Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Chief Almir Surui
Originally uploaded by Earthworm
Right now, under current development models, a standing forest is always worth less than its extractable parts.

Forests are very important for the welfare of the indigenous people and for the world. We want to show concretely, practically that you can have quality of life and economic development, with an intact forest.

Chief Almir of the Surui tribe of the Amazon, through an interpreter, commenting in the San Francisco Gate about an initiative under way to digitally document their cultural connection to the rainforest in which they live, and in documenting it, preserve it.

The tribe is "using tools like Google Earth, Google Maps, Blogger and YouTube. [Google Earth is] in the process of providing mobile phones with Google's Android operating system that include new software to automatically tag photographs with locational information and upload to Google Earth."

Chief Almir has a $100,000 bounty on his head, and 11 chiefs of neighboring tribes have been shot and killed during the last decade by, it is believed, loggers and miners who would much rather have easy access to the "extractable parts" of the rainforest in which he lives.

The power of this project, fueled through a partnership with Google Earth Outreach, is how technology has given the Surui people the opportunity to tell their story through a medium that is indigenous and accessible to the western world.

It catapults their story -- which from a distance seems quaint and of another era -- into this time; into our time; and anchors it squarely in a true and actual place that we can see, that we can find, that we can now more clearly imagine as real.

Through Google Earth we witness the devastation that they are suffering on the ground. Through Google Earth we hear their stories, we learn what matters to them, we make contact.

To my mind this mode of storytelling makes the need for compassion and assistance immediate and pressing.

It is all the more remarkable because it subverts our traditional colonial methods in which the white man visits indigenous tribes and acts as translator of their stories.

In this case, the people tell their own stories to an audience who can hear and understand.

There is no more powerful act than that: a simple story, well told, and received by hearing ears.

Inside me I realized the need to use internet technology as a tool to make my people's situation known.

-- Chief Almir


Leslie F. Miller said...

It all just breaks my heart.

I, Rodius said...

Sometimes I think it's all going to be OK, and sometimes I think we won't make it past my lifetime.

anne said...

holy cow.... what a visionary the cheif is, for his people and for his culture!

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