By Dr. Susannah McCandless GDF North America Director / GEN Advisor
A new co-authored book, titled Nï jotï aiye: jkyo jkwainï (Jotï Community Book: History, Territory and Life) has been newly released. It offers loving evidence of these Indigenous communities’ commitment to conserving their ecological and cultural knowledge and wellbeing. It also reaffirms project leaders Egleé and Stanford’s long-time partnership with the Jotï.
The book’s contents connect strongly to the themes of our project, because they focus on the Jotï’s desire to record their ecological knowledge, and elements of their theory of health.The latter integrates physical, ethical and spiritual health, seen as a state of being. In Jotï, Project Leader Egleé told me, beauty, goodness and health are captured by a single concept, jtï (jau, in the feminine and ja, in the masculine). When you have a harmonious connection with other beings and the rest of the universe that surrounds you, these animals, plants, and other beings care for you if you care for them. Health depends on this strong notion of reciprocity and solidarity. Writing today, I realize that all who have contributed to the No one should die of malaria today project have helped to extend that wellbeing based in solidarity.
To create this 530-page tome, Egleé coded information from 20 years of fieldwork data collected together with her husband, Stanford, to draft the manuscript. She took a draft of the first chapter to the community. She shares, “to set the context, I had put quotes containing impressions from some of the other Indigenous groups, anthropologists and explorers who first encountered the Jotï, between 1968 and 1970, and the North American missionaries who followed them.”
The community rejected it out of hand. “We are not interested in what other people who saw us said about us,” they told her. “We are interested in what we said about ourselves, our own testimonies, especially those of our elders who have passed on.” Community members annotated, criticized, and edited the text. When she had readied the final draft, it was brought before a 500-person assembly, which approved the manuscript. The Ian Andrew Porter Foundation is supporting the publication of the book, under the auspices of the medical NGO Acaté.
In project health news, the very last of the mosquito nets have reached families’ hammocks, not only in the three principal communities, but in the tiny hamlets shown on the map, below—communities as small as 9 persons. Jkali, an Indigenous Jotï health promoter whom Egleé has known since he was a toddler, works with the community health project led by Doctor Oscar. Jkali made the final net deliveries, by canoe and on foot, at the end of August. He used the communities’ networks to organize rendezvous at pick-up points for the most remote families.
“We continue to try to help key medicines to reach the community, even while we are at a distance,” says Egleé. Over the last several months, it has been difficult to deliver additional donations of antimalarial medicines. There’s been effectively no way to fly them to communities, due to restrictions on jet fuel. The pilot Enrique, who helped Egleé, only makes trips to support medical or scientific projects, in his work with the NGO Alas para la Salud (Wings for Health). But all the pilots who are committed to supporting Venezuelan Indigenous communities have been grounded since just a few weeks after Egleé delivered nets and supplies in February 2019. The only available flights are with pilots who are not committed to biological and cultural conservation, or to the wellbeing of Indigenous communities. Instead, they work for illegal mining operations.
Despite these barriers, we have just been able to successfully send a small quantity of project funds for the purchase of some medications that recently became available in Venezuela. Gerardo, the director of the community school, is currently in the city of Bolivar. He was able to speak by radio to Ijtë, also known as Gustavo, who is the health coordinator of the community clinic. A certified nurse, Ijtë was very pleased to learn that the needed medication had been purchased and would shortly arrive.
In December or January, it appears that there may be another opportunity to deliver additional waiting medicines and supplies. We will keep you updated!
This article was first submitted as a report for the No one should die of malaria today campaign on GlobalGiving.