InqScribe in the Amazon

We hear from InqScribe users on a regular basis, and the ways in which InqScribe is being used go far beyond our original expectations. Here’s one example.

Conrad Feather is an anthropologist “working with Amazonian indigenous peoples helping them to defend and protect their rainforests from illegal timber extraction and irresponsible oil and gas companies.” He wrote:

Much of the rights based work involves helping the communities affected monitor these impacts and communicate them to the Peruvian government and the press so that their lands and rights will be respected. As part of this work myself and my colleagues (we have formed a small organisation called Shinai, www.shinai.org.pe) take many testimonies with both video and audio equipment. Much of our work involves transcription as many of these peoples, especially the elders, only speak their own language and do not speak in Spanish, the national language of Peru. For some time we have been looking for a transcription software that enables us to do this effectively and most importantly is simple enough for indigenous peoples themselves to use in order to transcribe themselves. We came across InqScribe a few weeks ago and since then I have been trying it out in Lima with a young indigenous man from a remote community in the Southern Peruvian Amazon. It was his first time using a computer but within an hour he was using InqScribe with ease and facility and transcribing the words of his elders.

We weren’t surprised to find that Conrad was using InqScribe in his own antropological research. But the notion that Julio, a Nahua, was using InqScribe to capture his own elders’ oral histories was pretty exciting. We asked Conrad to tell us more about Julio.

Julio is 24 years old and lives in the village of Serjali, in one of the remotest corners of the Peruvian Amazon. In June 2006 he travelled seven day’s by dugout canoe, boat and bus to Lima, Peru’s capital city for the very first time. Until Julio was four years old he lived deep in the forest with his people the Nahua fiercely repelling the efforts of missionaries, oil companies and lumberworkers to contact them. They were represented as “primitive savages” which in turn was used to justify the attempts to pacify or exterminate them. They avoided all contact with outsiders until four Nahua were captured on a beach by lumberers.

This first contact turned the Nahua’s world upside down. Within 6 months over half had died from flu and pneumonia; diseases that they had never experienced before. The lumber workers exploited the Nahua’s sudden weakness to invade their territory to exploit its valuable mahogany. The Nahua were mocked and taunted for their appearance and so they cut their hair, shed their monkey teeth necklaces and earrings and put on t-shirts and shorts. Slowly they began to recover and rebuild their lives. Their lives had changed dramatically but they began to fight back. Finally in 2002 they succeeded in throwing off all loggers from their land. Until June, Julio had never even seen a computer but within an hour he was using InqScribe to transcribe and translate the stories of his parents and grandparents that he had recorded in his village. The Nahua have already begun to write their present, they are only now starting to rewrite their past.

To learn more about Julio, the Nahua, and Conrad’s work, be sure to visit the Shinai web site.

posted July 28, 2006 by eric

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