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Matthew McDaniel akha at
Thu Mar 18 05:28:20 UTC 1999

sovernspeakout <sovernspeakout at>,
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Subject: Re: ELL: clarification about SIL from an external point of view
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Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 12:28:20 +0700
From: Matthew McDaniel <akha at>
Organization: The Akha Heritage Foundation
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sovernspeakout <sovernspeakout at>,
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Subject: Re: ELL: clarification about SIL from an external point of view
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In my battle against the abuse by missions of the Akha and their right to the
accurate portrayal of their culture and language, I must directly confront the
illegal activities of many missions.

They use the same tactic as SIL.  They claim they do not know what the other
pastor, other mission did.
The American Baptists claim to this day that they do not know that their saint
and missionary Paul Lewis sterilized thousands of Akha women and that many of
them died, are still dead now.

And so working constantly to help each other, borrowing network and
infrastructure, they suddenly don't know anything when the problems come up.

SIL sits like a vault of linguistic information while people do not want to
admit what they do and have done around the world.

They refused to work with me on a VERY successful language protection project,
both their people here and in Portland.  I had protested to them that the
American Baptist mission would not make Bibles readily available to pastors
who did not toe their theological line.  I protested the linguistic treatment
of the Akha.  I said there needed and needs to be an ethic which applies to
powerful people especially like SIL.

Why has there been so small a voice on ELL to promote the issue of an ethic
unless a whole lot of people are sleeping with the enemy, a wolf in this case.

John Newman, the SIL/Wycliffe man in Portland Oregon agreed to help me with
the literacy project and then after contacting the SIL people in Chiangmai,
withdrew that offer.

The SIL man in Chiangmai said he didn't like my tone.

I had protested that the American Baptist, in cooperation with Gum Shay, their
consultant, and Norwin, the American Baptist Akha who did the translation
work, had passed up Akha leadership on the editing process of the Old
Testament. The Catholics had not been consulted either.

I would like to see this matter made a matter of record, because I believe
that SIL is involved in Thailand in a supporting role to the very missions who
are manipulating and controlling the language of the Akha and marginalizing
their culture, outright forbidding it, removing girls from Akha villages for
education in a strange single gender offensive.  One religious organization
has more than 80 girls in this fashion, with very little liklihood that they
will be going back to the village.

It is the entire foundation that these missions are built on including SIL
that denies the most basic rights of the indigenous.  Sure, maybe not in every
tribal case, but the beliefs are there that allow it to happen over and over.

Are people beginning to understand how this all ties together, and how you
endangere a language by endangering a people and how SIL plays right along
with all of that.

It would be a whole new Act when SIL publically opposes the American Baptists
and other mission groups in Northern Thailand for their treatment of the
Akha.  God, what a new day that would be, or was it "cold day in hell"?

I heard much protest over orthography but silence over the abuse of a people.

What gives?

Matthew McDaniel

"Gail M. Coelho" wrote:

> >
> >SIL and Wycliffe Bible Translators are not the same organization.
> >They are sister, yet quite separate, organizations. In fact, you
> >forgot to include the third sister that is called JAARS.  Their
> >roles are different and it is quite important to distinguish between
> >them because not everyone who is affiliated with SIL is concerned
> >with the promotion of translating the Bible into vernacular languages.
> >
> >
> I disagree with your claim that these are 'quite separate' organizations.
> They are 'separate' in the work that they do, but they are not separate in
> the idealogical or political perspective from which they do this work, and
> they are not separate in the ultimate goal that they are working towards --
> and that is the *real* issue here. The *real* issue that Matthew is
> protesting against.
> It is common for people who work for a particular cause to divide their
> work into supposedly separate organizations for several practical reasons.
> In this case, I think the reason is quite obvious. Wycliffe bible
> translators need linguists to carrry out their work, and they need to
> present themselves as 'only' linguists to go into the areas they go into.
> By forming a 'separate' secondary organization devoted primarily to
> linguistics they achieve two things: (a) members of the secondary
> organization can pretend that they are not missionaries by denying all
> links to the primary organization and thus go into areas that might welcome
> linguists but ban missionaries; (b) other linguists, who are interested in
> promoting 'good' linguist organizations but who do not want to participate
> in the missionary work that the primary organization does, can pretend to
> themselves that they are not working for the primary organization. The
> secondary organization can, thus, efficiently use the cover of 'linguistic
> research' to work towards achieving the goals of the primary organization
> -- by presenting themselves as only linguists to those who don't want to
> work with missionaries. The secondary organization is basically nothing but
> a wolf in sheep's clothing. In letting yourself be taken in by the sheep
> guise, you're really letting yourself work for the wolf.
> That strategy is, of course, used elsewhere in the world. One example comes
> from India, where hindu-extemists employ the same tactics. The RSS is an
> organization formed during India's struggle for independence from British
> colonialism. It was founded by people who wanted not only independence, but
> also revenge for past British and Muslim domination of India. They also
> agressively promote Hindu cultural traditions at the expense of tolerance
> for Muslim and Christian practices. One of their members assassinated
> Mahatma Gandhi because he believed that the partitioning of the Indian
> sub-continent into Pakistan and India (in 1947) could have been avoided if
> Gandhi had not 'appeased' the Muslims so much. Their idealogy is disliked
> by many in India, but they have managed to gather a lot of practical
> support for their cause by employing exactly the tactics that the
> Wycliffe-SIL group does -- they have formed various sister organizations:
> the BJP, which claims to be 'only' a political party with more moderate
> views than the RSS; the ABVP, which claims to be 'only' a student
> organization that works only for issues that concern students; etc. Many
> people who are not themselves hindu extremists and who do not support the
> RSS idealogy actually voted for the BJP in the last elections because they
> preferred the political discipline that the BJP shows compared to the
> chaotic behavior of other political parties. They believed that in voting
> for the BJP they were not supporting the RSS itself because, after all,
> these are 'separate' organizations. But in reality, by voting the BJP into
> power they have actually given the RSS the opportunity to promote their
> aggressive cultural chavinism through the BJP-front.
> So I don't think your claim that SIL and Wycliffe should be treated as
> separate organization is in the least bit convincing.
> Gail Coelho.
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Matthew McDaniel
The Akha Heritage Foundation
386/3 Sailom Joi Rd
Maesai, Chiangrai, 57130
Mobile Phone Number:  Sometimes hard to reach while in Mountains.
01-881-9288  when in Thailand
66-1-881-9288  when out  Thailand

Web Site:
mailto:akha at

US Address:

Donations by check or money order may be sent to:

The Akha Heritage Foundation
1586 Ewald Ave SE
Salem OR 97302

Donations by direct banking:

In the US can be transfered to:

Wells Fargo Bank
Akha Heritage Foundation
Acc. # 0081-889693
Keizer Branch
Keizer, Oregon, USA

Outside the US:

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

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