I receive many emails from the circle of researchers dealing with unreached people groups. In these emails I see something fairly often. Decisions are being made about the people group data from the research office where I believe that field data is needed to confirm that decision first. I have some experience with this as I work both in the office and in the field. I see both sides of the issue.
We should think hard when a people group is being considered for merging (being put into another existing people group) or being deleted altogether. Merging a people group is where most people groups go when you no longer find them on the people list. You might not find the Manchu people anymore as some are considering merging them into the Ha
There are a few things we can do.
1. Make the decision based on five or six opinions.
2. Or wait until we have better information from the field. We should simply leave the data alone.
Would it hurt to wait until we have better information? Even if better informaiton never came, is it really necessary to merge or delete people groups? It is safer for the people group that we leave their data alone. It is a great temptation to make decisions when we are looking at a table and we think to ourselves this is a duplicate or this is the same people group I will merge the information from one group into the other and delete the old field.
I have had this temptation many times over the past 14 years doing field research in a country with 300+ people groups. My team and I have been on many trips to people groups over the years so if anyone had the authority to merge or remove a suspected duplicate from the database it would be us. However we don’t do it. I have looked over the data from many other ministries and comparied it to ours and have had to add people groups that I had a very good idea were duplicates.
We need a system that gives the benefit of the doubt to the people group. Some systems give the benefit of the doubt to the system so that it will be clean and run smoothly. Ok there are backups incase we removed a real people group, but for now they are totally off the radar?
We are incorporating into Etnopedia a new section called, “Possible Distinct People Groups”
You can see here http://en.etnopedia.org/wiki/index.php/Benin
Possible Distinct Ethnic Peoples of Benin
Dahomey  The Dahomey has a link for someone to investigate.
Tofinu The water people.
Gun 1008130524 These two peoples are in our database so we put the Etnopedia people code on the side so someone can make a profile if they want to.
This section is located at the right of the country page so these peoples don’t get lost in the effort to have a clean database.
These links are red which means that a profile does not exist. We can leave them on the country page until field data confirms them at which time a profile can be made. In essence a record will be added to the database when a profile is created. Etnopedia is a database and each page or profile is a record.
Until a profile is made the name stays in the country page so that the people can be searched. We can actually have a complete global world people list without making profiles for all the reached peoples. They are named with a scale and date on the country pages. See: http://en.etnopedia.org/wiki/index.php/Angola All the reached peoples are here, searchable with a scale and date but they do not have profiles.
Researchers talk as though the databases are not perfect, yet are continually trying to make them so. The more I learn about the Wikipedia software the more I feel that they made this for the Mission Movement.
The other day I joined a conversation on the Internet with most of the prominent researchers of unreached peoples. It was amazing to me that their was discussion to develop an editable system that was neutral and in many languages so that people from all over could help out and get involved and take ownership. I sat silent as a few others mentioned Etnopedia as a solution.