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Indigenous People, Ethnic Groups, and the Nation-State

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Indigenous People, Ethnic Groups, and the Nation-State







At the present time indigenous societies that believe it is immoral not to share with one's kin or with those less fortunate than oneself are considered back­ward, for this surely hampers capital accumulation and therefore 'progress' as the modern world defines it.

—David Maybury-Lewis, Indigenous Peoples, Ethnic Groups, and the State

Official statements frequently justify the extension of government control over tribal populations as an effort to bring them peace, health, happiness, and other benefits of civilization But, undoubtedly, the extension of government control was directly related to protecting the economic interests of nonindige-nous peoples moving into formerly exclusive tribal areas.

—John Bodley, Victims of Progress

There is a museum exhibit in Jakarta, Indonesia, of a Javanese wedding; the guests are ar­ranged around the bride and groom, each dressed to represent a different Indonesian ethnic group, of which there are hundreds. The exhibit is reminiscent of an early nineteenth-cen­tury painting we mentioned earlier by the British painter Sir David Wilkie, Chelsea Pen­sioners Reading the Gazette of the Battle of Waterloo, in which all the various groups that made up the British nation-state and empire—Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Black, and so on—are depicted together reading of Wellington's victory over Napoleon. Indonesia is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. It is also one of the most officially tolerant toward ethnic diversity. Ethnic tolerance is incorporated into education programs and 'hate speech' is a crime. But it is a tolerance with definite limits. Java is the dominant island in Indonesia, and the museum exhibit suggests, said Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (1993:24), that minority groups are 'invited' into the nation, but only as long as they bow to Javanese standards.

One of the casualties of the expansion of the culture of capitalism is cultural diver­sity. As noted in Chapter 4, one of the functions of the nation-state is to integrate, peace­fully if possible, violently if necessary, the diverse peoples within its borders into a common culture. At best, minority cultures are integrated into the larger culture in superfi-


cial ways—dress, art, dance, music, and food are maintained and represented as the culture itself. At worst, however, policies of the nation-state may lead to ethnocide, the destruction of culture, or, in more extreme instances, genocide, the destruction of a people.

The dilemma of minority groups in the modern nation-state is particularly evident in Indonesia because it officially recognizes and celebrates diversity, but this does not stop the nation-state from systematically destroying the culture of indigenous peoples. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, in her book In the Realm of the Diamond Queen (1993), de­scribed the fate of the Meratus Dyak, who subsist on swidden agriculture and gathering and hunting, and, while relatively isolated in the Meratus mountains, frequently trade with other groups. Their culture requires that they frequently move to establish new garden plots. Individuals also travel to maintain political contact with other Meratus groups, travel being a source of prestige.

According to Tsing (1993:41), however, the Indonesian government sees the Mera­tus as uncivilized, stuck in a timeless, archaic condition outside modern history. Further­more, the government attributes their condition to their mobility and travel across the forest landscape. From the state's perspective, Meratus mobility constitutes 'seminomad-ism' and labels them as runaways from state discipline and a threat to national security. For the Meratus, however, mobility is a sign of personal autonomy.

While Indonesia officially recognizes and celebrates cultural diversity, the dominant culture is still Javanese, represented here in the wedding of the son of Indonesian ex-President Suharto (on the far left), Hutomo 'Tommy' Mandala Putra (third from left) and his bride, Ardhia 'Tata' Pramesti Rigita Cahyani (fourth from left).


In Indonesia, there are over 1.5 million members of what the government calls 'iso­lated populations.' Most, like the Meratus, live in small, scattered mountain settlements. To transform these societies into forms acceptable to the Indonesian government, they estab­lished the Management of Isolated Populations, a program that operates, to quote one offi­cial document, to guide 'the direction of their social, economic, cultural and religious arrangements in accord with the norms that operate for the Indonesian people' (Tsing 1993:92). To meet the goals of the project the government devised various strategies that amount largely to attempts to discipline these populations and bring them under government control. One strategy is resettlement. The government builds clustered housing and moves isolated populations to them. The state justifies this housing by saying it is more modern, but in fact it makes everyone visible, keeps them in one place, enables government control, and in some cases creates settlements designed specifically for military security. The Mera­tus quickly caught on to the government's game and built their villages with clustered hous­ing so they would 'look good if the government comes to visit' (Tsing 1993:93).

The government also initiated nutrition programs to reorganize the eating habits of isolated populations. The Meratus were given a demonstration in which locally unavailable meats and vegetables were prepared 'the right way.' The Meratus were considered unor­dered in their eating habits; as one village head explained: '[Indonesians] drink in the morning,' referring to the typical morning diet of coffee or tea and a pastry, 'and then have two meals during the day. We [Meratus] sometimes eat five times a day and sometimes once a day. It's not ordered' (cites Tsing 1993:93). But eating habits are dictated by work schedules, and in farming or hunting communities one can eat at very different times. For government planners even the way food is prepared is supposed to follow national stan­dards; one government official complained that the Meratus butchered a chicken but cooked it without sour spices or chili peppers. To please government authorities the Mera­tus leaders now see to it that the chickens are cooked 'properly when authorities visit.'

The government also exercised control over isolated populations by introducing family planning programs. Once again, there was a distinct difference in how the govern­ment saw the program and how the Meratus viewed it. The program was essentially an at­tempt by the nation-state to discipline the population into following state-mandated views of family form and reproductive practices. In the early 1980s the state began a program to encourage women to use IUDs or take birth control pills. To advance the program the government encouraged a local male leader, Pa'an Tinito, to enroll women in the pro­gram. He signed up women, but it became apparent that they had little idea of what the program was about and expressed shock when Tinito explained to the men the purpose of contraception. The men were shocked; how could the government possibly want them to limit the size of their population? Weren't communities already too small and weak? The program was ridiculous and there must be some mistake. Pa'an Tinito responded that the government only wanted a list of women; nothing was said about limiting reproduction. When the supply of oral contraceptives arrived some months later, Pa' an Tinito brought them back to his house and hung them in the rafters, where they stayed (Tsing 1993:109).

In developing relocation, nutrition, and family planning programs, the nation-state was, in effect, imposing standards of social structure and family authority. There should be a fixed and stable 'village' consisting of individual families, each with a family 'head,' generally a man. For the government, to get to women one must go through men.



But this is not the way the Meratus were organized, nor was it the way the Meratus saw the situation. Their view of the world differed significantly from that of the nation-state in which they are subjects. The dilemma faced by the Meratus, as well as other indigenous and ethnic groups, is whether one can be simultaneously outside and inside the nation-state. As Tsing (1993:26) put it,

Marginals stand outside the state by tying themselves to it; they constitute the state locally by fleeing from it. As culturally 'different' subjects they can never be citizens; as cultur­ally different 'subjects,' they can never escape citizenship.

In this chapter we will examine the dilemma of minority cultures—indigenous and ethnic groups—in the nation-state. We need to ask why were indigenous cultures de­stroyed? How did their destroyers justify their actions? What is likely to be the fate of the indigenous cultures and ethnic groups that remain in the world? What is the cause of ethnic conflict?

The Fate of Indigenous Peoples

Who are indigenous or tribal peoples? They certainly include the aboriginal peoples of Australia, the Indians of North, South, and Central America, and the peoples of most of the African continent. At the second general assembly of the World Council of Indige­nous peoples, indigenous peoples were defined as follows (Bodley 1990:153):

Indigenous people shall be people living in countries which have populations composed of different ethnic or racial groups who are descendants of the earliest populations which sur­vive in the area, and who do not, as a group, control the national government of the coun­tries within which they live.

The difficulty with this definition, said David Maybury-Lewis (1997:7), is that it as­sumes that should indigenous people gain control of the government they would no longer be indigenous; however, it is clear they are native to the countries they inhabit and that they claim they were there first and have rights of prior occupancy to their lands. They also have been conquered by peoples racially, ethnically, or culturally different from themselves; they generally maintain their own language and, most important, 'are mar­ginal to or dominated by the states that claim jurisdiction over them.' That is, indigenous peoples are defined largely by their relationship to the state. Maybury-Lewis (1997:55) concluded that

Many people are stigmatized as 'tribal'because they reject the authority of the state and do not wish to adopt the culture of the mainstream population that the state represents. They are in fact stigmatized as being 'tribal' because they insist on being marginal.

Maybury-Lewis estimated that approximately 5 percent of the world's population fit the description of indigenous peoples; these are the descendants of peoples who have been marginalized in the global capitalist economy.


One of the problems faced by indigenous peoples, as we saw with the Meratus, is that their cultures often conflict with the culture of capitalism. Consequently, the first question we need to explore is how is the culture of indigenous peoples incompatible with the culture of capitalism?

Some Characteristics of Indigenous Peoples

The cultures of indigenous peoples are vulnerable to destruction from capitalist expansion partly because their way of life differs so significantly from that in the culture of capital­ism. While there are significant differences among these cultures, they do tend to share cer­tain characteristics. For example, they tend to be mobile; they may be nomads who threaten state integrity by traversing international boundaries or shifting agriculturists who require large tracts of land or whose frequent movements make them difficult to control.

A second characteristic of small-scale indigenous societies, and one that is quickly undermined by capitalist culture, is their communal ownership of valuable resources, par­ticularly land. Communality creates all kinds of problems in the culture of capitalism. For example, communally held land is not as readily sold or purchased, requiring group con­sensus. Financial institutions cannot use communally held land as collateral for individ­ual's debts, since it cannot be repossessed. Furthermore, contrary to some writers' view (see Hardin 1968; Hardin & Baden 1977), communally held lands tend to be more subject to conservation measures and less subject to exploitation for short-term financial gain. Fi­nally, communal resources and discoveries that are not legally incorporated cannot be protected from capitalist exploitation. For example, the Urueu-Wau-Wau peoples of the Amazon developed from plant extracts an anticoagulant that Merck Pharmaceuticals 'dis­covered' and is attempting to develop, yet no benefits accrue to the Urueu-Wau-Wau, who are threatened with extinction. Thus, as Darrell Posey (1996:7) noted, traditional and communal knowledge that would be recognized as property if held by an individual or a legally designated 'natural person,' such as a corporation, is deemed in the culture of capitalism to be free for the taking.

A third characteristic of small-scale indigenous groups that is incompatible with capitalist culture is kinship-based social structure. In small-scale societies most relation­ships are defined by a person's kin links with others, and the primary social unit tends to be the extended family. The large network of relations that each person can call on for help promotes the sharing of resources and reduces the need to consume and to work to make money. The small, socially isolated nature of family units such as the nuclear family make them more susceptible to state control and discipline. As we shall see, one of the first features of indigenous societies to come under attack is the pattern of kinship rela­tions. This does not mean kinship cannot be used as a basis for control and accumulation of capital; early business enterprises were family based, as noted in Chapter 3, and small family businesses still thrive. Yet, perhaps because of the need for a mobile and socially unattached labor force, extended family units do not do well in the culture of capitalism.

Fourth, most small-scale indigenous societies tend to be relatively egalitarian. As John Bodley (1990:4) noted, equality in social relations reduces the incentive and need to consume, since people have far less need to use material possessions to mark their status. Furthermore, nation-states require a political hierarchy to govern effectively. Without a


recognized local leader with the power to make decisions, who, for example, will collect the taxes? Who will enforce government directives? Who will ensure that the laws of the nation-state are enforced? As we shall see, one of the first things that nation-states do to control indigenous peoples is to impose a new pattern of authority.

Finally, and perhaps most important, indigenous peoples tend to control resources or occupy land desired by members of the capitalist nation-state or the nation-state itself. Thus, as John Bodley (1990:4) wrote,

The struggle between tribes and states has been over conflicting systems of resources management and internal social organization. Tribes represent small-scale, classless soci­eties, with decentralized, communal, long-term resource management strategies, whereas states are class-based societies, with centralized management systems that extract re­sources for the short-term profit of special interest groups. Understandably, then, the polit­ical conquest of tribal areas often brings rapid environmental deterioration and may impoverish tribal peoples.

The Process of Ethnocide

In Victims of Progress, Bodley described the various ways nation-states acted to transfer the rights of resources from indigenous peoples to settlers wishing to exploit the re­sources for themselves. The process occurs in stages, generally beginning with the estab­lishment of a frontier situation and advancing through military intervention, the extension of government control, and the gradual destruction of indigenous culture through land takeovers, cultural modification, and economic development. Bodley's analysis provides insight into why indigenous peoples have disappeared and gives ample evidence that their 'integration' into the modern world was neither voluntary nor beneficial to them.

The Frontier Situation. Often the destruction of an indigenous culture begins with the establishment of a frontier, an area perceived to be abundant in natural resources that can be easily exploited but seems not to be controlled by a nation-state. Prior ownership rights and interests of indigenous peoples are considered irrelevant by both the nation-state and by invading settlers. For example, in 1909 the London magazine Truth published the ac­count of a young American engineer, Walter Hardenburg, describing the brutality of the managers of a British and Peruvian-owned rubber company in the Putumayo River region separating Peru and Colombia (see Taussig 1987). The article, which described the en­slavement, torture, and killing of Indian rubber gatherers, caused a sensation and led the British government to send Roger Casement, then a consular representative in Rio de Ja­neiro, Brazil, to investigate the charges. Casement had already written a report describing the horrors inflicted by rubber traders on native workers in the Congo, horrors depicted in Joseph Conrad's fictional account, Heart of Darkness.

In his report to Sir Edward Grey, head of the British Foreign Service, Casement de­scribed again and again the horrors inflicted on the indigenous peoples of the Putumayo region, accounts that he collected from Black workers recruited by the rubber companies from Barbados, who themselves, under threat of death, had inflicted the horrors. For ex­ample, he wrote to Grey of the fate of Indians who did not fill the quota of rubber allotted to them (cited Taussig 1987:35):


The Indian is so humble, that as soon as he sees that the needle of the scale does not mark the ten kilos, he himself stretches out his hands and throws himself on the ground to re­ceive the punishment. Then the chief [of the rubber station] or a subordinate advances, bends down, takes the Indian by his hair, strikes him, raises his head, drops it face down­wards on the ground, and, after the face is beaten and kicked and covered with blood, the Indian is scourged. This is when they are treated best, for often they cut them to pieces with machetes.

Casement said that 90 percent of the Indians he saw carried scars from floggings. He described other ways the company managers disciplined and controlled their Indian workers, including deliberately starving them, burning alive those who tried to run away, killing children, and inflicting virtually every form of torture imaginable. Casement's report became the centerpiece of a British House of Commons Select Committee called to investigate the charges against British-owned rubber companies operating in the Putu-mayo region. Yet virtually nothing was done to change the situation, partly because the British could not assert political control over the region; in fact, one of the most brutal of the company managers later became a head of state.

The kinds of frontier situations described by Hardenburg and Casement almost a century ago, common in most areas of the periphery, still exist today. For example, con­sider what is happening to the Yanomami Indians of Brazil. Yanomami is the name given the Indians who live along the border between Brazil and Venezuela; in 1980 there were 10,000 Yanomami. They were protected somewhat by their isolation until the 1970s, when the Brazilian military government built a road that passed through Yanomami terri­tory. The highway was never finished, but the traffic it brought to Yanomami country car­ried with it disease, starvation, and death. The highway brought gold miners, who forced some Yanomami out of their villages and massacred others; federal police were unable or unwilling to expel the miners, and the governor of the area refused to take judicial action against the murderers. Even the Brazilian Indian Service (FUNAI) was literally under attack by uniformed gunmen hired by the miners.

In 1986 the military enlarged a small airstrip that had been used by FUNAI and missionaries, ostensibly to protect the borders against drug trafficking and subversion, but resulting in intensification of the gold rush into Yanomami territory. As a result, by 1988 at least one-fourth of the Yanomami had died and the majority of survivors were sick and starving. When the situation caused an international outcry, the president of Brazil de­clared that it was impossible to expel the miners from the territory and even proposed de­marcating three reserves in the area, not for the Yanomami group but for the miners (Maybury-Lewis 1997:27). Alcida Ramos (1995:312) in a recent book on the situation among one Yanomami group, the Sanuma, concluded:

I didn't expect to be around, only ten years after my immersion into an autonomous and healthy culture such as I found among the Sanuma, to see one of the worst examples of cultural devastation in the recent history of Brazilian Indigenism.

Military Intervention. Military force was another means of destroying indigenous populations. Clearly the superiority of European weaponry made the difference in their confrontation with indigenous cultures, although not without some notable losses and de-


feats at the hands of less well-armed peoples. In 1860, when the Maori of New Zealand resisted the work of a survey team subdividing a large block of their land, the governor declared martial law and sent in the military to subdue them. The Maori managed to fight for twelve years against a force that at one time numbered 22,000 soldiers, costing the colony 500 people and 1.3 million pounds (Bodley 1990:50).

It was military intervention, of course, that finally subdued the Indians on the American Plains in the period from around 1850 to 1880. When Plains nations resisted takeover by Euro-Americans of their land and resources, the U.S. government sent in the military to control them, succeeding, as noted in Chapter 7, only after they destroyed the buffalo herds on which the Indian nations depended.

The Extension of Government Control. Once indigenous nations were militarily subdued, the next step in the process of cultural transformation was the extension of gov­ernment control. When the nation-state is able to extend its authority, the indigenous so­ciety ceases being an autonomous 'nation' and becomes incorporated into the state. In most cases rulers of the nation-state justified control as bringing to indigenous peoples the benefits of civilization. As John Bodley (1990:58) noted, however, it was directly re­lated to protecting the economic interests of nonindigenous peoples moving into indige­nous territory.



Various techniques were used to establish political control. One was simply direct rule, in which a person from the dominant group was appointed, after the military had subdued a population, to administer the subjugated group. The French did this in Africa, appointing French commissioners or heads. More common, and probably more effective, was the technique pioneered by the British in Africa, called indirect rule. This involved maintaining and strengthening the role of traditional leaders or creating them when they did not exist and governing through them (Bodley 1990:71).

The base camp program used by Australia to extend governmental control in Papua New Guinea proved to be particularly effective. The territory of Papua New Guinea was relatively isolated; even into the 1940s there were indigenous groups that had never been in direct contact with outside areas. To extend their control the Australian government would send an armed patrol with trade goods to establish a base camp in an area already under government influence. While the patrol was in camp, they offered highly prized trade goods such as salt, steel tools, and cloth to visitors to establish contact with sur­rounding villagers. Then they would move out to the villages and ask permission to build a rest house to allow longer visits by the patrol. While these requests were not always welcome, the villagers were generally convinced by native interpreters. Then more distant villagers would come for trade goods, and the officer would agree to give them, but only if the villagers would build a road for him. When new villagers were visited, gifts would be distributed and perhaps a government-sponsored feast would be given. Peace agree­ments were drawn up and native police were strategically placed, after which village chiefs were appointed to act as intermediaries between the village and the government. Then annual visits by patrols were made. The Australian government considered the ef­forts at pacification successful when labor recruiters seeking workers for coastal planta­tions were allowed to operate freely in a village. In areas where resistance was more determined and where villagers might desert their homes when patrols were in the area,


the patrols might kidnap old people left behind in the village until communications were established with resisters.

This process of peaceful penetration began in the 1920s and has continued uninter­rupted, except during World War II, to the present. In 1950, for example, 168,350 square kilometers were not yet fully controlled. By 1970 only 1,735 square kilometers remained uncontrolled (Bodley 1990:66).

Land Policies. The policies of nation-states toward land ownership are one of the more delicate issues in the process of incorporating indigenous peoples or the resources they control into the nation-state. International law, and most governments, generally recog­nize that aboriginal inhabitants possess rights to the lands they use. For example, in 1787 the U.S. government declared in the Ordinance for the Government of the Northwest Ter­ritory (Fey and McNickle 1970:56),

[t]he utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and prop­erty shall never be taken from them without their consent; and in their property rights and liberty, they never shall be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by congress.

However, that policy was honored only so long as the Native Americans had a viable political presence and only so long as there was land that Euro-Americans did not want. Most early treaties recognized Indian rights to land and designated large areas in the West as Indian land. However, as European migration increased and as Indian land became desired, the government pressed to renegotiate old treaties, generally finding someone to negotiate with who would sign such treaties. However, even treaties could not protect Indian land from the U.S. Congress, as we saw in Chapter 3; in 1887 Congress passed the Indian Allotment Act (Dawes Act), which led to the appropriation of almost 100 million acres of Indian land (Jaimes 1992:126).

Cultural Modification Policies. After destroying the autonomy of indigenous peoples and gaining control of their lands and resources, the next step for the nation-state is to modify the culture. Any native custom considered immoral, offensive, or threatening was abolished. Indigenous kinship systems and social organization were particularly threaten­ing to colonists. At various times such things as the payment of bride price, infant be­trothal, polygamy, levirate (a man marrying his brother's widow), secret societies, and traditional kinship duties and obligations in general were attacked or banned. The ex­tended family was particularly criticized by economic development agents even into the 1960s as a 'drag on economic development and a serious obstacle to economic progress' (cited in Bodley 1990:96).

Unfortunately, in retrospect anthropologists played an important role, unwittingly or not, in the efforts to modify indigenous cultures and incorporate them into the nation-state. Even Margaret Mead (1961:19-20), one of the great spokespersons for tolerance and understanding of indigenous peoples, was convinced that tribal peoples she worked with wanted to 'modernize': 'We do not conceive of people being forcibly changed by other human beings. We conceive of them as seeing a light and following it freely.'



Development theorists (Goulet 1971:25-26) suggested that 'traditional people must be shocked into the realization that they are living in abnormal, inhuman conditions as psychological preparation for modernization.'

Ward Goodenough (1963:219), one of the most respected figures in anthropology, noted in his book Cooperation in Change, that

The problem that faces development agents is to find ways of stimulating in others a desire for change in such a way that the desire is theirs independent of further prompting from outside. Restated, the problem is one of creating in another a sufficient dissatisfaction with his present condition of self so that he wants to change it. This calls for some kind of experience that leads him to reappraise his self-image and reevaluate his self-esteem.

Education for Progress. One of the most effective ways indigenous cultures have been modified, as we noted in Chapter 4, is through formal education. As the French, British, German, and American governments used it to integrate those within their bor­ders, so they used it to integrate colonial peoples. As John Bodley (1990:103) said,

In many countries schooling has been the prime coercive instrument of cultural modifica­tion and has proved to be a highly effective means of destroying self-esteem, fostering new needs, creating dissatisfactions, and generally disrupting traditional cultures.

Formal education often conflicted with indigenous teachings and served to undermine them. The schools established by the French in its African colonies taught two subjects, the

Indigenous students, carefully dressed in required Western-style clothing, attend class at the Car­lisle Indian School. In this class, photographed in 1900, they are debating the resolution 'that the Negroes of the South should not be denied the right of citizenship.' The American government did not grant full citizenship to indigenous people until 1924.


French language and 'morale,' meaning ideals of 'good habits' such as order, politeness, respect, and obedience. In Italian East Africa, boys were taught to farm and make crafts while girls were taught to cook native foods. Textbooks (see Bodley 1990:104) contained such passages as

I am happy to be subject to the Italian government and I love Italy with the affection of a son.

or

Help me, oh God, to become a good Italian.

Often the first efforts at education were controlled by missionaries. It was a useful partnership for both the church and the nation-state. The missionaries educated indige­nous children in the ways of the nation-state while at the same time converting them to whatever religious faith they represented. Thus French Jesuit missionaries opened schools along the St. Lawrence River in 1611 with a government edict to 'educate the In­dians in the French manner' (cited Noriega 1992:371).

In the United States missionaries and church groups played a major role in indige­nous education and were paid by the government to develop educational programs. One of the earliest models for missionary schools was the Methodist Episcopal Society, estab­lished in 1839 in Leavenworth, Kansas. The school was modeled on a rigid, military-style regimen. Indian students worked a 400-acre farm to raise money to pay for their education; since there were no labor costs, the school succeeded and became a model for hundreds more missionary-run manual labor schools. Soon separate schools were opened for girls. These schools remained missionary-controlled until the end of the nineteenth century.

By the end of the 1860s attendance at these schools was mandatory on many Indian reservations. However, it soon became apparent to government observers that day schools on the reservations left students too close to their family and culture. Consequently the government initiated a program of Indian boarding schools to isolate Indian students from the 'contaminating' influences of their own society. In its final form the boarding school drew heavily from the penal procedures used to break the wills of indigenous resistance leaders and owed much to the efforts of Richard H. Pratt. Pratt was an army captain who believed he could turn Native Americans into Whites; he convinced the government to allow him to run an educational program at the prison at St. Augustine, Florida, where captured Cheyenne leaders were held. He founded his first Indian boarding school in Car­lisle, Pennsylvania; the school combined the manual labor model perfected by the mis­sionaries with the penal model Pratt perfected in St. Augustine. Carlisle then served as the model for a national network of Indian boarding schools.

Indian children in boarding schools were isolated, given short haircuts, dressed in military-style uniforms, forced to maintain silence during meals, and forbidden to speak in their own language. Family visits were restricted and children were not allowed to return home, even during vacations. It was not unusual for a child who began at the school at the age of six not to see his or her home or family until the age of seventeen or eighteen. The boarding school program created individuals who, stripped of their own culture and lan­guage, did not fit into their culture of origin but were not accepted by the larger society.

People resisted. The Hopi, for example, hid their children from roving Mormon missionaries who wanted to gather the children and send them to the Intermountain


School in Utah. Eventually the local Indian agent called in troops who assisted in the roundup, but not until they were bombarded with rocks from the tops of the mesas and forced to retreat temporarily. Although the boarding schools were gradually phased out, as late as 1973 of the 52,000 Indian children over whom the Bureau of Indian Affairs had control, 35,000 were in boarding schools. As Jorge Noriega (1992:381) noted,

[t]he whole procedure conforms to one of the criteria—the forced transfer of children from a targeted racial, ethnic, national or religious group to be reared and absorbed by a physically dominating group—specified as a Crime Against Humanity under the United Nations 1948 Convention on Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide.

Economic Development. The next step in the destruction of indigenous cultures was integrating them into the national economy. This was sometimes achieved through vio­lence, as in slavery and forced labor, and was sometimes far more subtle, coming under the rubric of 'economic development.' As Bodley (1990:114) pointed out, 'develop­ment' is a highly ethnocentric term denoting growth, inevitability, and progress; 'trans­formation' is a far more appropriate term in this context.

Initially the most common way of incorporating indigenous people into the capital­ist economy was through forced labor. Settlers and colonial governments found that many people didn't want or need to work for wages—their consumption needs were modest and they met their basic needs by growing their own crops or sharing products among kinsper-sons or other groups. In French West Africa, conscript labor forces were required to spend three years working on highways, railroads, and irrigation projects. In some forced labor situations the death rate ranged up to 60 percent per year (Bodley 1990:116). Forced labor, common throughout colonized areas, was not internationally outlawed until 1957.

Another technique for forcing indigenous peoples into the capitalist economy was through taxation; forcing people to pay taxes (head taxes, poll taxes, etc.) in cash forced them to labor on White plantations, work in mines, or raise cash crops to pay the taxes. These measures were staunchly defended as necessary to 'civilize the savages.' U.S. legal authority Alpheus Snow (cited Bodley 1990:118) wrote in 1921 that 'natives simply lack the acquisitive drive characteristic of civilized man, and doing virtually anything that will correct this mental deficiency is permissible and even a moral duty of the state.'

Economic change was also fostered through technological development. A good ex­ample is the Zande Development Scheme. The Azande were a large population of hunters and shifting cultivators living in scattered homesteads in the southwest corner of Sudan. The British assumed administrative control in 1905 and proceeded to outlaw features of Azande culture that they found threatening, such as shield making, warrior societies, and even iron smelting. In 1911 the entire population was relocated along roads built by con­scripted Azande labor and prevented from locating their farm plots in favored places in the forests or along streams. A head tax was introduced in the 1920s to force people to seek wage labor, and importation of British trade goods was encouraged. But the isolation of the area, the self-sufficiency of the population, and the lack of any resource in demand in the rest of the world inhibited the economic integration of the Azande into nation-state. Then in the 1930s, the government decided on an 'economic development' program to intro­duce cotton as a cash crop. The agricultural development expert appointed to study the feasibility of the project called for a conversion of the Azande into


 [h]appy, prosperous, literate communitiesparticipating in the benefits of civilization through the cultivation of cotton and the establishment of factories to produce exportable products on the spot. (cited Bodley 1990:123)

In 1944 the government justified the project, saying 'We have a moral obligation to redeem its [the southern Sudan's] inhabitants from ignorance, superstition, poverty, mal­nutrition, etc.' (cited Bodley 1990:123). By 1946 the project was under way with the building of a small complex that included facilities for spinning, weaving, and soap making and employing some 1500 Azande workers under European supervision. Every man in the district was required to work at least one month per year at $0.85-$1.30 per month. Furthermore, to facilitate development 50,000 Azande families, some 170,000 people, were removed from their roadside homes, where they had been forcibly resettled thirty years earlier, and relocated into geometrically arranged settlements and on to arbi­trarily selected sites, without consideration of individual desires to be near kin.

The key to the project was the cotton growing, but the Azande had no desire to plant cotton; frustrated officials said the Azande had no 'realization of what money could do for them.' One solution was to force anyone who refused to grow cotton to do a month's labor on the roads as punishment. Yet, as remarkable as it seems, said Bodley (1990:124-125), the planners really did seem to have been driven by the best of intentions, 'to bring progress, prosperity, and the reasonable decencies and amenities of human existence to the Azande.' According to one district commissioner, 'The object throughout has been to interfere as little as possible with the people's own way of life.'

In 1965, twenty years after the project began, one Sudanese journalist

[r]eported enthusiastically that the standard of living in Zandeland was higher: consump­tion of sugar had doubled in just nine years; there were no naked people left; Azande women were dressed in the fashionable northern Sudanese style; and everyone had bicy­cles and lived in clean houses equipped with beds and mattressesbest of all, there were now swarms of children everywhere! (cited in Bodley 1990:125)

By the 1980s, the decline of the cotton market and a civil war in Sudan had left the Azande economy in virtual ruin.

These kinds of projects, of course, are common today. Governments in the periph­ery turn to areas occupied by the few remaining indigenous cultures in order to raise cash to pay off the debts they accumulated in the 1970s and 1980s. The results, as we shall see, continue to be devastating.

The Guarani: The Economics of Ethnocide

It is difficult for any member of the culture of capitalism to take an unbiased view of in­digenous peoples, that is not to view such groups as backward, undeveloped, economi­cally depressed, and in need of civilizing. This, of course, is the way indigenous peoples have been portrayed for centuries. Theodore Roosevelt (cited Maybury-Lewis 1997:4), famous for his campaign to conserve nature, said, 'The settler and pioneer have at bottom


had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages.'

In the nineteenth century, 'scientific' theories of evolution and racial superiority al­lowed people to rationalize the enslavement, confinement, or destruction of indigenous peoples. As late as the 1940s, British anthropologist Lord Fitzroy Raglan (cited Bodley 1990:11), who was to become president of the Royal Anthropological Institute, said that tribal beliefs in magic were a chief cause of folly and unhappiness. Existing tribes were plague spots: 'We should bring to them our justice, our education, and our science. Few will deny that these are better than anything which savages have got.' While many of these attitudes have changed, indigenous peoples still tend to be seen as needy dependents or victims, largely incapable of helping themselves. We tend to see their destruction as a consequence of their weakness, rather than of patterns of behavior and exploitation built into the culture of capitalism.

It may help to change that view if instead of seeing indigenous peoples as needy de­pendents living largely outmoded ways of life we consider the resemblance between in­digenous societies and a modern, socially responsible corporation that carefully manages its resources, provides well for its workers, and plans for the long term rather than the short term. Looking at indigenous societies in this way may help us better appreciate why they don't survive. The fact is that environmentally and socially responsible corporations do not fare well in the capitalist world; they fail not because of any inherent weakness but because they become targets for takeovers by individuals or groups who, after taking the corporation over, quickly sell off the carefully managed resources solely to make a quick profit, leaving the corporation in ruin and its workers unemployed.

Take the fate of the Pacific Lumber Company. The family-owned company was known as one of the most environmentally and economically sound companies in the United States. It pioneered the practice of sustainable logging on its large holdings of red­woods and was generous to its employees, even overfunding its pension plan to ensure that it could meet its commitments. Furthermore, to ensure the security of its employees, it had a no-layoff policy. Unfortunately, the very features that made the company a model of environmental and social responsibility also made it a prime target for corporate raid­ers. After they took control of the company in the late 1980s they doubled the cutting rate on company lands, drained $55 million of the $93 million pension plan, and invested the remaining $38 million in a life insurance company that ultimately failed (Korten 1995:210). And the fate of Pacific Lumber is not unique.

Indigenous peoples possess all the characteristics that make them prime targets for takeovers. Like responsible corporations, they have managed their resources so well that those same resources (e.g., lumber, animals, farmlands) become targets for those who have used up theirs or who wish to make a quick profit. The indigenous peoples them­selves become expendable or resources to be exploited. To illustrate let's look at the case of the Guarani as described by Richard Reed (1997).

History and Background

Most of the 15,000 Guarani are settled in the rainforests of eastern Paraguay; they live in 114 communities ranging from three to four houses to over one hundred families. They


are a minority population in a country in which most citizens are mestizo or criollos, de­scendants of Europeans who married Guarani.



When Europeans arrived, over one million Guarani and related groups lived in the area stretching from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean. The Guarani welcomed the first conquistadors, joining them in carving out trade routes to the Andes. The earliest reports of travelers indicate that the Guarani system of production and standard of living were successful. In 1541 the region's first governor, Cabeza de Vaca (cited Reed 1997:8), noted that the Guarani

[a]re the richest people of all the land and province both for agriculture and stock raising. They rear plenty of fowl and geese and other birds, and have an abundance of game, such as boar, deer, and dantes (anta), partridge, quail and pheasants; and they have great fisher­ies in the river. They grow plenty of maize, potatoes, cassava, peanuts and many other fruits; and from the trees they collect a great deal of honey.

In addition to their economic success, the Guarani were a relatively egalitarian so­ciety in which a person's place in society was determined by kinship. Leadership was usually determined by age, although political leaders had little or no power of coercion over others.

The Guarani engaged European markets soon after contact, managing to combine their traditional subsistence activities of swidden agriculture and hunting and gathering with the collection of commercial products from the forests such as yerba mate, a natu­rally growing tea, animal skins, and honey. Anthropologists call this combination of pro­ductive activities agroforestry, the active management of forest resources for long-term production.

To understand agroforestry as practiced by the Guarani, we need to understand a little about the nature of tropical rainforests. They are the most diverse biosystems on Earth, containing half the recorded species in the world, although only about 15 percent of these species have even been discovered. They are also among the most fragile ecosys­tems. A rainforest is a layered system, the top layer, or canopy, provided by large trees protecting the layers underneath it, with each species of plant or animal in lower layers dependent on the other's, and all surviving on a very thin layer of soil.

Guarani agroforestry focuses on three activities: horticulture, hunting and gather­ing, and commercial tree cropping. The agriculture is shifting or swidden agriculture, in which small areas of the forests are cut and burned, the ash providing a thin layer of nutri­ents for the soil. These areas are planted until spreading weeds and decreased yields force the farmer to move to a new plot. The old plot is not abandoned but planted with banana trees and manioc, crops that need little care and which produce for up to four years. In this way land is gradually recycled back into tropical forest. Furthermore, these plots provide forage for deer, peccary, and other animals, which the Guarani trap or shoot.

Fishing provides another source of protein. Usually the Guarani fish with poison. They crush the bark of the timbo tree and wash it through the water, leaving a thin seal on top of the water. They wait for the water to be depleted of oxygen, and the stunned fish float to the surface. The Guarani also fish with hook and lines. Other food sources are honey, fruit, the hearts of palm trees, and roots gathered from the forest floor.


Finally, to earn cash, the Guarani collect yerba mate leaves, animal skins, oils, and food. In these activities the Guarani use the forest extensively but not intensively. For ex­ample, they will cut leaves from all yerba trees but take only the mature leaves from each tree every three years, thus promoting the plants' survival. In addition, since the Guarani harvest from a number of ecological niches and since their consumption needs are mod­est, they never overexploit a commodity to earn cash.

The Guarani, therefore, use the forest to supplement their other subsistence activi­ties, integrating this resource into their production system. It is a production system that is modeled after that of the rainforest itself; by incorporating trees the system preserves or recreates the forest canopy necessary for the survival of plants and animals below it. Crops grow in the shade of the trees. The surviving diversity of crops and animals ensures the recycling of nutrients necessary for their maintenance. In fact, as Richard Reed (1997:15) noted, 'agroforestry often increases ecological diversity.'

Agroforestry differs markedly from the typical exploitive forest activities in the cul­ture of capitalism, such as intensive agriculture, lumbering, and cattle raising, activities modeled after factory production. First, indigenous production systems are diverse, al­lowing forest residents to exploit various niches in the forest without overexploiting any one niche. Second, unlike intensive agriculture, lumbering, or cattle raising, the Guarani production system depends on the resources of plants and animals themselves rather than on the nutrients of the forest soils. Thus by moderate use of the soils, water, canopy, and fauna of the forest the Guarani ensure that the whole system continues to flourish. Third, Guarani production techniques lend themselves to a pattern of social relations in which individual autonomy is respected and in which activities do not lend themselves to a divi­sion of labor that lends itself to status hierarchy. The basic work unit is the family, with both men and women involved in productive labor—farming, gathering food, and collect­ing commercial products—and reproductive labor—child care, food preparation, and the construction and maintenance of shelters.

Fourth, unlike the activities of the culture of capitalism, the Guarani mode of pro­duction is neither technology- nor labor-intensive. The Guarani spend about 18 percent of their time in productive activities; one-third of that is devoted to horticulture, slightly less to forest subsistence activities, and about 40 percent to commercial activities. Another 27 percent of their time is devoted to household labor. In all, about half their daylight time is spent working; the rest is devoted to leisure and socializing. Reed said that the Guarani workday is approximately half that of a typical European worker.

Finally, unlike capitalist production, which is tightly integrated into the global sys­tem, Guarani production allows them a great deal of autonomy from the larger society. When prices for their products are too low, the Guarani stop selling; if prices on store goods are too high, the Guarani stop buying. Thus they do not have to rely on commercial markets; their stability is in their gardens, not their labor.

This autonomy can be attributed in part to the Guarani's modest consumption needs. Food accounts for about 40 percent of the average family's monthly market basket—about two kilograms of rice, pasta, and flour; one kilogram of meat, a half liter of cooking oil, and a little salt. Cloth and clothing is the next most important purchase, per­haps a new shirt or pants (but not both) each year. Another one-fifth of the budget is spent on tools, such as machetes and axes, and an occasional luxury, such as tobacco, alcohol,


or a tape recorder. Thus, as Reed (1997:75) noted, the Guarani engage the global eco­nomic system without becoming dependent on it.

Contemporary Development and Guarani Communities

Guarani culture and their system of adaptation are, however, being threatened. Since the 1970s the rate of forest destruction in Paraguay has increased dramatically as forests are cleared to make way for monocultural agriculture and cattle ranching. As a result, Guarani house lots stand exposed on open landscapes and families are being forced to settle on the fringes of mestizo towns. Reed made the point that it is not market contact or interethnic relations that are destroying the Guarani; they have participated in the market and interacted with mestizo townspeople for centuries. Rather, it is a new kind of eco­nomic development spawned by the needs of the global economy.

After decades of little economic growth, in the 1970s the Paraguayan economy began to grow at the rate of 10 percent per year. This growth was fueled by enormous expansion of agricultural production, particularly cotton, soy, and wheat. Most of this growth came at the expense of huge tracts of rainforest felled to make way for the new cultivation. As Reed said, since 1970 every effort has been made to convert the land of eastern Paraguay into fields for commodity production. A number of things contributed to rainforest destruction.

First, roads built into the forests for military defense against Brazil contributed to the influx of settlers into the rainforest. Second, large-scale, energy-intensive agriculture displaced small farmers, who flooded to the cities in search of work. This created pres­sures on these populations to find work or land; but, rather than redistribute the vast tracts of cleared land held by wealthy cattle ranchers to peasants, the government chose to entice poor peasants into the forests with land distribution programs. Between 1963 and 1973, 42,000 families had been given land; between 1973 and 1976,48,000 families were given a total of four million hectares of land.

A third factor was international finance. The oil boom of the 1970s, along with changes in currency, allowed core institutions to go on a lending spree as people sought ways to reinvest their profits. Like most other peripheral countries, Paraguay borrowed heavily in the 1970s to build roads, hydroelectric projects, and other things they believed necessary to build an industrial economy. The money that came into the country from the World Bank and other financial institutions needed to be reinvested by Paraguayan finan­ciers, and some invested in farms and cattle ranches in the forests. Finally, to repay the loans, the country needed to raise funds, which it did by expanding agricultural growth in export crops, putting further demands on the rainforest.

The process of environmental destruction soon followed. For example, the Guarani group Reed worked with (the Itanarami) suffered their first major incursion in 1972, when the government cut a road into their forest. It was built partly to control the border with Brazil, but it also allowed logging in what had been impenetrable forests. Loggers brought in bulldozers to cut roads directly to the hardwood trees. Lumber mills were po­sitioned along the roads, and the cut lumber was trucked to the capital city, where it was shipped to the United States, Argentina, and Japan. As Reed (1997:85) said, the forests that had provided the Guarani with shelter and subsistence were cut down so that consum­ers in the United States, Europe, and Japan could enjoy furniture and parquet floors.




The roads also brought into the Guarani forest impoverished Paraguayan families in search of land that they illegally cut to create fields in the forests, fields that will bear crops only for a short time before losing their fragile fertility. To complicate matters, Bra­zilian peasants, many displaced by large-scale agricultural projects in their own country, crossed the border seeking land on which to survive. The area even became home to a Mennonite community seeking to escape the pressures and problems of the larger world.

On the heels of these colonists came agribusiness concerns clearing more forest on which to raise soy and cotton. Within months of their arrival, thousands of hectares of forest were cut down and replaced by fields of cash crops. The road that had brought in the military, loggers, and peasant colonists was now used to haul out produce for foreign mar­kets and for cattle drives to deliver meat to consumers across South and North America.

Thus in the same way that corporate raiders seize responsible corporations to turn a quick profit, often destroying them in the process, people seeking a profit from the lands of the Guarani quickly destroyed the forest. The logging companies cut the trees that pro­vided the canopy for the forests as well as the trunks on which vines such as orchids and philodendron climbed. Without the protective cover of the large trees, the enormous di­versity of life that thrived beneath the canopy, was no longer viable. Faunal populations declined immediately because their habitat was being destroyed and because they were being hunted to extinction by the new settlers. With the flora and fauna decimated, all that remained was a fragile layer of topsoil, which the harsh sunlight and rains quickly re­duced to its clay base.

The rate of forest destruction was enormous. From 1970 to 1976, Paraguayan for­ests were reduced from 6.8 million to 4.2 million hectares. Half of the remaining forest was cut by 1984, and each year thereafter another 150,000-200,000 hectares has fallen to axes and bulldozers. At this rate, the Paraguayan forests will be gone by the year 2025.

More to the point for this discussion, with the rainforest went the way of life of the Guarani. When Reed first began working with the Itanarami in 1981 they were isolated in the forest, living largely as they had for centuries. By 1995 they were on a small island of forest in an 'ocean of agricultural fields.'

The Guarani had no legal title to the land they have inhabited for centuries, such title being claimed by the nation-state; those who bought the land from the government assume they have both a legal and moral right to remove any people occupying the land. Even when Guarani were allowed to retain their houseplots their traditional system of agroforestry was impossible because their forest was being destroyed and they were forced to seek new and smaller plots. Furthermore, the settlers destroyed their hunting stock, so the Guarani quickly came to depend for meat on the occasional steer slaughtered by ranchers in the towns, for which the Guarani had to pay cash. But the ranchers de­stroyed the stands of yerba mate, a source of cash for the Guarani, that they had cultivated for centuries.

Gradually, with their traditional production system destroyed, the Guarani were forced to enter the market economy as cotton or tobacco growers or as wage laborers on the lands they had sustained for centuries. Those who entered the agricultural sector found that the new system of farming was capital-intensive and required inputs of fertiliz­ers, herbicides, and insecticides. Families went into debt becoming dependent on mestizo merchants and lenders. Those who chose to work found that wages were often too low to


support a family, forcing several or all family members to work. Furthermore, labor re­quired people to travel outside their communities so that even those families who man­aged to gain access to land on which to garden had little time for it. Since wage labor demands the strongest workers, it is often the youngest and strongest who must leave their communities.

There are other effects. Illness and disease became more prevalent. Suicide, virtu­ally unknown previously in Guarani communities, increased from a total of six in 1989 to three suicides per month in the first half of 1995. The leadership system collapsed, as re­ligious leaders who earned their authority through their ability to mediate disputes found themselves helpless to mediate the new problems that arose between Guarani and mestizo or government bureaucrats. Today the government appoints community leaders, to make it easier for them to control and negotiate with Guarani communities. These new leaders derive their power from assistance programs that funnel resources to the Guarani, but which many leaders use to reward friends and relatives and punish non-kin and enemies.

In sum, the debt assumed by the Paraguayan government to foster economic expan­sion and the resulting expansion of capital-intensive farming and cattle ranching in the 1980s disrupted Guarani society more than had four centuries of contact; as a result its members are dispersing and assimilating into the larger society. It would be easy to con­demn the Paraguayan government and other governments whose indigenous peoples are being destroyed. Yet the nation-states are only doing what capital controllers are sup­posed to do: they are choosing modes of production and ways of life that will bring the greatest immediate monetary return.

Ethnic Violence and the Question of Political Sovereignty

Indigenous peoples are not the only ones to suffer at the hands of the nation-state. Ethnic groups have also been subject to persecution and violence. Few if any nation-states do not have within their borders groups of people who, because of some characteristic— common language, religion, skin color, geographic origin, or mode of livelihood—claim to share, or are said by others to have, a sense of relatedness that resembles kinship (Maybury-Lewis 1997:60). However, ethnic groups, like nation-states, are socially created; thus, whether a particular group chooses to emphasize or ignore its own or another's distinc-tiveness is a social decision. Very often ethnicity is used as a political tool by 'ethnic en­trepreneurs' to rally support for their own cause (Maybury-Lewis 1997); in other cases it is used to stigmatize groups so that others may gain an economic or social advantage. But however ethnicity is defined, it has proved to be a major factor in global conflict, particu­larly in violence by nation-states against its own citizens.

There are all kinds of rules and regulations established by the Geneva Convention on how citizens of one country may treat those of another country, and while they are fre­quently ignored they serve to some extent to limit arbitrary interstate brutality. However, other than the unenforceable Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Na­tions Charter, there are no internationally agreed on conventions on how individual states can treat their citizens, particularly those who are defined or who define themselves as


somehow distinct. Yet of the ninety-four wars recorded since the end of World War 11, sixty-nine were intrastate conflicts, resulting in the death of 17-30 million people, most of them civilians. Numbers such as these stagger the imagination and mask the individu­ality of the horror and the means of death.

After the U.S.-sponsored military overthrow of an elected government in Guate­mala in 1954, the country went through almost 35 years of civil war. During this time mil­itary governments tried to assert their control over a reluctant citizenry while protecting the property rights of an entrenched elite, including those of various American corpora­tions, the biggest being the United Fruit Company. During the most violent period of the 1980s, some 200,000 people, mostly Mayan Indians, were murdered by the state.

In 1975, with the tacit approval of the United States, and using largely U.S.-equipped armed forces, the government of Indonesia invaded the tiny country of East Timor. The subsequent occupation resulted in an estimated 200,000 deaths and routine torture that included physical beatings, the use of cigarette butts to burn holes in the skin, electric shock, crushing victims' hands and feet with chair or table legs, poking victims' mouths with bamboo sticks, inflicting pain on the genitals, raping women, immersing vic­tims in metal tanks filled with water charged with electricity. Also common was the pull­ing out of fingernails and toenails, cutting the flesh with razors, and cutting penises, tongues, and ears (Aditijondro 2000).

Why does ethnic violence happen? Why would Hutu want to slaughter Tutsi, some of whom were neighbors, friends, even relatives? Why would Bosnian Serbs want to mas­sacre and rape Bosnian Muslims after centuries of coexistence? Blaming such violence on 'ancient hatreds' doesn't make much sense when these groups had lived together peacefully for centuries. That's like blaming ancient hatreds for gang violence between Irish and Italian or African-American and Hispanic youngsters in New York.

If we examine cases of purported ethnic conflict we generally find that it involves more than ancient hatred; even the 'hatreds' we find are relatively recent, and constructed by those ethnic entrepreneurs taking advantage of situations rooted in colonial domina­tion and fed by neocolonial exploitation. In this regard, the case of Rwanda is instructive.

Genocide in Rwanda

Perhaps there is no better case than Rwanda of state killing in which colonial history and global economic integration combined to produce genocide. It is also a case where the causes of the killing were carefully obscured by Western governmental and journalistic sources, blamed instead on the victims and ancient tribal hatreds.

A country the size of Belgium, with a population of 7 million people (overpopu-lated according to most reports, but Belgium supports over 10 million people), Rwanda experienced in 1994 one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century. Some 800,000 people, mostly but not exclusively Tutsis, were slaughtered by the Hutu-run state. Con­trary to media and many government reports, the genocide was the result of Rwanda's po­litical and economic position in the capitalist world system. It involved such global factors as its colonial history, the price of coffee, World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies, the global interests of Western nations, particularly France, the interests of international aid agencies, and Western attitudes toward Africa (Shalom 1996).


Archeological evidence suggests that the area that is now Rwanda was first inhab­ited by Twa-speaking hunters and gatherers, who dominated the area until around A.D. 1000. Hutu speakers then began to settle in the area, setting up farms and a clan-based system of monarchies that dominated the Twa. Around the sixteenth century, new immi­grants from the Horn of Africa, the cattle-raising Tutsi, arrived and set up their own mon­archy in Rwanda, establishing a system in which the Hutu were tied economically as 'clients' to Tutsi 'patrons.' In reality, it was rarely possible based on physical character­istics to tell who was Hutu and who was Tutsi. Tutsi became a term applied to lineages that controlled wealth in the form of cattle, while Hutu were those without wealth and who were not tied to powerful people. The political system was not unlike that which ex­isted in many other parts of Africa and which still exists today in some countries. The Hutu maintained their own chiefs, intermarriage was not uncommon, and many Hutu could attain power and influence virtually equal to that of Tutsi chiefs. In fact, a poor Tutsi could slide into becoming a Hutu and a wealthy Hutu lineage could become Tutsi (Maybury-Lewis 1997:101). When the Germans assumed control of the area after the Berlin Conference of 1884, they applied their racist ideology and assumed that the gener­ally taller, lighter-skinned Tutsis were the more 'natural' rulers, while the Hutus were destined to serve them. Consequently the Germans increased Tutsi influence.

After the defeat of Germany in World War I, Belgium took over colonial control of Rwanda and further intensified the split between Tutsi and Hutu by institutionalizing racist doctrines. They replaced all Hutu chiefs with Tutsis and issued identity cards that noted ethnic identity, making the division between Hutu and Tutsi far more rigid than it had been before colonial control. They also gave the Tutsi elite the responsibility to col­lect taxes and administer the justice system. The Tutsi chiefs used this new power granted them by Belgian rule to gain Hutu land. However, excluding the wealth and status of Tutsi chiefs, the average financial situation of Hutus and Tutsis was about the same.



Both groups were subject to the harsh colonial rule of Belgium in which forced labor was common, taxes were increased, and the beating of peasants by Belgian colo­nists became standard practice. Furthermore, the colonial rulers transformed the econ­omy, requiring peasants to shift their activities from subsistence or food crops to export crops, such as coffee. Coffee production had the effect of extending the amount of arable land, since it required volcanic soil that was not productive for other, particularly food, crops. As we shall see, this had far-reaching consequences and would contribute to the conditions that precipitated the genocide.

In the 1950s the Tutsis began to campaign for independence from their colonial rul­ers. Since Belgians believed the Hutu would be easier to control, they shifted their sup­port to them and began to replace Tutsi chiefs with Hutu. In 1959, when clashes between Hutu and Tutsi broke out, the Belgians allowed Hutus to burn down Tutsis houses. Bel­gium then allowed the Hutu elite to engineer a coup, and independence was granted to Rwanda on July 1, 1962. It is unclear how many Tutsis were killed in the actions preced­ing independence, but estimates vary from 10,000 to 100,000. In addition, 120,000-500,000 Tutsis fled the country to neighboring countries such as Burundi and Zaire, from which Tutsi guerrillas engineered raids into Rwanda. Within Rwanda, the Hutu rulers es­tablished ethnic quotas limiting Tutsi access to education and government employment.


In 1973 a military coup d'etat brought to power Juvenal Habyarimana, who prom­ised to establish 'national unity.' To this end he installed one-party political rule of the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND)and made Rwanda a one-party state. While the government or party was clearly totalitarian in nature, foreign powers appreciated the fact that Habyarimana 'ran a tight ship,' even requiring all Rwan-dans to participate in collective labor on Saturday. In fact, Habyarimana achieved many needed reforms: the civil service was modernized, clean water was made available to vir­tually everyone, per capita income rose, and money flowed in from Western donors. How­ever, some projects, often imposed by multilateral organizations, were fiascoes and probably contributed to Hutu-Tutsi enmity. For example, in 1974 the World Bank fi­nanced a project to establish cattle ranches over an area of 51,000 hectares. The bank hired a Belgian anthropologist, Rene Lemarchand, to appraise the project; he warned that the Hutu were using the project to establish a system of patronage and spoils that served to reduce the size of Tutsi herds and grazing areas and to increase Tutsi economic and po­litical dependence on the Hutu, and that the project was aggravating Hutu-Tutsi conflicts. Lemarchand's warnings were ignored (Rich 1994:93).

Soon, whatever progress Rwanda was making to climb out of the pit of its colonial past was undermined by the collapse of the value of its export commodities—tin and, more important, coffee. Until 1989, when coffee prices collapsed, coffee was, after oil, the second most traded commodity in the world. In 1989, negotiations over the extension of the International Coffee Agreement, a multinational attempt to regulate the price paid to coffee producers, collapsed when the United States, under pressure from large trading companies, withdrew, preferring to let market forces determine coffee prices. This re­sulted in coffee producers glutting the market with coffee and forcing coffee prices to their lowest level since the 1930s. While this did little to affect coffee buyers and sellers in wealthy countries, it was devastating to the producing countries, such as Rwanda, and to the small farmers who produced the coffee.

If you are a coffee consumer, especially one who likes the new premium, fresh-roasted varieties, you will pay between eight to ten dollars per pound. Of that, fifty to sev­enty cents represents the world market price, of which thirty to fifty cents goes to the farmer who produced the coffee. The remainder goes to mid-level buyers, exporters, im­porters, and the processing plants that sell and market the coffee. For Rwanda, the conse­quences of the collapse of coffee prices meant a 50 percent drop in export earnings between 1989 and 1991. Furthermore, since the soil in which coffee was grown is useless for most other crops (except coca, the source of cocaine), farmers could not shift produc­tion to other crops.

The sudden drop in income for small farmers resulted in widespread famine, as farmers no longer had income with which to purchase food. The consequence for the Rwandan state elite was just as devastating; the money required to maintain the position of the rulers had come from coffee, tin, and foreign aid. With the first two gone, foreign aid became even more critical, so the Rwandan elite needed more than ever to maintain state power in order to maintain access to that aid.

Maintaining access to aid, however, particularly from multilateral organizations, re­quired agreeing to financial reforms imposed by those organizations. In September 1990,


the IMF imposed a structural adjustment program on Rwanda that devalued the Rwandan franc and further impoverished the already devastated Rwandan farmers and workers. The prices of fuel and consumer necessities were increased, and the austerity program im­posed by the IMF led to a collapse in the education and health system. Severe child 'mal­nutrition' increased dramatically, and malaria cases increased 21 percent due largely to the unavailability of antimalarial drugs in the health centers. In 1992, the IMF imposed another devaluation, further raising the prices of essentials to Rwandans. Peasants up­rooted 300,000 coffee trees in an attempt to grow food crops, partly to raise money, but the market for local food crops was undermined by cheap food imports and food aid from the wealthy countries.

While the economy was collapsing, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a group of Tutsi refugees from Uganda, invaded the country to overthrow the Habyarimana regime. Thus the state was confronted with crisis from two directions: economic collapse precip­itated by the fall in coffee prices and military attacks from Tutsis who had been forced out of the country by ethnic rivalries fueled by colonial rulers. Fortunately, the Habyarimana regime was able to parley the invasion by the RPF into more foreign aid. The French, anx­ious to maintain their influence in Africa, began providing weapons and support to the Rwandan government, and the army grew from 5,000 to 40,000 from October 1990 to mid-1992. A French military officer took command of a counterinsurgency operation. Habyarimana used the actions by the RPF to arrest 10,000 political opponents and permit­ted the massacre of some 350 Tutsis in the countryside.

In spite of increased state oppression and the French-supported buildup of the armed forces, in January 50,000 Rwandans marched in a prodemocracy demonstration in Kigali, the country's capital. Hutu extremists in Habyarimana's government argued to crush the opposition on a massive scale, but instead, he introduced democratic reform and allowed the political opposition to assume government posts, including that of prime min­ister. However, he also authorized the establishment of death squads within the military— the Interahamwe, ('those who attack together') and the lmpuzamugambi ('those with a single purpose')—who were trained, armed, and indoctrinated in racial hatred toward Tutsis. These were the groups that would control most of the killing that was to follow.

By this time, the coming crisis was becoming evident; human rights groups were warning about the existence of the death squads, and members of Habyarimana's inner circle set up a new radio station—a potent source of power in a country that is 60 percent illiterate—using it to denounce attempts to forge a peace agreement between the govern­ment and the RPF and inciting racial hatred. Acts of violence against Tutsis increased after the president of neighboring Burundi was killed in an attempted coup by Tutsi army officers. Hutus were incited to kill Tutsis, and the RPF responded by killing Hutus: some 50,000 peasants were reported killed, slightly more Tutsis than Hutus.

As Habyarimana continued to negotiate with the opposition under international pressure to reach a settlement, his plane (a gift from President Mitterrand of France) was shot down, killing him and everyone on board. Within an hour of Habyarimana's death, roadblocks were put up throughout Kigali as militia and death squads preceded to kill moderate Hutus, including the prime minister, whose names were on prepared lists. Then the death squads went after every Tutsi they could find, inciting virtually everyone in the civil service to join in the killing. The Hutu extremists set up an interim government com-


Hutus being trained by the French military. Formed into special brigades, units such as this were largely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.

mitted to genocide. Yet, even when it was clear to most people that the genocide was or­chestrated by an authoritarian state, journalists as well as U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali would characterize the slaughter as 'Hutus killing Tutsis and Tutsis killing Hutus.' Building on Western stereotypes of savage Africans, Mayor Ed Koch of New York City, characterized the genocide as 'tribal warfare involving those without the veneer of Western civilization.'

As long as the killing could be characterized as interethnic violence, the core states, whose actions had created the situation for the killings and whose economic policies pre­cipitated the violence, could distance themselves from the conflict. U.S. and European leaders, in fact, went to great lengths not to use the word genocide, for to call it genocide may have required military intervention as agreed on in the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948. It wasn't until months later, after some 800,000 Tutsis had been killed, that government leaders in the West began to acknowledge the genocide.

The slaughter did not end until the RPF finally defeated the government's armies and took control of the country. But the dying didn't stop. The fleeing Hutu elite used radio broadcasts to incite fear in the Hutu populace that to remain in the country meant certain retaliation from Tutsi survivors and the victorious RPF. Consequently, millions of Hutus fled the country, gathering in refugee camps in neighboring countries and becom­ing a country in exile for the Hutu extremists who fled with them, using their control over the fleeing army to maintain control of the Hutus in refugee camps. The press and media


coverage of the refugees also served as a fund-raising bonanza for foreign aid organiza­tions, although some 80,000 Hutus died in cholera epidemics in the camps. It was not until 1996 that Hutu refugees began to return to Rwanda and to the government of recon­ciliation established by the RPF.

In sum, the Rwandan disaster was hardly a simple matter of tribal warfare or an­cient hatreds. It was the case of an excolonial, core-supported state threatened with core-initiated economic collapse and internal and external dissension resorting to genocide to remove the opposition that included, in this case, both Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Rights of Self-Determination

One of the features of the modern world are the many ethnic and indigenous groups argu­ing, sometimes violently, for greater recognition, autonomy, and control over economic resources claimed by the nation-state. Some even demand the right to their own nation-state. The nation-state of which they are a part often responds with political repression and violence. The multiethnic Indonesian state suppressed East Timorese who were un­willingly included in the Indonesian state given its independence by the Dutch. The Rus­sians recently fought an independence movement in Chechnia, while the Ethiopian government battles its own independence movement. Almost half of the residents of Quebec want some kind of independence from the rest of Canada, while Native Ameri­cans in Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere demand independence or better representation. Tamils fight for independence in Sri Lanka, and the British try to control the independence aspirations of Catholics in North­ern Ireland. In fact, there are probably few nation-states in which there is not some group striving for greater representation and which are not answering those demands with force or the threat of force.

Even when people are given the opportunity to choose independence, the conse­quences can be disastrous. In September of 1999 the people of East Timor, under a United Nations mandate, were permitted to vote on whether to be independent from Indonesia, the country that invaded and occupied them in 1975 (see earlier text). Eighty percent of the population voted for independence, but the vote triggered a wave of destruction and killing by Indonesian-supported militias that left thousands dead and the country in vir­tual ruin.

This raises some crucial questions: What are the rights of a people, however de­fined, for independence or the right to form their own government? More specifically, does there exist a person who, by virtue of his or her humanity, enjoys a set of specific rights above and beyond the entitlements granted by the nation-state? (Nagengast 1994:128)

Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations seems to be unambiguous in making political self-determination a basic human right. Yet while it recognizes the rights of individuals to self-determination, it does not give that right to societies or groups. The United Nations extends that right only in very specific cases in which there is also a territorial basis to the claim.

One way out of this problem has been to recognize limited rights of indigenous or ethnic groups within a state, rights to certain kinds of education, social affairs, culture,


while defense, international trade relations, and diplomatic affairs are left to the central state. But the question of self-determination can lead to some strange situations.

For example, in 1994 the people of Quebec voted in a referendum whether or not to begin negotiations with the federal government to secede from Canada and establish their own nation-state. The referendum was defeated but by less than 1 percent of the vote; it is likely there will be another in the years to come. The dilemma has to do with the indige­nous people of Quebec, the Cree, Montagnais, Inuit, Naskapi, and Innu. If Quebec has the right to secede because of its claim to be a 'distinct society,' then surely the indigenous peoples have the same right. Yet when faced with the question of rights of self-determina­tion of indigenous peoples in Quebec, Lucien Bouchard, then Premier of Quebec, replied that the right of self-determination belonged to the 'Quebec people' but not to the Indians (cited Coon Come 1996). On what ground can the Quebec government justify its claim to sovereignty on the basis of its distinct language, culture, and history, and at the same time deny the right to Cree, Montagnais, Naskapi, Inuit, and Innu?

Matthew Coon Come (1996), then Grand Chief of the Cree Nation, in a 1996 speech at the Harvard Center for International Affairs and Kennedy School of Govern­ment observed that

[t]he Quebec government has pursued an odious solution in its quest for absolute sover­eignty over the corner of America they call their own. This solution is the systematic min­imization and denial of our status as a people and of our Aboriginal, treaty and constitutional rights. The secessionists' double standards with regard to our rights have now reached new and disturbing depths—so low that they challenge basic principles of de­colonization and universal human rights.

The issue of sovereignty and human rights raises the question: What are the rights of individuals vis-a-vis the nation-state? Is it possible for individuals to make appeals to justice above and often against their own state?

During the past fifty years there has been some recognition that individuals because of their ethnic group membership or political views can appeal to international agencies or groups for physical and judicial protection. Most influential are groups such as Am­nesty International, the United Nations, Cultural Survival, and Watch Committees. Am­nesty International, for example, was launched in 1961 by British lawyer Peter Benenson with a newspaper appeal, 'The Forgotten Prisoners,' published worldwide in May 1961. The appeal marshaled an international campaign to support human rights. Within a year the organization had sent delegates to four countries to represent prisoners in 210 cases. Today Amnesty International has more than 1 million members, subscribers, and donors representing over 190 countries and territories, as well as 4,341 local Amnesty Interna­tional groups registered with the International Secretariat, plus several thousand school, university, professional, and other groups in 93 countries. The central office, in London, has a permanent staff of 300 and 95 volunteers from over 50 countries.

Amnesty International has a precise mandate outlined in an international statute: to free all prisoners of conscience, that is people detained anywhere for their beliefs or be­cause of their ethnic origin, sex, color, or language, who have not advocated or used vio­lence. Its members and staff also work to ensure fair and prompt trials for political


prisoners and to abolish torture, capital punishment, and cruel treatment of prisoners, along with extrajudicial executions and 'disappearances.'

As an international conscience for human rights and to protect individuals from the violence of their own states, Amnesty International not only sends representatives to in­vestigate reports of government abuse but also attempts to enlist the commitment of states themselves to end abuses. One of its most powerful weapons is its ability to marshal inter­national support, largely by publicizing what it deems to be human rights violations. In its Annual Report 2000, Amnesty International (Amnesty International 2000) reports extra-judicial executions in 38 countries, torture and ill-treatment by security forces or police in 132 countries, deaths in custody or inhuman prison conditions in 81 countries, prisoners of conscience held in 61 countries, arbitrary arrest and detention in 63 countries, and ar­bitrary killing of civilians, torture, and hostage-taking in 46 countries.

Anthropologists have been particularly active in seeking to end abuses against in­digenous peoples and ethnic groups. Cultural Survival, founded in 1972 by David May-bury-Lewis to defend the rights of indigenous peoples, has been one of the leaders. It sponsors research, advocacy, and publications, such as Cultural Survival Quarterly, that examine situations that threaten indigenous groups, make suggestions to solve conflicts, and attempt to marshal international support to pressure nation-states to observe the rights of individuals and groups.

The American Anthropological Association, the major professional association of anthropologists, has adopted a more activist role in situations that threaten the integrity of indigenous people. One example is the letter written by the association's president, Yolanda Moses (president of City College of New York), to Brazil's president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, protesting his government's plan to reopen to land claims the reserves of some 344 indigenous groups in the Amazon basin.

The extent to which these efforts will affect the policies of nation-states is question­able. We have reviewed the extent to which the power of capital drives the actions of the nation-states, along with the growing power of multinational corporations, whose inter­ests almost always conflict with those of indigenous peoples and ethnic groups seeking to protect their resources and culture or claiming greater self-determination. Yet, as we shall see in Part III, protest against nation-states or the culture of capitalism itself is far more widespread than most people realize.

Conclusion

We observed at the beginning of the chapter that one of the casualties of the expansion of the culture of capitalism is cultural diversity. There are a number of reasons, including profound cultural incompatibilities between indigenous peoples and the culture of capi­talism and the need of the nation-state to ensure political authority and control over eco­nomic resources desired by corporations or the nation-state itself. We also observed that the very features that make indigenous peoples excellent custodians of the environment make them susceptible, as are responsible corporations, to takeover and destruction.

Furthermore, we concluded that conflict between groups within nation-states, often characterized as ethnic violence, has more to do with the economic consequences of the


expansion of consumer capitalism and the actions of the nation-state. Finally, we exam­ined the issue of national self-determination and the rights of individuals in the nation-state and the actions of groups such as Amnesty International and Cultural Survival.

Related to all of these issues is whether the incorporation of indigenous peoples or ethnic groups into nation-states and the culture of capitalism that they represent is benefi­cial or harmful to them. That is, as John Bodley (1990:138) asked, does entry into con­sumer capitalism increase or decrease a given culture's ability to satisfy the physical and psychological needs of its population or its stability?

Bodley (1990:138-139) concluded that a careful examination of the conditions of indigenous peoples before and after their incorporation into the world market economy,

[l]eads to the conclusion that their standard of living is lowered, not raised, by economic progressand often to a dramatic decline. This is perhaps the most outstanding and ines­capable fact to emerge from the years of research that anthropologists have devoted to the study of culture change and modernization. (emphasis added)






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