Many Yanomami communities today live in a society that is rapidly changing due to frequent interaction and engagement with the outside world. Ever since sustained Western contact was made in 1950, many individuals and communities identify themselves with the Venezuelan national society. Much of mass media still portrays and generalizes the Yanomami as “primitive”, “isolated”, and “uncontacted”. While it is true that some remote villages may have not seen outsiders for generations, there are numerous communities that regularly interact with political functionaries, medical personnel, missionaries, educators, non-governmental organizations, etc. There are an increasing number of Yanomami individuals that have left their ancestral lands and adopted the Venezuelan dominant culture. The consequences of this transculturation process, or convergence of the two worlds, are numerous and have been subject of much debate and controversy. Upon deliberation and discussion with various agencies, including Yanomami leaders and teachers, The Good Project has decided to focus on two major issues :
- Disappearance of ancestral and historical knowledge. The tradition of passing this knowledge orally from elders to upcoming generations has begun to fade. Extinction of such knowledge would weaken their cultural integrity and identity.
- As more Yanomami youth identify themselves with the Venezuelan national society, intercultural education has become an increasingly necessary skill for representing, preserving, and protecting their heritage, environment, and human rights.
A large number of these intercultural schools are located in and around areas known as Mavaca, Platanal, Ocamo, and Padamo. There are over 1,100 Yanomami students enrolled in intercultural bilingual schools that provide an education based on Venezuelan curriculum as well as traditional Yanomami knowledge. However, the education materials, most notably the textbooks, are highly out of date and have lost relevance in reflecting on the students’ contemporary lifestyles, needs, and environment. The Yanomami teachers have requested a proyecto (project) or desarrollo de educación (edcuation program) that brings innovation and teaching materials that reflect both their traditional culture and the Venezuelan national society. They have expressed the need for new and updated textbooks as well as audiovisual learning tools. However, these teachers are not well trained in the processes involved in documentation, intercultural transcription and translation, and development of new education materials.
This project will
- train and guide three (3) Yanomami schoolteachers to record, transcribe, and translate various speeches, oral histories and narratives from Yanomami to Spanish; and from Spanish to Yanomami.
- teach the Yanomami schoolteachers how to use modern technology, such as video and sound recorders, and basic audiovisual editing software.
- help them develop innovative teaching materials, such as textbooks and learning videos, that will be distributed in their schools.
The elders of these communities possess such a unique knowledge and wisdom. We will guide the Yanomami to ensure their ancestral knowledge is preserved forever. It will lay a foundation for future work that will ultimately impact a greater number of communities and students. The Yanomami, will develop a sense of ownership of their own destiny and will become empowered to play a larger role in their own education system. This project will seed a movement that will prepare the Yanomami to face the challenges of their increasingly complicated world.
Javier Carrera Rubio is from Madrid, Spain. He completed his undergraduate degree in History and Geography with a specialization in Americanist Anthropology at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He received his PhD in Anthropology (2005) from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Since 1990, he has been working among the Native American Yanomami in the Upper Orinoco, (Amazonas State) Venezuela, serving as an anthropology advisor to the Yanomami association, SUYAO (Shaponos Unidos Yanomami del Alto Orinoco), the Upper Orinoco Biosphere Reserve Project for the Venezuelan Ministry of Environment, and the Yanomami Health Plan for the Venezuelan Ministry of Health. Most recently, he has been a visiting research collaborator in the Center of Anthropology at the IVIC (Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research). He is now an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park.
David Good is the executive director of The Good Project. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania in 2011. In 2015, he received his master’s degree in biology at the same university. David is the son of American anthropologist Kenneth Good and Yanomami woman, Yarima. His village known as Irokai-teri is situated deep in the Upper Orinoco territory of Venezuela. The many changes and transformations his indigenous family has undergone in the recent years inspired him to found The Good Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to serving as a trustworthy advocate for the Yanomami and Cabecar people. He uses his personal story, described in his memoir The Way Around, to create a community of collaboration both locally and internationally. He is now a member of the Amazon center recently established at the University of Maryland.
The Yanomami teachers. This project is only possible with the collaboration and cooperation of the Yanomami schoolteachers of Mavaca and Platanal. It is only with their consent are we able to bring forth this program. They want innovation. They want to learn and play a larger role for their students and communities.
Your donations will go directly to our mission to empower the Yanomami people.