursday.


Great post. I enjoyed reading every word. Thank you . connie from Texas

Jungle Mom said...

Heather! So good to hear from you! I saw an Ecuador show up on my site meter and wondered who it might be!
I am glad you all are doing well and do keep an eye on mr Correa. Tho, I dont think he has the ablilty to be quite like Chavez. or the oil!
Thank you for sharing with me about the kids. Very neat! I will dee about doing an audio email.

Rebecca said...

Thank you for the education. So interesting.

Sarah Halter said...

Thanks for the link. This is good. I really, really appreciate your perspective that these are all intelligent people who have the right and ability to think and decide for themselves.

By the way, Dave is my husband.