ELL: Akha Weekly Update Dec.21, 99 "Down the Tube" by Joseph Cooke

Matthew McDaniel akha at LOXINFO.CO.TH
Tue Dec 21 14:23:13 UTC 1999

Dear Friends:

"Down the Tube"
Death of the Akha Hill Tribe!!!!!!!!!

Please Forward this urgent message to all the lists you have

This is a weekly update from the Akha Hill Tribe Project in North
Thailand:  Language Endangerment/Preservation, medical care, water
systems, Oral and traditional knowledge, agriculture, forestry and human
rights advocacy.

This is a statement issued this week by Joseph Cooke who came here on a
fact finding trip to report on the activities of mission as related to
the extinguishing of the Akha Hill Tribe here in North Thailand.

We encourage anyone who has any experience in legal proceedings which
would assist in halting such mission activities to contact us.

Also if anyone knows who in the US is connected to Overbrook Church of
Christ Hospital here in Chiangrai, Thailand, we would surely appreciate

We are moving forward with plans to build a small hospital here on our
land for the Akha as well as a small school for Akha language courses.

Please contact us if you are interested in these two or any other

The forced move of a village in Ampour Mae Faluang is now proceeding, we
need your help to stop this.
The government is forcing this move.

Matthew McDaniel


Down the Tube
By Joseph Cooke

"Late last month (Nov. 20-25), I spent a few days with Matthew McDaniel,

getting a picture (and a stomach-full) of some of the things that are
happening to Akha culture.  This was not a pretty thing to see, but I
want to tell you a little about one troublesome bit of reality that I
bumped into.  (There are many other bits,  but I don't have a clear
enough picture to write  about them here.)

But, before I tell my little piece of the story, I must tell you that
am a former missionary with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, which
have always loved, and still do.  I'm also sold on the missionary
enterprise, provided it is conducted with a deep love for people and a
true respect for the cultures within which they live.   I cannot
therefore be dismissed as a missions hater with an axe to grind.  I'm
merely saying something that I think needs to be said.

What it all boils down to is this:  Akha culture is going down the
The same may, no doubt, be said of other tribal cultures in Thailand;
Akha culture is probably further along than the others.  In fact, if
something radical does not happen, this culture will very soon be done

The sad thing is that there is at least one missionary agency that is
overtly trying to make it happen as fast as possible.  This is a group
from Taiwan that has concluded that Akha culture is of the Devil, and
that their culture needs to be smashed in order that God's kingdom may

Their modus operandi goes something like this.  They will go into a
and vulnerable village (and all Akha villages tend to be vulnerable
because of a centuries-old habit of yielding to those around them who
have greater political and economic power than they do) and they will
offer the headman a big sum of money if he will lead the whole village
convert to Christianity.  If the headman refuses, they will go around
village and find those who are disaffected with him or with things as
they are, and they will offer these people a good sum of money if they
convert and jettison their devilish tribal ways.  Then they proceed to
indoctrinate their converts with their concept of the evils of Akha
culture, so they in turn  become as rabid as themselves.  Indeed,
converts have been known to go into the homes of their unbelieving
neighbors and confiscate their offending devil-worshiping artefacts.

The net result is a divided village with no agreed upon guidlines for
coping with the everyday activities of village life, and no accepted
source of village authority.  Furthermore, everyone knows that there
money waiting in the wings for those who will turn to the new way.
who can stand up against their money and their power.  So the village
becomes even more vulnerable than it was before--with almost

Then, when a  village has become Christian, the missionary agency
a great, big concrete church in the middle of the village--one that's
bigger and more intrusive than it needs to be.  And it's built
by foreign money, so it's not the fruit of the people's own values and
labor, and they can't really own it as theirs in any important sense.
Also, before long, they will be provided with a pastor who is likewise
supprted by foreign money and has a salary way beyond what the average
villager gets.  Yet, at the same time, very little of the foreign
is used to really improve the lot of the bulk of the villagers.

Frankly, I do not understand this way of doing things at all.  Why
anyone want to destroy a culture in the name of God?  (We Americans
already tried this in our arrogance, and it didn't work.  Indeed we've
all but shut the door of redemption to those whom  we have destroyed
this way.)  And why would anyone even want converts who have to be
to believe?  And why would anyone want to create a servile dependance
upon foreign funding.  Do they care nothing for the dignity and
initiative of the people themselves?

The whole thing makes my blood run cold.  And I'm sure that most
will feel as I do.  Indeed, I know that my many, many missionary
would react in this same way--if they knew what was going on.  On the
other hand, surely some of them do indeed know.  But if so, why aren't
they speaking up?  Why aren't they publishing this kind of information
the four winds?  Why aren't they protesting ceaselessly about it?

I wish I knew the answer."

Matthew McDaniel
The Akha Heritage Foundation
386/3 Sailom Joi Rd
Maesai, Chiangrai, 57130
Mobile Phone Number:  Sometimes hard to reach while in Mountains.

US Address:

Donations by check or money order may be sent to:

The Akha Heritage Foundation
PO BOX 6073
Salem OR 97304

By Visa Card Secure Site:


Donations by direct banking can be transferred to:

Wells Fargo Bank
Akha Heritage Foundation
Acc. # 0081-889693
Keizer Branch # 1842  04
4990 N. River Road.
Keizer, Oregon,  97303 USA
ABA # 121000248

Or In Thailand:

Matthew  Duncan McDaniel
Acc. # 3980240778
Bangkok Bank Ltd.
Maesai Branch

Web Site:

mailto:akha at loxinfo.co.th

Discussion Groups:
akha at onelist.com
indigenousworld at onelist.com

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