Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
Questions the white men ask always start with how many, how much, how
long, or when. They want to know for how long I've lived near Diauarum,
when I was born, how many children I have, how much I earn, and so on. Yours
is a world of numbers. [Kuiussi Suyá, November 1981]
New forms of retribution and reciprocity have mediated social relations between
the various Indigenous Peoples in the Xingu Park. The reciprocal killings and acts
of revenge - instances of retributive logic (Trompf 1994) - that often punctuated
initial intertribal transactions, have gradually been de-emphasized to the benefit of
alliances based on principles of positive reciprocity (Lévi-Strauss 1969). A common
territory and collective concerns regarding the Xingu peoples' position within an
organized Brazilian Indigenous Movement has demanded the articulation of different
worldviews and logics. 8 Knowledge of mathematics has become a critical tool to the
Juruna, Kayabi, and Suyá who enact these new logics and principles within arenas
of exchange that have increasingly involved recourse to numbers.
In the beginning the white men tried to finish with us using guns, whips and
diseases. Now they use numbers. [Kuiussi Suyá, November 1981]
The Juruna, Suyá, and Kayabi often congregate at the Diauarum Indigenous Post
(one of the administrative units inside the Xingu Park). The radiophone allows
individuals to communicate with the other posts, with other reservations, and with
Funai headquarters in Brasília. Small airplanes land once or twice a week on the local
dirt airstrip, bringing passengers from various cities and states. Medical treatment
at the post's dispensary also attracts individuals who live in the area. Some Indians
hired by Funai to work at these facilities actually live at the post with their families,
and with the inauguration of the school several individuals have spent, at times, two
to three months at the post. Diauarum, as well as other posts in the park, has thus
become an arena of exchange of different kinds of goods and resources. Aside from
the locals, non-Indigenous persons such as dentists, nurses, and teachers (my own
role) have come to live in such settlements.
The Kayabi, Suyá, and Juruna who live near or work at the Diauarum Post are
inevitably tied to a world of figures. Guarding the reservation against invaders and
claiming the possession of traditional land means understanding such map features
as scale and area. Operating the radiophone twice a day involves buying gasoline to
generate energy for its battery, charging the battery a certain number of hours, turning
the radio on at the correct time, and filling out details such as the radiogram number,
the number of words, and the transmission time. Operating the local pharmacy
or understanding how to take prescribed medication for malaria, tuberculosis, or
influenza involves buying medicine, paying health professionals, scheduling patient
visits, and prescribing, measuring, and ingesting specific quantities of medicine.
Indigenous persons who are employed by Funai as nurses, boat pilots, truck drivers,
and accountants need to handle their paychecks and checkbooks. Money management
is also a constant concern for those who sell and buy goods to and from outsiders.
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