On the Wild Side: The Last Free People on the PlanetCredit: The Wild Side
By: J. Marlando
People often look at me somewhere between bewilderment and enchantment when I tell them that I had the best childhood that I could ever have hoped for. There’s a good reason for this: for around half my childhood I was raised in Colorado and my playground was the Rocky Mountains and the other half of my childhood I was raised in Wyoming and my playground were the plains outside of Rawlins and Rock Springs. I do not know what it is like today but way back then you could look from one horizon to another and see nothing but sage brush, a few rock formations and barren land.
When I think of kids who have been (or are being) raised in concrete jungles, the claustrophobic city streets especially of inner-cities I shake my head because I realize it is from our earliest environments that our realities also rise.
In regard to what I’ve just said, I remember once when I was around 15 years of age I was around five or so miles back into the Rockies—I had hiked those mountains for years by then and had never seen another living soul unless some friend was hiking with me. But on this day I was startled as I saw a person who was apparently an Indian—No, he wasn’t wearing feathers or toting a bow and arrow—he was wearing jeans and a plaid shirt. Nevertheless, it was apparent that he was an Indian and I thought probably a Ute. Our eyes met but we said nothing to each other and I kept walking until I disappeared deeper into the forest. Around three hours later I returned to the same spot and the man was gone. In fact, I sat on the rock where he had been sitting wondering about him.
Even at my young age I wondered if the Indian who had been sitting there was trying to experience the past of his people. After all, once those beautiful mountains where I was at had belonged to the Ute. I felt lucky for seeing him and felt a kinship with him although I have no Indian blood in me—it was the mountains themselves that made me feel in communion with the man as I always felt in relationship with even the stones up there.
I share this rather personal experience with you because I want you, the reader, to know that I have had a particular freedom that I don’t think many people have had at least these days. This article sets out to bring attention to and caring about some of the very last free people on the face of the planet.
The problem with civilization is that its basic structure is unnatural; it is a fabrication of human endeavor that our species has been constructing and advancing for the last 10,000 to 15,000 years. Most certainly in my own country the Native Americans were nearly exterminated by so-called civilized people—millions of human beings murdered in the quest for land, for gold and for that thing we so proudly refer to as profit and progress.
This is not unique to my country of course—The Hawaiian natives were the prey of greed no less than elephants and rhinoceros’ are prey to the same drives even as these words are being printed across the page. Admittedly, I have not seen this for myself but I understand that The Maori culture of New Zealand has become more of a tourist attraction than the free people they were historically. Indeed, not too much unlike Chief Sitting Bull who became a sideshow attraction for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
MAORI TRIBAL MASK
Many of the Dyack peoples of Borneo are falling under the influences of Christianity or Islamic teaching just as the mission Indians of California were enslaved and converted by the mission priests. Yet there is a depth and richness to the Dyack’s own religion that finds God in all things not just the symbolism of brick and mortar.
Am I saying that all native cultures are good and all civilized cultures are bad? No, of course not but I am against one system stealing land and traditions from another, something that civilization has been doing since its dawning. What better demonstration of the civilized mind than the mindless killing of the American bison. The “buffalo” (as American bison are commonly called) and the Native Americans lived for thousands of years together in balance and harmony no less than the wolf and the deer, then arrived the fundamentalists, the dear hearts and gentle people of civilized society. With the arrival of the “civilized” and in a flickering historic moment, the buffalo were all but completely annihilated and the Indians peoples reduced to being little more than beggars in reservations.
Let’s talk about the Australian Aborigines for a few moments: Actually there are a lot of different tribes of Aborigines. Anyway, their fate has not been so unlike our own Native Americans in that the Aborigines have been reduced from at least a million to around 60,000. This sad fate was due to diseases they were not immune to and out and out slaughter. Disease incidentally proved to be a great weapon. The U.S. Army under Jackson (I believe it was) sent the tribes blankets as gifts to help them stay warm over the winter. The Indians were obviously thankful. They had no idea those blankets had been taken from hospitals and were germ infested with killer diseases. Soon enough, men, women and children were falling ill and dying from those “thoughtful” gifts of the white man who had created the earliest form of germ warfare.
In any case, the Australian government actually removed aborigine children from their parents and stuck them in their schools to be raised without knowing their own culture or language.
Today, those ancient people of such deep universal wisdom and heritage are mostly living in horrible impoverishment on the outskirts of white society. (Actually there is a section in the Northern Territory of Australia that was set aside for Aboriginal inhabitants back in 1948—around 30 thousand sq. miles so the tribes could live their way of life without interference and enjoy their own wildlife economy. By the very nature of consigned land, however, interference is unavoidable).
As a quick aside, when I was in Australia I met a couple of Aboringenies men. I went directly into the Aboringenies district (where I was warned not to go) curious, as a writer, as to what I would find. I made it in and out just fine but I knew that I was hated—not because of who I was or anything I said or did, but because who I represented—the white man who took everything of value from them; the white man who ripped their totems down, took their land and corrupted the world that had been their own for thousands of years.
One other observation: It will be no surprise to learn that the Aboriginal people make up a disproportionate section of the Australian prison population just as black do in the U.S.
Something similar to this is happening right now in the Amazon and the world’s most beautiful and marvelous rainforest, home of the last of a freedom loving tribe called the Awa. Most have not had contact with the outside world—most do not know that they are close to having their world destroyed by profit seeking lumber companies. Like the Aborigines of Australia and the American Indians these tribal people are being murdered by hired gunman, loggers and hostile farmers.
An Awa child
Murdering native peoples and stealing from them is nothing new of course: Columbus and his Spaniards all but wiped out the Arawaks on the Bahamas. And the historian Howard Zinn tells us that what Columbus did to those poor souls, “Cortes did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru and the English did to the Powhatans and the Pequot.” And, in many ways, what’s going on in the Brazilian rainforest is a repeat of what happened on America’s old frontier when wealthy industrialists and government combined to build railroad tracks across the land. The railroads brought settlers and towns began dotting America’s middle and far West. Well, back in 1982 the European Economic Community and the dear old World Bank funded programs to extract massive iron ore deposits found in the Carajas mountains—then the EEC funded Brazil $600 million to a railway from the mines to the coast. That railroad cut through Awa’s territory and with it the settlers have arrived wanting land. The rest is history!
There are sacred lands of the Telengit people now endangered by the Russian/Chinese pipeline snaking its way through those majestic highlands. The same dangers exist for the United States in that water sources, cultural sites, agricultural lands and animal will be threatened if the proposed Keystone Xl pipeline is actually permitted to run its route from Alberta, Canada to the Texas Gulf coast. This project will not lower American oil prices but enrich the big boys, that tight little circle of the super powerful and super wealthy even more. You know who I mean, the ones who could actually lower oil prices if they simply wanted to.
At the same time there is a powerful New York company—Herakles Farms—in the process of clearing precious, ancient African rainforest to create and gigantic palm oil protest. The company’s rep(s) seem to have the indigenous king there filled with promises of wealth and prestige as it seems he is smiling at the operation that will be destructive to the environment and displace or kill countless wildlife. Are we who are concerned with such things over reacting to the building of a plantation in sacred rainforest? The size of the plantation is planned on being 10 times the size of Manhattan. Think about that!
Money talks everywhere. In Ethiopia the land is being confiscated from the indigenous people there for the sake of foreign industries. There’s just so much corruption, greed and self-centeredness on this little planet of ours that many of the industrialists and politicos, the warmongers and bankers are as always, placing the value of money over people, over animals, over the land and over that which some people deem sacred. The Rwanda genocide attempt as the World War II genocide attempt was about power and money; selfish, heartless motivations based on outlandish arrogance! It is, indeed, arrogance that drives people to disregard nature, to disregard other people, to disregard animals for their own prestige and profit.
It was this kind of arrogance that sent Nazi troops into Poland, the same arrogance that once formed lynching parties and the same kind of arrogance that has stoned people to death; it is arrogance that bulldozes through rainforests, arrogance that kills for ivory and arrogance that murders for land; it is arrogance that goes on missions to convert and change others, the arrogance that says, my way is the way…it is arrogance that molds racism and sexism; arrogance that build palaces in the sight of the homeless, who gorge and waste while others are starving. It is arrogance that has and continues to threaten the very existence of miraculous survivors of life itself. Freedom lovers such as the Mountain Gorilla. Red WolfElephants and Giant Panda
—too many others to name that are on the extermination list…it was also arrogance that left this in its wake:
I remember hiking about the wilderness as a young person and feeling that kinship with it; something I do not think can be explained, only experienced. Nevertheless, imagine walking freed from the chains of your culture, free from the concrete canyons of the city and those constant yellow lines you follow; imagine having the weight of civilized mores and civilized protocols off your shoulders and simply being wholly and fully a self—a self that quickly becomes in tune with the senses; of touch, sight, smell, taste and sound of things. This is the world in indigenous people and a world that I experienced, in my own way, a very long time ago.
In regard to those experiences, I always cringe a little when I hear so-called civilized people make comments about the native populations like, “they are so childlike.”
I cringe at the comment not because they are wrong but because they are confusing the term childish with childlike. Being childlike is a wonderful experience; to love without demanding reciprocation, to be awed by the night sky and amazed by the stream; to realize consciousness in everything including the plants, trees and stones. (The American Indians called these things brothers and sisters). We in civilization do not have these pleasures, we are too busy keeping our noses to the grind stone; working for our credit cards, putting gas in our cars and keeping our lawns mowed. Well, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. This too after all is a way of life. However, we need to be more protective of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the protection of their environments.
Most recently the UN has declared concern for indigenous peoples, we need to push for follow through—we are a people who can land craft on another planet, surely we can create alternatives that permit progress without tearing down forests and lands that belong to the animals and the people natural to them. Surely, we have reached a juncture in history wherein cooperation can replace conflict.
Nature is open and free, civilization is closed and enslaving—let us protect that which remains open and free so that we might construct a better world for all of us.