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WMA, So Cool team up for fundraiser to support Xavante

Date: 11/26/2013

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM – Continuing in its efforts to support the Xavante Indians of Brazil, Wilbraham & Monson Academy (WMA) recently hosted a fundraiser with a “So Cool” shopping event in the lobby of Rich Hall.

During the fundraiser, students had the opportunity to purchase watches, necklaces, bracelets, earrings scarfs and hats, with proceeds going to help Associate Head of School and Dean of Students Brian Easler provide the tribe with cattle it needs to survive.

WMA has sponsored four trips for students with Easler as their leader to Brazil to experience its native cultures, including that of the Xavante, who were driven from their homeland of Mato Grosso during rapid colonization in the 1960s and 1970s.

“One of the tribes we visit is protected, and their culture is pretty intact and they’ve been able to sustain themselves because they’ve never been infringed upon,” Easler explained. “The other tribe, the Xavante, were treated very much like Native Americans in this country.”

The Xavante were dispersed to various missions where many died of disease. They were returned to the land approximately 10 years ago, but have faced grave obstacles while fighting for survival.

“The land has been deforested, so there’s no animals, no fish, no natural resources,” Easler said, explaining that when he asked what the school could bring as a goodwill offering to the Xavante, he was informed that cattle was much needed because the land was only good for grazing.

In order for the Xavante to become a self-sustaining community again, it must develop a herd of cattle with a population of roughly 750.

“With 750, they could kill a couple of cows a month and the herd could sustain itself and maybe even grow,” he said. “Right now, there’s somewhere around 450 [cows].”

Easler said in previous trips, the school has provided 19 cows and by the time he leads his next South American venture, he hopes to be able to give the Xavante an additional 10.

The selection of the cows is an involved process, he added. The Xavante, he explained, have agreed not to kill any of the animals they currently have until the herd has reached that population target of 750, so the school usually provides an older cow that can be slaughtered to feed the village upon their arrival. Meanwhile, the rest are heifers, or female cows that have yet to give birth, which are critical to increasing the herd’s numbers.

Easler called the experience the students get from visiting the Xavante “transformational.”

“We can teach the kids about colonization and what happened with the indigenous people in this country, but they won’t really know it in the way they’ll know it when they see it happening,” he said.

Seeing the way some students were inspired has motivated others in the WMA community to do their part to pitch in, including Deans Office Assistant Cindy Shults, who put together the latest fundraiser.

While So Cool’s sales normally follow the format of a jewelry party or similar function in which the host receives a portion of the sales, three years ago Shults arranged with the company to donate the host’s share to the school’s cattle fund.

Easler said he was appreciative of Shults’ work in putting the sale together, calling it a major part of the fundraising efforts.

Shults said the plan was to host two additional sales prior to Easler’s next trip.

“We’re hoping to do one now, one maybe in the spring, and one next year and they’ll be good to go,” she said.