ELL: Killing in the Amazon

Matthew McDaniel akha at LOXINFO.CO.TH
Sat Sep 30 02:05:05 UTC 2000

Thomas Headland was the SIL man who went to extensive effort to claim
that John Nance and his work with the Tasaday tribe was all bunk, just a
scam on the part of the Marcos people.

So one anthro standing up for another?

Just how much was and is SIL involved in all of this?

Matthew McDaniel

   News Article: Book Says U.S. Scientists Killed Amazon Indians

   <FONT SIZE=-1>By Leslie Gevirtz</FONT>
   BOSTON (Reuters) - U.S. scientists sparked a measles
   epidemic that killed "perhaps thousands" of Amazon Indians,
   according to a not-yet published book that has already sparked
   a firestorm of controversy on the Internet.
   Patrick Tierney's "Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists
   and Journalists Devastated the Amazon," presents evidence that
   scientists during a 1968 expedition inoculated Yanomami Indians
   against measles and possibly contributed to an epidemic of the
   disease that killed "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of the
   isolated tribe in a remote region of Venezuela.
   The expedition was funded by the former Atomic Energy
   Commission and lead by the late geneticist James Neel of the
   University of Michigan and then-University of California at
   Santa Barbara anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon.
   At the time the expedition arrived in the Amazon Basin to
   study the relatively isolated Yanomami, the tribe's population
   numbered around 20,000. It is now estimated closer to 10,000.
   Tierney suggests that Neel's inoculating the Yanomami
   actually gave some of them measles and they infected others.
   But medical scientists said such a thing has never been shown
   The Edmonston B measles vaccine did have side-effects and
   eventually was withdrawn from the market in the early 1970s,
   but was a standard treatment in 1968.
   The epidemic charge is the most explosive in the book,
   which also accuses the now-retired Chagnon of debauched
   The sedate world of anthropology has been turned upside
   down by reports of the book's scandalous accusations, which
   have sparked a rash of e-mails, accusations and papers that are
   whipping around the World Wide Web.
   One of Chagnon's critics and one of the few people to have
   actually read the book, Professor Thomas Headland of the Summer
   Institute of Sociology in Dallas, has his doubts about
   Tierney's book.
   "There is no love lost between Chagnon and me. He has
   criticized me in print, and I him," Headland said in an e-mail
   to Reuters. "But I don't believe, after reading Tierney's book,
   that Chagnon is guilty of genocide, or that he purposely helped
   introduce and spread measles into the Yanomami population.... I
   don't believe that Chagnon 'demanded that villagers bring him
   girls for sex..."'
   Chagnon declined comment, but posted a statement on the Web
blaming the
   turmoil on
   "the extremely offensive document focusing on allegations made
   in the book ... by cultural anthropologists Terence Turner and
   Leslie Sponsel is full of accusations that have no factual
   Turner, a Cornell University professor, and University of
   Hawaii professor Sponsel's electronic memo repeated Tierney's
   allegations, warned of a scandal and was sent around the Web.
   "It was a confidential memo sent to three people -- the
   president of the American Anthropological Association, the
   president-elect and the chairman of the association's human
   rights committee," Turner told Reuters, adding "it was very
   unprofessional for someone to pirate that memo and send it to a
   million people around the world."
   Academics quickly lined up on both sides.
   University of Pennsylvania historian Susan Lindee, who
   wrote a book about Neel and his efforts to study radiation's
   effect on the Japanese after the Second World War, actually
   looked at the geneticist's field notes from the 1968
   "He actually brought with him 2,000 doses of vaccine. He
   brought gammaglobulin and penicillin," she said, adding Neel
   had Venezuelan government permission and had consulted with the
   U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn how to
   give the drugs before the January 1968 trip.
   "Tierney is right in the sense that the Yanomami have been
   treated in a grotesque manner by many different groups,
   scientists, journalists, miners, government and military
   officials ... who have grievously damaged their health, their
   environment and their way of life," Lindee said.
   The book's publication date has been moved from Oct. 1 to
   Nov. 16, which coincides with the American Anthropological
   Association's annual meeting in San Francisco. The AAA has
   already posted on its Web site,
   (www.aaanet.org/press/eldorado.htm), a statement about the book
   which is to be excerpted in next week's New Yorker magazine.
   And <A HREF=http://Amazon.com>Amazon.com</A> says the 499-page W.W.
Norton book, with
   1,599 footnotes, is already ranked 279 in sales.

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