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Wednesday 08 October 2008


Proclamations of the Red Queen

22nd April 2008

Wrong End of the Spear?

Posted by: Craig Young

For the second time in its maligant existence, the Society for Promotion of Community Standards is trying to get the Office of Film and Literature Classification to reduce the censorship classification of a film downward. It’s entitled “End of the Spear.” It’s a fundamentalist propaganda film. And it should not be treated leniently.

Why? On their website, the SPCS refer to the Huaorani people of the Ecuadorian Amazon as a “savage” tribal community, without providing the OFLC with any historical context related to the Huaorani tribal communities before US fundamentalist missionaries arrived in 1956. The Huaorani did indeed use blowguns and spears, and divided human beings into three categories- waorani (kin), waomoni (fellow Huaorani, but without kin status) and cowode (potential cannibal threats).  If they seemed warlike to the US fundamentalist missionaries who contacted them, it may have been because the Huaorani had suffered earlier from kidnapping and slavery related to the Ecuadorian rubber boom of the nineteenth century, and evolved greater cultural emphases on violent defensive activity as a result.

Most seriously, though, “End of the Spear” represents a distorted and misleadingly truncated picture of Huaorani life after conversion to fundamentalist Christianity. What they don’t tell you is that the abolition of polygamy, chanting and dancing practices eroded cultural solidarity for a while, and that as a result, it was easier for the Ecuadorian government to shift them from their traditional territories, leading to land loss. Today, the Huaorani have 680, 000 hectares left of their original territory. Moreover, there has been non-Huaorani settlement and oil exploitation on their lands, which has been abetted by the controversial former Sumner Insitute of Linguistics missionary Rachel Saint, one of the survivors of the earlier ‘massacre’ of the missionaries involved. After 1969, Saint worked as an Ecuadorian government representative.

Now, SPCS is entitled to present a propaganda film in a democratic, pluralist society and I am not arguing that it should be altogether banned. However, its depiction of Huaorani tribal communities is without greater historical contexts, and represents “tribal violence” against missionaries from that distorted perspective. Fundamentalist Christian involvement in Huaorani affairs has been far from disinterested or neutral. For this reason, the Office of Film and Literature Classification should think very carefully about whether or not it should grant “End of the Spear” greater leniency in classification.  I believe it should stay at an R16 classification.

For more information about the Huaorani, and historical context, the following books are strongly recommended:

David Stoll: Fishers of Men or Founders of Empire? London: Zed: 1982.

Lawrence Zegler-Otero: Resistance in An Amazonian Community: Huaorani Organising Against the Global Economy: New York/Oxford: Bergahn: 2004.

Tags: Politics · Religion

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