Re: Indigenous folks protect environment?

wilkr (wilkr@INDIANA.EDU)
Tue, 20 Sep 1994 10:34:35 -0500

In reference to Marius Johnson, I am not advocating a "cover up."
Johnson's message is that we should be honest about our past. But who is
the "we" here. Why do WE have a duty to publish our interpretations of
SOMEONE ELSE'S past, especially when that interpretation may cause
immediate and lasting harm. The single-minded scientific search for truth
is fine as an ideal, but we have to take responsability for our "truths"
(remember the A-Bomb scientists - they were just searching for truth
too). We also, especially in anthropology, have to recognize the
provisional and relative nature of so many of our "truths."

I speak from hard experience here. I once published what I saw as simple
truthful ethnohistory, and within 2 years saw my interpretations used as
"facts" to bolster denying a land claim made by the people I worked with.
I still think my interpretations were correct - but compare the value of
a correct ethnohistoric reconstruction with the value of land titles and
rights to the forest you live in. See what I mean? This is very tricky
ground, but it doesn't just go away if you ignore it.

Rick Wilk

Richard Wilk Anthropology Dept.
812-855-8162 (voice) Indiana University
812-855-4358 (fax) Bloomington, IN 47405