The Akha Heritage Foundation - www.akha.org
Akha Human Rights - Akha University
 
 

 
Document
You may copy and save this document for later reading.
Please remember to do a site search for other related documents which may not be shown here.

The Barbados Declaration

Regarding Missions Read Down
Note:
This Declaration Was Made In 1971 
Imagine What Has Been Lost Since Then! 
And NOBODY Is Listening!

Declaration of Barbados 
Barbados 30 January 1971 

World Council of Churches 
Programme to Combat Racism PCR 1/71 (E) 

The Barbados Symposium was sponsored jointly by the Programme to Combat Racism and the Churches Commission on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, together with the Ethnology Department of the University of Berne (Switzerland). The views expressed are those of the members of the Symposium, and not necessarily those of the co-sponsors of the Symposium. 
 

For the Liberation of the Indians 

The anthropologists participating in the Symposium on Inter-Ethnic Conflict in South America, meeting in Barbados, January 25-30 1971, after analysing the formal reports of the tribal populations' situation in several countries, drafted and agreed to make public the following statement. In this manner, we hope to define and clarify this critical problem of the American continent and to contribute to the Indian struggle for liberation. 

The Indians of America remain dominated by a colonial situation which originated with the conquest and which persists today within many Latin American nations. The result of this colonial structure is that lands inhabited by Indians are |judged to be free and unoccupied territory open to conquest and colonization. Colonial domination of the aboriginal groups, however, is only a reflection of the more generalised system of the Latin American states' external dependence upon the imperialist metropolitan powers. The internal order of our dependent countries leads them to act as colonising powers in their relations with the indigenous peoples. This places the several nations in the dual role of the exploited and the exploiters, and this in turn projects not only a false image of Indian society and its historical development, but also a distorted vision of what constitutes the present national society. 

We have seen that this situation manifests itself in repeated acts of aggression directed against the aboriginal groups and cultures. There occur both active interventions to "protect" Indian society as well as massacres and forced migrations from the homelands. These acts and policies are not unknown to the armed forces and other governmental agencies in several countries. Even the official "Indian policies" of the Latin-American states are explicitly directed towards the destruction of aboriginal culture. These policies are employed to manipulate and control Indian populations in order to consolidate the status of existing social groups and classes, and only diminish the possibility that Indian society may free itself from colonial domination and settle its own future. 

As a consequence, we feel the several States, the religious missions and social scientists, primarily anthropologists, must assume the unavoidable responsibilities for immediate action to halt this aggression and contribute significantly to the process of Indian liberation. 

The Responsibility of the State 

Irrelevant are those Indian policy proposals that do not seek a radical break with the existing social situation; namely, the termination of colonial relationships, internal and external; breaking down of the class system of human exploitation and ethnic domination; a displacement of economic and political power from a limited group or an oligarchic minority to the popular majority; the creations of a truly multi-ethnic state in which each ethnic group possesses the right to self-determination and the free selection of available social and cultural alternatives. 

Our analysis of the Indian policy of the several Latin American nation states reveals a common failure of this policy by its omissions and by its actions. The several states avoid granting protection to the Indian groups' rights to land and to be left alone, and fail to apply the law strictly with regard to areas of national expansion. Similarly, the state' sanction policies which have been and continue to be colonial and class oriented. 

This failure implicates the State in direct responsibility for and connivance with the many crimes of genocide and ethnocide that we have been able to verify. These crimes tend to be repeated and responsibility must rest with the State which remains reluctant to take the following essential measures: 

1. guaranteeing to all the Indian populations by virtue of their ethnic distinction, the right to be and to remain
themselves, living according to their own customs and moral order free to develop their own culture; 

2. recognition that Indian groups possess rights prior to those of other national constituencies. The State must
recognise and guarantee each Indian society's territory in land, legalising it as perpetual, inalienable collective
property, sufficiently extensive to provide for population growth; 

3. sanctioning of Indian groups' right to organize and to govern in accordance with their own traditions. Such a
policy would not exclude members of Indian society from exercising full citizenship, but would in turn exempt them
from compliance with those obligations that jeopardise their cultural integrity. 

4. extending to Indian society the same economic, so economic, social, educational and health assistance as the rest of the national population receives. Moreover, the State has an obligation to attend to those many deficiencies and needs that stem from Indians' submission of the colonial situation. Above all the State must impede their further exploitation by other sectors of the national society, including the official agents of their protection. 

5. establishing contacts with still isolated tribal gro-ups is the States' responsibility, given the dangers - biological,
social and ecological - that their first contact with agents of the national society represents. 

6. protection from the crimes and outrages not always the direct responsibility of civil or military personnel, intrinsic
to the expansion process of the national frontier. 

7. definition of the national public authority responsible for relations with Indian groups inhabiting its territory; this
obligation cannot be transferred or delegated at any time or under any circumstances. 
 

Responsibility of the Religious Missions 

Evangelisation, the work of the religious missions in Latin America also reflects and complements the reigning colonial situation with the values of which it is imbued. The missionary presence has always implied the imposition of criteria and patterns of thought and behaviour alien to the colonised Indian societies. A religious pretext has too often justified the economic and human exploitation of the aboriginal population. 

The inherent ethnocentric aspect of the evangelization process is also a component of the colonialist ideology and is based on the following characteristics: 

1. its essentially discriminatory nature implicit in the hostile relationship to Indian culture conceived as pagan and
heretical; 

2. its vicarial aspect, implying the reidentification of the Indian and his consequent submission in exchange for
future supernatural compensations; 

3. its spurious quality given the common situation of missionaries seeking only some form of personal salvation,
material or spiritual; 

4. the fact that the missions have become a great land and labour enterprise, in conjunction with the dominant
imperial interests.  
 

As a result of this analysis we conclude that the suspension of all missionary activity is the most appropriate policy on behalf of both Indian society as well as the moral integrity of the churches involved. Until this objective can be realized the missions must support and contribute to Indian liberation in the following manner: 

1. overcome the intrinsic Herodianism of the evangelical process, itself a mechanism of colonialisation,
Europeanisation and alienation of Indian society; 

2. assume a position of true respect for Indian culture, ending the long and shameful history of despotism and
intolerance characteristic of missionary work, which rarely manifests sensitivity to aboriginal religious sentiments
and values; 

3. halt both the theft of Indian property by religious missionaries who appropriate labour, lands and natural
resources as their own, and the indifference in the face of Indian expropriation by third parties; 

4. extinguish the sumptuous and lavish spirit of the missions themselves, expressed in various forms but all too
often based on exploitation of Indian labour. 

5. stop the competition among religious groups and confessions for Indian souls - a common occurence leading to
the buying and selling of believers and internal strife provoked by conflicting religious loyalties; 

6. suppress the secular practice of removing Indian children from their families for long periods in boarding
schools where they are imbued with values not their own, converting them in this way into marginal individuals,
incapable of living either in the larger national society or their native communities; 

7. break with the pseudo-moralist isolation which imposes a false puritanical ethic, incapacitating the Indian for
coping with the national society - an ethic which the churches have been unable to impose on that same national
society; 

8. abandon those blackmail procedures implicit in the offering of goods and services to Indian society in return for
total submission; 

9. suspend immediately all practices of population displacement or concentration in order to evangelize and
assimilate more effectively, a process that often provokes an increase in morbidity, mortality and family
disorganization among Indian communities; 

10. and the criminal practice of serving as intermediaries for the exploitation of Indian labour. 
 

To the degree that the religious missions do not assume these minimal obligations they, too, must be held responsible by default for crimes of ethnocide and connivance with genocide. 

Finally, we recognize that, recently, dissident elements within the churches are engaging in a conscious and radical self-evaluation of the evangelical process. The denunciation of the historical failure of the missionary task is now a common conclusion of such critical analyses. 

The Responsibility of Anthropology 

Anthropology took form within and became an instrument of colonial domination, openly or surreptitiously; it has often rationalized and justified in scientific language the domination of some people by others. The discipline has continued to supply information and methods of action useful for maintaining, reaffirming and disguising social relations of a colonial nature. Latin America has been and is no exception, and with growing frequency we note nefarious Indian action programmes and the dissemination of stereotypes and myths distorting and masking
the Indian situation - all pretending to have their basis in alleged scientific anthropological research. 

A false awareness of this situation has led many anthropologists to adopt equivocal positions. These night be classed in the following types: 

1. a scientism which negates any relationship between academic research and the future of those peoples who form the object of such investigation, thus eschewing political responsibility which the relation contains and implies; 

2. an hypocrisy manifest in the rhetorical protestation based on first principles which skilfully avoids any
commitment in a concrete situation: 

3. an opportunism that although it may recognize the present painful situation of the Indian at the same time rejects
any possibility of transform ing action by proposing the need "to do something" within the established order. This
latter position, of course only reaffirms and continues the system. 
 

The anthropology now required in Latin America is-not that which relates to Indians as objects of study, but rather that which perceives the colonial situation and commits itself to the struggle for liberation. In this context we see anthropology providing on the one hand, the colonized peoples those data and interpretations both about themselves and their colonizers useful for their own fight for freedom and on the other hand, a redefinition of the distorted image of Indian communities extant in the national society, thereby unmasking its colonial nature with its supportive ideology. 

In order to realise the above objectives, anthropologists have an obligation to take advantage of all junctures within the present order to take action on behalf of the Indian communities. Anthropologists must denounce systematically by any and all means cases of genocide and those practices conducive to ethnocide. At the same time, it is imperative to generate new concepts and explanatory categories from the local and national social reality in order to overcome the subordinate situation of the anthropologist regarded as the mere "verifier" of alien theories. 

The Indian an as an Agent of his own Destiny 

That Indians organize and lead their own liberation movement is essential,\ or it ceases to be liberating. When, non-Indians pretend to represent In- . Indians, even on occasion assuming the leadership of the latter's groups, a new colonial situation is established. This is yet another expropriation of the Indian populations' inalienable right to determine their future. 

Within this perspective, it is important to emphasise in all its historical significance, the growing ethnic consciousness observable at present among Indian societies throughout the continent. More peoples are assuming direct control over their defence against the ethnocidal and genocidal policies of the national society. In this conflict, by no means novel, we can perceive the beginnings of a pan Latin-American movement and some cases too, of explicit solidarity with still other oppressed social groups. 

We wish to reaffirm here the right of Indian populations to experiment with / and adopt their own self-governing development and defence programes. These policies should not be forced to correspond with national economic and socio-political exigencies of the government.

Rather, the transformation of national society is not possible if there remain groups, such as Indians, who do not feel free to command their destiny. Then, too, the maintenance of Indian society's cultural and social integrity, regardless of its relative numerical insignificance, offers alternative approaches to the traditional well-trodden paths of the national society. 
 

      Miguel Alberto Bartolome 
      Guillermo Bonfil Batalla 
      Héctor Daniel Bonilla 
      Gonzalo Castillo Cardenas 
      Miguel Chase Sardi 
      Grünberg 
      Nelly Arvelo de Jiminez 
      Esteban Emilio Mosonyi 
      Darcy Ribeiro 
      Scott S. Robinson 
      Stefano Varese


Copyright 1991 - 2006 The Akha Heritage Foundation