The Peoples of "Millennium"

Cultural Survival has issued "At the Threshold" to accompany the 1992 premier of "Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World." We believe the 10-part TV series, hosted by Cultural Survival founder and board president David Maybury-Lewis, will convey a basic Cultural Survival message to millions of people in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and other developed countries. "What I hope the viewer will take away from "Millennium," says Maybury-Lewis, "is a sense of possibility, a sense that all peoples, including ourselves, make choices in the ways we live."

"At the Threshold" addresses another aspect of our work: responding to the charge that the industrial world's ceaseless quest for resources precludes fair and equal encounters among different cultures. As "Millennium" makes clear, balanced exchanges are a prerequisite to the survival of many traditional cultures and are fundamental to our material and spiritual survival.

"At the Threshold" presumes that knowledge guides action. The profiles that follow provide some of the basic data needed to work on behalf of 11 of the 12 tribes that play a central role in "Millennium." We also highlight threats facing each of these peoples in their encounters, direct and indirect, with industrial society, from the spread of deserts into Gabra territory in Kenya and Ethiopia to Mexico's control over traditional Huichol land to Indonesia's attacks on the religion of the Weyewa. We chose not to profile the Mashco Piro, hunter-gatheres who live in the Peruvian rain forest and have almost no contact with the outside world. In the first episode of "Millennium," Maybury-Lewis journeys to the region of the Mashco Piro but remains at a distance from three women sighted on a river bank. Aware of the deadly danger from newly introduced diseases, Cultural Survival is working with Peruvian Indian organizations to have a health program in place if and when the Mashco Piro decide to emerge. For now, says Maybury-Lewis, "let the mystery be."

The profiles, like the television series, serve a further function: they reveal "the other" not as passive victims but as actors, as autonomous human beings and communities. Cultural Survival and "Millennium" challenge the scorn for the other that lets industrial societies exploit traditional peoples. Knowing the real human beings - their history, where they come from, how they act on their own behalf - makes it harder to ignore our neighbors on this earth.

We have kept the profiles brief. If you decide to undertake efforts on a tribe's behalf, we suggest that you educate yourself more deeply. Study the additional readings listed here and get in touch with Cultural Survival and support organizations that take particular interest in the fate of each tribe.

Finally, the companion book to "Millennium," authored by Maybury-Lewis, extends the messages of both the series and "At the Threshold." It is available from Cultural Survival and at most bookstores.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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