University of North Texas The Rights of Indigenous People Discussion Board


Remember you must post early and return to the discussion to post responses to your colleagues.  For complete instructions for discussion boards, click here: Instructions for Discussion Boards.  For the remaining units, you will respond to Part 1 first and then I will add a second layer to the discussion for Part 2. 

Part 1

View the PowerPoint presentation and study lecture/reading material. Then respond to the following hypothetical scenario:

You are a member of an anthropological team studying a tribe in the Amazon whose members have had little contact with the outside world.  They are protected from extensive outside contact because they lack immunity to diseases, meaning that contact could be deadly.  You learn that some of their practices do not meet the standards of international human rights.  For example, they are hunters and gatherers who move from place to place frequently. The elderly who cannot keep up with the tribe are left behind to die.  What would be your response? Would you support leaving the tribe alone or trying to change their ways? 

Remember to incorporate information from the lecture or other sources. Informed opinions are persuasive!

Give a response to this below post classmate response after you finish the original post. I hope it all sooner.

Post 1:

As I think about different tribes that currently live secluded away from civilization like the Sentineli islanders, Surma or Jarawa tribes I think about the importance of securing what is important and normal for them. As we might think it is intriguing to learn about the ways of these tribes we must also take a step back to think about how that will affect their villages. Putting myself in the mind of an anthropologist which is the duty to study the cultural social practices and beliefs of people and how it can affect current societies. I find it crucial to respect the practices of others because many times it is what they have been taught since they were born and they don’t understand another way. Some things work for others in different times and areas of the world which is what makes certain cultures so unique. It gets tricky when they migrate frequently because you risk them killing other people or species on the journey because just like anyone I am sure survival instincts come to play in the migration. As referred in the lecture about the French discovering the native people in Canada and identifying what was their benefit to stay they discovered the furs would be the financial gain. So I ask myself even though we are observing details for the international human rights aspect, are we only studying for a benefit of what they can be used for or are we really on the mission to teach for the better and stop inhuman practices. The elderly that can’t keep up might be a hindrance for the tribe but maybe it is a mutual agreement when you reach a certain level that they might see it as an understood transition. But for people viewing it from the outside we see it as being harmful. In an area I am not from I would definitely support leaving the tribe alone because it’s their practices that becomes their law in their territory.

Post 2:

Thinking about this hypothetical scenario, reminded me of the stories of civilizations falling fatally ill from contact with the outside world. The article “ Is It Ethical to Leave Uncontacted Tribes Alone?“ by Jeffrey Kluger goes over the problems with contacting civilizations that have no contact with the outside world. The article goes over the deaths of the Nambikwara tribe after a simple hug with someone outside their tribe. The article states “Three generations later, the tribe that had initially numbered about 5,000 was down to just 550 people—many of them killed by influenza, whooping cough and even the simple cold, diseases they had never encountered and against which they had no immunity.” This isn’t even the first time contact with outside people has caused fatal illnesses in communities. In the lecture, we go over the conquests and how lots of illnesses from Europe spread rapidly to Native Americans who had never experienced the illnesses brought from Europe and it caused many many to fall fatally ill and tragically die. So now going back to the question, comes down to which solution is most ethical. While contacting the tribe could save the elderly, contacting the tribe would cause illness and deaths in the tribe even more than the deaths that occur from the elderly being left behind. Another point to bring up is the conquests spoken about in the lecture. In the past, once an outsider was in contact with a civilization they tried to change them, change their religion, and “take over” that land. So if we contacted the tribe and tried to stop them from leaving the elderly behind, what would be stopping people from going into the community and trying to change their religion or take over that land? In the end, I do not think that we should contact the tribe because the cons outweigh the pros.

Work Cited:

Kluger, Jeffrey. “Is It Ethical to Leave Uncontacted Tribes Alone?“ Time Ideas, Time USA,…

Part 2

Scientists have been researching a plant that grows only on the land occupied by the indigenous tribe that your team has discovered. Extensive testing on the plant has revealed that it has unique curative powers; in fact, their experiments prove that its use cures cancer and perhaps prevents COVID. Unfortunately, the natives also value this plant. They use it only in their religious ceremonies and only remove a few new leaves from established plants for this purpose. They regard it as sacred and will not allow it to be harvested. Thus far, scientists have been unable to cultivate it outside its natural environment–its survival seems to depend on the rainforest. Should scientists be allowed to harvest the plant to develop a cure for cancer and other diseases? Explain why or why not. 

Part 2 class mate response:

Post 1

If scientists did find a plant that can cure cancer and COVID on the land of the indigenous people, I believe that the scientists should be allowed to harvest the plant only if the indigenous people have a majority share and say in what will happen with the plant. When I think about utilizing resources from native, I think about the Spaniards encomienda system. If we think about how that worked out many natives were basically enslaved and we were forced to be Christianized. This ignored the UDHR. All that mattered for the Spaniards was the economic status which ultimately had a lot of serious problems throughout Latin America. If we want to incorporate standard human rights, we need to let the natives have a share of the scientists’ cure. The scientists are tampering with their culture and religion so have to pay the price and make it useful. Just like Part 1 of the discussion, I believe that study groups don’t understand the indigenous culture well enough to make amends with them. It is more of philosophical practice.

Post 2:

Thus far, scientists have been unable to cultivate it outside its natural environment–its survival seems to depend on the rainforest. Should scientists be allowed to harvest the plant to develop a cure for cancer and other diseases? Explain why or why not.

This scenario is something that I believe happens more often than people would like to think. Of course the greater gain would be to save multiple lives by harvesting the plant but there is more to consider. What could you possibly say to someone who uses the plant as well for religious reasons. We can’t dismiss the thought of the benefit for the indigenous tribe as well. I would like to thing there could be a way to compromise. I would like to think that the scientist can take a sample to study and search for more of the same plant around the world. I would say no to harvesting and possibly include them in whatever it takes.