Open letter from anthropologists about Chagnon’s characterization of the Yanomami

Yanomami celebrating the end of Hutukara Yanomami Association’s seventh Assembly. Hutukara Yanomami Association was formed in 2004 by Yanomami members from eleven different regions in Brazil © Survival International

26 February 2013

We, the undersigned, have all worked with Yanomami Indians for prolonged periods
at different times during the last five decades. We have closely witnessed them to be a
generally peaceable people, who, as many traditional people do, occasionally engage
in inter-village conflicts (ritualized raids and duels). Yet the casualties of these
culturally controlled conflicts are extremely low if compared with those of the
violence and contamination inflicted on the Yanomami by the gold miners and cattle
ranchers who invade their lands. We absolutely disagree with Napoleon Chagnon’s
public characterization of the Yanomami as a fierce, violent and archaic people. We
also deplore how Chagnon’s work has been used throughout the years – and could still
be used – by governments to deny the Yanomami their land and cultural rights.

Dr Bruce Albert, Research Director, Institut de recherche pour le développement
(IRD), France
Dr Catherine Alès, School of Social Sciences (EHESS), CNRS, France
Dr Jean Chiappino, Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), France
Dr Marcus Colchester, Director, Forest Peoples Programme, UK
Dr Rogério Duarte do Pateo, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Dr Kenneth Good, New Jersey City University, USA
Dr Gale Goodwin Gomez, Rhode Island College, USA
Dr Jeffrey Gorham, Brazil
Dr Sílvia Guimarães, University of Brasilia, Brazil
Dr. Gabriele Herzog-Schröder, LMU Munich, Germany
Dr Zeljko Jokic, Australia
Dr José Antonio Kelly, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil
Dr Marie-Claude Mattei Müller, Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV),
Dr Marcos Pellegrini, Federal University of Roraima, Brazil
Dr Alcida Ramos, University of Brasilia, Brazil
Dr Maria Inês Smiljanic, Federal University of Paraná, Brazil
Dr Rosangela de Souza Biserra, Federal District Education Secretariat, Brasilia,
Dr Leslie E Sponsel, University of Hawaii, USA
Dr Kenneth I Taylor, USA