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Darrell Posey 1947-2001

Darrell Posey


Darrell Posey, an anthropologist who rose above scholarly detachment to advocate intellectual property rights for indigenous peoples’ traditions, died March 6, 2001, at the age of 53.

Born and raised in rural Kentucky, he earned degrees in entomology, geography, and anthropology. His doctoral thesis fieldwork carried him to central Brazil to study ethnoentomology of the Kayapó Indians. Immersed in their rich culture, Posey ultimately joined their fight to protect their homes and environment. In 1987, he and two Kayapó leaders traveled to New York City to convince the World Bank not to fund a Xingu River hydroelectric project, which would have flooded a large area of indigenous villages and surrounding lands. Posey carried this successful effort further by hosting the First International Congress of Ethnobiology in July 1988 at Belém, Brazil. Thanks to his efforts, the congress resulted in the Declaration of Belém, which called for protection of native knowledge, use, and management of biological resources, as well as the human rights of native peoples. In 1989, he founded the International Society for Ethnobiology; and in 1992, became Special Advisor to the Brazilian Special Secretary on Internal Affairs and Indigenous Peoples, the same year he was Convenor and President of the Earth Parliament during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

While criticized by colleagues who disapproved of his advocacy efforts, Posey simply could not stand aside to watch the world of the rainforest peoples destroyed by logging, dams, and fire. He proposed that the biodiversity of the rainforests has been augmented over the millenia by the indigenous peoples’ management, a controversial proposal that remains unresolved.

He authored or co-authored three books (two more in press at the time of his death), edited or co-edited four others (three more in press when he died), wrote 120 articles, chapters and book reviews, assisted in 15 documentary films and videos. Among many awards, he received the Chico Mendes Award from the International Sierra Club and the Global 500 Award from the United Nations, and was elected Fellow of the Linnean Society. He became associated with Oxford University, among others, where he was coordinating a program at its Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology.

He did not marry, and is survived by his parents and brother.

—Karen Robin, ABC

[Anon. Darrell Posey: Anthropologist who gave up scholarly detachment to fight for the rights of native peoples The Times <,,60-107647,00.html>

Girardet H. Darrell Posey: Anthropologist who championed the rights of Amazonian tribes. The Guardian. <,4273,4162085,00.html>

Note: another tribute to Dr. Posey may be found in the Journal of Ethnobiology. 2000 Winter; 20(2).]