Indigenous Calendar April, 2016: A Brief History of Shifting Allegiances

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Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the policies of The Peoples of the World Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the author and photographer is Dr. Ray Waddington.

Attending a local festival is one of the best ways to experience any people's traditions. Whenever I have the chance to attend a cultural festival, I always try to. Many years ago I was in the Brazilian Amazon Basin. I was based in Manaus and locals there had told me about an annual, folkloric festival in a very small town a few hours away, Manacapuru. Called Festival de Ciranda, I was skeptical when they told me that it is staged on an impressive scale; but I decided to go there anyway.

Recent news stories are related to this month's photo — when they are understood in the correct context. The story of our journey out of Africa, which began tens of thousands of years ago, includes many allegiances. These were allegiances among families, clans, tribes, rulers and kings and queens. Most were formed in pre-historic times, so we can only speculate about who formed allegiances with whom, where, when and why. We can be certain, though, that such allegiances were formed as people competed for dominance, feared death, became convinced that others were weaker, observed the changing fortunes of wars and so on.

Over the past year we have seen shifting allegiances at work in some of the most horrific conflicts of modern times. Last Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen. The near-term future for that conflict does not look promising. Although further peace talks are due to start in two weeks, we only have to go back a few days to realize how difficult they will be. Peace talks have been taking place between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for about four years. March 23, 2016 was the deadline; it was missed. Although the negotiations will continue, it could be months or even years before agreement is reached. Even then it will take at least a generation to recover from the FARC's and the government's half-century of atrocities. It is not difficult to predict that the situation in Yemen could very well follow a similar path.

Four years is also the age of the civil war in Syria. Allegiances have shifted both there and within Europe because of the refugee crisis it has created. Neither the war nor the refugee crisis seems to be anywhere close to resolution.

The story of European colonization is also rich in allegiances. European colonization of the Americas might have ultimately been just as successful, but without taking advantage of shifting patterns of indigenous peoples' allegiances it would not have been as rapid. Festival de Ciranda is in part a celebration of the allegiances among Amazonian peoples that have existed for thousands of years. This photo was taken during a scene that captured this celebration. It is a very impressive festival and my initial skepticism vanished within minutes.

Allegiance in its most basic form is a property of all social animals, not just humans. We should expect allegiances to come and go for a very long time — unless our allegiances destroy us first.

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