A summary of Savages by Joe Kane


Joe Kane in his book Savages narrates how a small group of Amazonian warriors battle to preserve their source of livelihood which has been threatened by the invasion of the foreigners from Ecuador and the United States. Oil drilling and exploration in Huaorani by the non indigenous people has affected the economic, cultural and social spheres of the territory. The Huaorani people are semi-nomadic hunters who depend on growing different plant species as well as hunting wild animals for their survival. The focus of the summary will be on the socio-economic impact of drilling and extraction of crude oil on the life of indigenous people in Huaorani.

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Initially, natural resources were the main source for the survival of the native population. However, with the advent of Ecuadorians and other non-indigenous people, the socio-economic landscape changes. As a result, Huaoranians are struggling to survive in the face of uncontrolled oil exploration and economic development. Oil companies that have been located in the area also pollute the environment through oil spillage. Hence, the existence of Huaorani people is threatened by the continual destruction of their land and water, introduction of new diseases, and finally, the influx of immigrants who have paved the oil roads to their territory. Besides, the non-indigenous people view the rainforest as a means for enrichment, a place where they can extract raw materials such a crude oil which is then refined to be used as a source of fuel in urban areas. Joe Kane clearly illustrates two perspectives of nature. The indigenous people perceive nature as an end to itself while the non-indigenous people regard it as a means to an end.

Joe Kane also explains how the Amazon region which was initially inhabited by Huaorani people is different from urban areas were the non-indigenous people reside. However, the two regions complement each other in the sense that industries in urban areas depend solely on the raw materials such as crude oil from Amazon region (Villacis, Casanoves, Hang, Keesstra, & Armas, 2016). On the other hand, the increased pressure on the land has forced the native people to move to urban areas in search of employment opportunities which can only be found in industries there. I strongly believe that here Kane successfully explains the concept of evolution of modernization.

On the economic front, the constructions of infrastructure such as oil roads have exacerbated the problem of Huaoranian people. For example, the oil road through Yasuni National park opens the area to ranchers, loggers, farmers and other land users which cause the ruin of the Amazon rainforest in their effort of making a living (Villacis, Casanoves, Hang, Keesstra, & Armas, 2016). Unfortunately, the Ecuador government supports the wanton destruction of environments as an attempt to mitigate pressure on the land elsewhere in the country.

Non-native institutions such as Maxus Oil Company have realized that the support of the indigenous people is critical in their oil drilling and extraction mission. Maxus tries to garner this support through the use of coercive means such as education and provision health care services in vain (Costa & Freitas, 2015). They resort to bribing of community leaders, offering employment opportunities to indigenous people as well as funding of political organization. The Ecuadorians introduce an integration policy which is meant to incorporate the Amazon region into national economy with money as the medium of exchange and assimilate the indigenous people to the dominant national culture. At the same time, oil boom also provide monetary resources to get involved in the remote area, supporting Ecuadorian military and bureaucracy.

On the social front, human rights groups in Houarani denounce calls from the Ecuadorian government of relinquishing traditional political functions to oil companies. I reckon that this dangerous decision by the Huaoranian people isolated them from other social groupings in the region. On the other hand, the Ecuadorian society continues to be multi-cultural, multi-ethic and promotes racial discrimination against the native people. Economic inequality is also evident; the indigenous people are extremely poor while the non-natives are wealthy.

On the racial front, the Ecuadorians are heard uttering discriminative statements, for example that the native people are backwards and dirty. Some indigenous people have to flee deep into the forest in response to the large influx of colonists and oil workers, thus cutting down the rainforest and scaring away the game. However, the majority of the native people remain behind and succumb to the national policies introduced by the colonists in order to foster assimilation and development. However, in this process, the indigenous people organize themselves into social groups whose ultimate purpose is to fight their common enemy, the immigrants and their way of life (Costa & Freitas, 2015). I strongly believe that the tactics of staying and learning played a great role in the process of civilizing.

Joe Kane depicts indigenous people as being increasingly endangered by the alteration in their social and natural environment caused by outsiders who invaded their lands accompanied by strange policies aimed at disparaging the culture and rationality of the native people. Mistrust between the indigenous and the non-native population is complicating the situation further. Regarding the environment, oil companies have destroyed thousands of acres of rainforest and polluted many rivers, which over time would cause climate change.

Why Non-Indigenous Society Considers the Huaorani Culturally Backward

Ecuadorians and other non-native people consider the Huaorani culturally backward for a number of reasons. First, the Huaorani are dependant only on the natural resources for their survival. Second, the native people lack the access to modern socio-economic facilities such as schools, hospitals and banking services, which the oil companies have introduced and now pride themselves in (Costa & Freitas, 2015). Third, the native people are considered by non-indigenous immigrants as culturally backwards because they lack a medium of exchange like currency; instead, the native people practice barter trade and communal ownership of property. Furthermore, the Huaorinians are regarded as primitive because there are no industries in the society which can provide manufactured products like sugar and gas (Schultz, 2013).

The reception of the new policies by the Huaoranian people is negative. The Huaoranian do not want to become civilized with the help of the outsiders, as they call the non-indigenous people such as the Ecuadorians and Americans (Schultz, 2013). To the indigenous people, civilization means that they will have to abandon their beliefs, culture, and most importantly, get lowered standards of living by accepting to join so-called the lowest economic and social levels of the Ecuadorian society.

Despite the glaring difference between the indigenous people who reside in the territory of Amazon rainforest and the non-native people, the groups have a number of similarities. For instance, both participate in trade as form of economic activity. Additionally, both groups have a political system in place; however, Ecuadorians and the U.S. citizens have more advanced system of governance compared to the native people. Most importantly, both the indigenous and the non-native people need one another for their survival.

In Savages, indigenous people are illustrated as being under risk of extinction due to the changes in their social and natural environment and strange policies aimed at belittling the beliefs of the native people. I firmly believe that there is still hope for the indigenous people who are slowly embracing modernization through language. Many of those who previously communicated using local dialect, now speak a foreign language, specifically Spanish (Schultz, 2013). Therefore, I reckon that when the indigenous people develop an interest in learning foreign languages, the socio-economic ties with Ecuadorians and other non-indigenous people will improve.

In conclusion, although the advent of the Ecuadorian people and other non-indigenous in the search for oil and other natural resources has negatively impacted the nature in Amazon rainforest, the positive side is that the invasion has opened the place to the world. As a result, modern infrastructures such as roads, schools, hospitals, and industries have been constructed here. However, these facilities pose environment challenges such as pollution and deforestation. Despite all the hardships which occurred after the advent of the Ecuadorian people as well as the U.S. citizens in Huoarani, the benefits of their invasion in general outweigh the disadvantages. However, there is a need for the invaders to play a proactive role in mitigating the climate change challenge. If they fail to do this, the climate change will not only affect the indigenous people but also the invaders themselves.

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