A series aired on the BBC has been accused of faking scenes to portray an Amazonian tribe as ‘sex obsessed savages.’ This is racist and dangerous, argues Stephen Corry.
Stephen Corry (b. 1951, Malaya) was projects director of Survival International from 1972, and has been its director general since 1984. He has worked with tribal peoples in the Indian subcontinent, Africa and, particularly, western South America, mainly Amazonia. In the 1970s, he promoted 'self-determination' in the debate about indigenous peoples which was then largely polarised around the poles of 'assimilation' or 'preservation'.
In the 1980s, he pushed to popularise tribal peoples' issues. In the 1990s, he led the opposition to ideas such as the 'rainforest harvest', which threatened to confuse economic issues with human rights. He was involved in the campaign to defend the land rights of the 'Bushmen' of Botswana, a country where he has been (wrongly) described as 'public enemy number one'. His work now is centred around building a groundswell of support for tribal peoples, significant enough both to endure for decades and permanently change the false and harmful assertion that they are backward remnants, destined to disappear.