Identifying indigenous peoples

The Indians in the photographs accompanying the article "Brazil Reaches Out to Native Peoples," Oct. 24, are not Yanomami but Kayap a completely different group living over 1,500 miles away with an experience radically contrasting that of non-Indians.Unlike the Yanomami, the Kayapo have successfully obtained legal recognition of their lands and medical care against foreigners' diseases, making them healthy, vibrant, and supremely photogenic for outsiders looking for images of "generic Indians." Had photos of Yanomami been used, you would not find anything like the Kayaps tape recorder shown to illustrate the purportedly "modern ways" brought by gold miners to the Yanomami. Instead you would find appalling photos of malaria victims dressed in rags and emaciated, balding children. Knowing that such shocking images could unleash an international outcry like that in Ethiopia, the Brazilian government long banned photographers from Yanomami territory, along with the medical workers, missionaries, and anthropologists who could have helped to prevent the tragedy. Also, the author deflates the numbers of invading miners by merely citing a July 1991 figure of 4,650 - when many of the mines had been exhausted - and neglecting to state that there were 40,000 at the height of the gold rush in 1989. Catherine V. Howard, Chicago

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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