Peaceful Societies

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News and Reviews

August 14, 2014. San Hunters Versus Botswana

A high court in Botswana dismissed a case the government had brought against four San men accused of hunting in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The men, some of whom may have been G/wi, escaped a possible penalty of up to five years in prison.

San children in the KalahariAccording to a report by Innocent Tshukudu published on August 5 in The Voice, a Botswana newspaper, the men supposedly had been seen personally by President Ian Khama in April 2012 while he was flying in his airplane over the CKGR. The president was on a hunting trip. Mongwegi Gaoberekwe, Mohame Belesa, Thoama Tsenene and Dipuisano Mongwegi were apprehended by police, who confiscated their personal possessions: bows and arrows, spears, and livestock.

The men said that they were unaware that it was illegal to hunt on their land—they were just trying to feed their families. They were represented in court by attorney Monamo Aobakwe of Duma Boko and Company. That Botswana law firm has been representing the San in their conflicts with the government since the English attorney Gordon Bennett, who had won several earlier favorable decisions against the government, was barred from the country just over a year ago.

Mr. Bennett had represented the San people in a major victory in the Botswana courts in 2006, which overturned the government’s earlier attempt to force the people completely out of their historic lands in the Kalahari Desert, where they have lived for millennia. Despite that court ruling—that the San people must be allowed to live and hunt in the CKGR—the government, under President Khama, imposed a complete ban on their hunting as of January this year.

His government’s policy does permit, however, hunting at private game reserves that are patronized by wealthy trophy hunters. Police and wildlife agents have intimidated and arrested scores of San hunters and, according to the reporter, it has imposed a “shoot-to-kill” policy against suspected poachers.

Survival International, a major human rights NGO headquartered in London, also reported the court victory. SI has consistently supported the San people in their ongoing struggles against the various repressive measures taken by the government of Botswana. The organization quoted Attorney Monamo Aobakwe as saying that his clients “are all overjoyed at the ruling.” He went on to express appreciation to SI for their continuing, essential help in trying to secure freedom and justice for the G/wi and the other San people.

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August 14, 2014. Conflict Resolution and Gender Equality in Lepcha Society [book review]

The Lepchas, like most of the peaceful societies, are frequently stressed by changing cultural, social and economic forces, some of which affect their patterns of nonviolence. Anita Sharma published a book last year that seeks to enrich our understanding of, and appreciation for, those changes in Lepcha society. A major goal of her work is to update the classic ethnography by Geoffrey Gorer, Himalayan Village, which was based on his three months of field research there in 1937.

Anita Sharma, The Lepchas of Dzongu Region in SikkimSharma did her field research in the Dzongu Reserve in northern Sikkim, the heartland of Lepcha country, from September through November 2003. One major topic she reviews is their traditional approaches to resolving conflicts, and the ways they handle disputes today.

Traditionally, quarrels that erupted for no clear reason were considered to be the work of evil spirits. Gorer described how they held elaborate annual rituals in monasteries where they would exorcise those spirits from their communities. The rituals sought to destroy the spirits of enmity of speech, enmity of thought, and enmity of action. However, those rituals are no longer being performed in Dzongu.

In the past, on a practical level, a village official called a Gyapon would use all his wiles to resolve conflicts. If his tact did not work, he might order the parties to a dispute to prepare chi and get ready to spend huge amounts of money. He might threaten to impose large fines on them, naming sums of money far beyond their resources in an attempt to scare them into settling their issues. If the offenders were sufficiently frightened at that prospect, he would soften, settle for smaller amounts, and after they paid those fines, they could all eat and drink together.

Today, however, conflicts that cannot be settled within families or the larger patrilineal groupings are referred to ad hoc groups of village elders who attempt to resolve them. Only rarely is the local conflict resolution so unsuccessful that a dispute has to be referred to the next larger government level, the panchayat.

When a dispute is in fact referred to a panchayat, its members will take it seriously, investigate the intricacies of the issues, and reach solutions. It would be a stain on the community for the problem to have to be referred up to the next higher level of government, the court in Mangan, which is the administrative center of Dzongu.

Theft and crime, Sharma found, are rare in Dzongu, though petty thievery, such as stealing raincoats, umbrellas, and slippers, is increasing. In the remote villages, people rarely lock their doors. Theft remains an alien aspect of life. Lying—perjury—is considered to be a very serious crime, one which casts a permanent stain on a family’s reputation.

Another Lepcha issue that the author reviews carefully is changing gender relationships. Sharma finds that the status of women has declined somewhat since Gorer’s time, most likely due to the influence of Hindu beliefs and practices from the rest of India. But women in Lepcha society still are highly valued. Men and women are paid equally when they work together in communal work parties, though while men are permitted to perform any of the work projects that women do, women will never do the ploughing instead of a man.

While a woman is normally not the head of a family, within the nuclear family, men and women share in making decisions and are considered to be generally equal. Overall, though, women now have subordinate positions in their society compared to men. Nonetheless, the author maintains, women lead a “reasonably democratic existence (p.77)” as they continue to participate in many decisions about economic and social issues in their homes and communities.

Women are religiously prohibited from sacrificing animals, but for Lepchas who still follow the traditional Bon religion, the female Mon (the priestess) has more status and power than the male priest, the Bongthing. Traditionally, the birth of a boy baby prompted the family to sacrifice a pig, goat, or ox, but not the birth of a girl.

In former times, the Lepchas had a casual attitude toward female family members having sex. Presuming an unmarried girl did not get pregnant, the male members of her family didn’t pay much attention to her liaisons—they exhibited little if any jealousy. Things are different today. People are now much more restricted in talking about sex than they once were, and mothers feel a need to control the sexual activities of their daughters. However, Sharma writes, “Lepcha women assert their independence within their domain and do not seem to take kindly to overbearing male dominance (p.80).”

At the present time, people in Dzongu emphasize monogamy more than they used to. Also, marriages of very young girls are much less common now than they were in the past, and instead of the traditional negotiations and arrangements between families, young adults often elope. The economic costs for couples who do elect to have traditional marriages are also now reduced. The popular media prompt many Lepchas to be ashamed of their traditional social conventions.

In sum, Gorer described women as often being more self-assured than men. This status—of comparable worth—has been replaced, at least to some extent, by a Hindu-inspired social order in which men are viewed as having superior power and social standing, Sharma argues.

The Lepchas define themselves not as individuals but as members of a group. They rarely dramatize or show their emotions. They gain approval from their peers through passive behavior rather than self-assertion, which helps dampen manifestations of aggression or competition.

Sharma adds that the Lepchas are well known for their truthfulness and mildness. They are also known for not exhibiting strong emotions. They respect the needs of others for privacy and personal space. They are normally a very patient people—they frequently chastised the author if she seemed to be in too much of a hurry.

She concludes that, despite the changes in Lepcha society, they retain their egalitarian beliefs. She writes that “it would not be out of line to add that their intrinsic principles of simplicity, equality, joy and hospitality have been largely retained (p.76-77).”

Sharma, Anita. 2013. The Lepchas of Dzongu Region in Sikkim: A Narrative of Cultural Heritage and Folklore. New Delhi: The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and Aryan Books International

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Older News and Reviews

News and reviews of publications relating to peaceful societies—and sometimes to related topics—are normally posted here on Thursday mornings (U.S. time) and are kept on this page for one week. Older news and reviews for 2014 are listed below, and ones from previous years are listed on the News and Reviews 2004-2005 page, the 2006 page, the 2007 page, the 2008 page, the 2009 page, the 2010 page, the 2011 page, the 2012 page and the 2013 page. All stories are also included in the News and Reviews Subject Listing. Recent ones are listed at the bottom of each society entry in the Encyclopedia of Selected Peaceful Societies, after the heading: Updates: News and Reviews. News and reviews about peacefulness in general are referred to from the bottom of the Facts page, while news stories about this website are linked from the About This Website page. News and Reviews can also be found with the Google search bar.

August 2014

August 7, 2014. Amish Self Concepts—Prisoners Relate their Experiences

August 7, 2014. Inuit Self Concepts—Are They Satisfied with Life? [journal article review]

July 2014

July 31, 2014. Conviction for Corruption Upheld against Flosse

July 31, 2014. Uses and Customs in Oaxaca (online magazine article review)

July 24, 2014. Schooling for the Semai

July 24, 2014. Political, Religious, and Community Tensions in Ladakh (journal article review)

July 17, 2014. Rural Thai Children Threatened by Absence of Parents

July 17, 2014. Official Concern for Birhor Wanes

July 10, 2014. Police Remove Yanadi before Modi Visit

July 10, 2014. Children Learn to Be Peaceful the Batek Way [anthology chapter review]

July 3, 2014. Amish Volunteerism

July 3, 2014. Birthday Wishes for Glenn Paige

June 2014

June 26, 2014. Atlas of Inuit Trails

June 26, 2014. The Challenges of Lepcha Identity [journal article review]

June 19, 2014. Nubians Waiting for Fair Treatment

June 19, 2014. Homeless Fipa Children

June 12, 2014. Huarime Festival in a Piaroa Community

June 12, 2014. Soups and Such from Hutterite Kitchens

June 5, 2014. Zapotec Affected by Wind Project

June 5, 2014. Reports of Violence in Thai High Schools [journal article review]

May 2014

May 29, 2014. The Birhor and the Bees

May 29, 2014. Traditional Ways on Huahine

May 22, 2014. Lancaster County Amish Consider Leaving

May 22, 2014. Rat Hunting Holiday on Tristan

May 15, 2014. Ladakh Makes the Effort to Vote

May 15, 2014. A Visitor on Ifaluk

May 8, 2014. Yanadi Abandon Traditions, Modernize

May 8, 2014. Inuit Sale of Game Meat Questioned—and Defended

May 1, 2014. Paliyans Proud to Vote

May 1, 2014. A San Complains about Rotten Treatment

April 2014

April 24, 2014. Birhor Boycott National Elections

April 24, 2014. Kadar Boycott National Elections

April 17, 2014. Hutterite Colony in Japan

April 17, 2014. Raging Violence, Nubians Versus Arabs

April 10, 2014. Paliyans Exploited in Tamil Nadu

April 10, 2014. Storytelling Preserves Traditions of the Lepchas

March 2014

March 27, 2014. Presentation on Tristan Coming to Toronto Area Library

March 27, 2014. Philippine Conference Promotes Indigenous Languages

March 20, 2014. Proposed Port Threatens Yanadi Villages

March 20, 2014. A Jewish Scholar Visits an Amish Family

March 13, 2014. Seminar Presentation on Rural Thai Culture

March 13, 2014. Ladakh Political Status Challenged

March 6, 2014. Inuit Languages Celebrated

March 6, 2014. Rules for Maintaining a Peaceful Society [journal article review]

February 2014

February 27, 2014. Zapotec Linguistics Analysis

February 27, 2014. Schooling for the Lepchas

February 20, 2014. Endangered Species and the San

February 20, 2014. Drive-by Horse Shooting

February 13, 2014. Nubians Recognized in Egyptian Constitution

February 13, 2014. Inuit Sex Trafficking

February 6, 2014. The Semai of Pos Betau

February 6, 2014. New Dictionary for Ju/’hoansi Children

January 2014

January 30, 2014. Preserving Lepcha Culture

January 30, 2014. Rural Thai Culture of Rice Farming

January 23, 2014. Hutterite Colony School Burns Down

January 23, 2014. Batek Suffering from Logging

January 16, 2014. The Tamaraw and the Buid

January 16, 2014. G/wi are Being “Treated Like Dogs”

January 9, 2014. Central California Zapotec Festival

January 9, 2014. Birhor Poverty Finds Relief in a Picnic

January 2, 2014. A Semai Christmas

January 2, 2014. Nubian Recognition in New Egyptian Constitution

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