December 26, 1998

Brazilian Indian tribe welcomes information age, within limits

                  ANGRA DOS REIS, Brazil (AP) -- Tribal elders decreed a "day of joy" to
                  welcome the village's new arrival. Guarani boys in face paint and loincloths
                  danced to the music of a homemade fiddle played with a tree branch.                  

                  The celebration was for the long-awaited coming of the "ayu ryrurive," a
                  Guarani term roughly meaning "box for accumulating language" -- that is, a computer.

                  "We have been hearing about computers for a while," said Luiz Eusebio, an
                  assistant chief at the Sapukai (sah-poo-kah-EE) village. "We thought we
                  need to learn about them because we need to have more knowledge about

                  Their ticket to the information age came recently from the Committee for the
                  Democratization of Information, a private group that provides computers
                  and training to poor communities, mostly the hillside slums of Rio de Janeiro.

                  But it seemed unlikely computers would come to the 400 Guaranis of
                  Sapukai, a 5,200-acre community tucked among lush green mountains along
                  the coastal highway 100 miles west of Rio.

                  For one thing, the village had no electricity.

                  "I always dreamed of bringing computers to an Indian reservation, but I
                  didn't know how," Rodrigo Baggio, the group's president, said while he
                  pulled cables from the back of his car to install four personal computers at
                  the village's Federal Indian Bureau post.

                  Most of Brazil's 300,000 Indians live in the remote Amazon, too far for
                  Baggio's group to travel. But the Guarani were close enough to bring in a
                  gasoline-powered generator to run the computers.

                  With the help of the Indian Bureau and the Indigenous Missionary Council,
                   which has ties to the Roman Catholic Church, Baggio set out to install computers
                   and provide training for the village's five teachers.

                   The first step was having teacher Ernesto da Silva come to Rio for a week of

                   "It's like anything else. At first it's hard, and then you get used to it," said da Silva,
                   beaming proudly before a drawing of the village's school he made using a computer.

                   Baggio's goal is to provide job training for poor communities and help them organize.

                  But at Sapukai, no one expressed any interest in the idea of working outside
                  the reservation. The tribe plans to use the computers mainly to keep health
                  records, develop educational materials and build a database of Guarani
                  history, myths and traditions.

                  Besides, they can afford only enough gasoline to run the generator for a
                  couple of hours twice a week. Baggio said he hopes to bring solar power to
                  Sapukai, if he can raise the money.

                  But despite some concessions to Western culture -- shorts, T-shirts, plastic
                  sandals, metal pots and even a little Portuguese -- the tribe's leaders are
                  wary about the impact computers might have on their lives.

                  "If we use the computer more than twice a week, we won't have time to
                  plant. And if we don't plant, we starve," said Eusebio, the assistant chief.
                  "We also know if we turn them off they will just sit there. It's not like they
                  can run around the village causing trouble."

                     Copyright 1998   The Associated Press.