Brazilian Indians

The small river is a center of life in the village of Hotopku.  It is used not only as drinking water and for cooking with, but also provides for a refreshing cleanse at day's end. Photo Gerd Ludwig

The small river is a center of life in the village of Hotopku. It is used not only as drinking water and for cooking with, but also provides for a refreshing cleanse at day's end. Photo by Gerd Ludwig

In the mid-1980’s reports of the increasing destruction of the Amazon Rain Forest alarmed people around the world. In 1992, following an initiative by the German government, the leading industrial nations initiated PP-G7, a pilot program to conserve 160 territories of the Brazilian Rain Forest, enabling tribes to mark and preserve their own territories. In return, the Brazilian government agreed to prohibit non-indigenous people from entering without a special permit, keeping out loggers, gold-diggers, and any enterprises that destroy and deplete the rainforest. As Indian tribes traditionally harvest and use only what is necessary for their survival, they thereby preserve the rainforest’s biodiversity. Among the 160 Brazilian Rain Forest territories are three tribes at different stages of adaptation to Western lifestyles.

The Waiapi reservation, located in Northeast Amazonia, is inhabited by 400 people and stretches across 6,070 square kilometers. Prior to the effect of the PP-G7, survival of the Waiapi Indians was threatened and they were deprived of all rights. With the security of the program, they have now become the guardians of their own reservation and are able to adapt to Western influences at their own pace. The Wapixana (also known as Uapixana, Vapidiana, Wapisiana and Wapishana) in the Brazilian state of Roraima have always been exposed to European influence mainly because they have traditionally lived very close to the main rivers. Because they tend to be submissive, their prolonged relations with the whites meant that they lost much of their own character. They hunt collectively and tend to farm for personal consumption.

Historically, the Munduruku (alternative names: Mundurucu, Weidyenye, Paiquize, Pari, Caras-Pretas) are a people with a warrior tradition. They culturally dominated the region of the Valley of the Tapaj’s River, which during the 19th century was known as Munduruk’nia. They still live mostly by hunting, fishing, gathering and agriculture, but their lifestyle is threatened by the construction of a great waterway on the central Brazilian rivers, such as the Rio Canuma.

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