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Real-life river-dwelling tribes threatened by dam

Photo by Alexander Zaitchik

I found this article today, and I discovered that there are some amazing similarities between the indigenous peoples of South America and the Glin — one of the alien races in my Stellarnet Series.

This was not by design. While writing my first novel, “Stellarnet Rebel,” I researched the rebellions and revolutions in India, Ireland, and France, as well as North American leaders such as Cochise and Geronimo. I read articles about space travel, cetaceans, wetlands, and textiles. I investigated ancient musical instruments and the development of written language. But I knew nothing about the “uncontacted” tribes of Brazil and Peru, until now. And I have to admit, the more I read, the more it blows my mind.

Like the Glin, they are semi-nomadic, build grass huts (like the Glinnish tippat), weave baskets, create and dye fabric for robes (similar to the Glinnish bavat), and live along rivers and watersheds. One of the photos in the article shows a dark monsoon — from which I derived the Glinnish word soom, for a terrible storm.

I did a little more searching and discovered that the Ashaninka use psychedelic drugs for spiritual and healing purposes. Duin mentions that the Glin use “intoxicants” for “recreational and spiritual purposes” and (mis)interprets the result of Genny’s all-nighter with a bottle of whiskey as a holy trance. Belloc also briefly mentions something called rizwij that would render a Glin “immobile and give him hallucinations.”

They might not have webbed hands and feet, but like the Glin, the Ashaninka people of the Amazon region are fiercely independent and brave. But in spite of this were enslaved by rubber tappers in the 1800s. An estimated 80% of them were killed. According to Wikipedia:

Many fled into the interior and others gathered in the thousands in small areas for protection. Because Asháninka communities are usually very small, this caused great disturbance. They could neither hunt nor fish effectively due to the danger posed by armed groups in the forest, thus malnutrition became increasingly threatening.

This will all sound familiar to anyone reading Duin’s accounts of Glin treatment by the invading Tikati.

Just like the Glin, the Ashaninka way of life is currently threatened by the building of dams and other “improvements” forced upon them by larger, more powerful forces. When Duin goes to Asteria Colony seeking Earth’s help (a plea not unlike that of leader Raoni Metyktire of the Kayapo people to the UN a few months ago), he has a hard time even convincing people that he’s an alien, let alone that what he says is true. I’ve been questioned on this by some readers who ask, “If scientists discovered aliens, why wouldn’t everyone know it and believe it?” or “Why wouldn’t they listen to him?”

Well, check out this video by a BBC camera crew. When the indigenous people of Earth have problems with loggers, says the narrator, “instead of expelling the loggers, Peru’s government has suggested that uncontacted tribes don’t exist…”

Sounds like the plight of Glin is not so “alien” after all.

- J. L. Hilton

(Additional sources: Survival International :: National Museum of the American Indian)

© 2010 J. L. Hilton.