The Amazon's People: Among Brazil's Rain Forest Tribes

By Downey, Mark | The World and I, July 1998 | Go to article overview

The Amazon's People: Among Brazil's Rain Forest Tribes


Downey, Mark, The World and I


Due to the vastness of the Amazonian rain forest, many tribes had not encountered people from the outside world until well into the twentieth century. The fearsome Yanomami, for example, were not "discovered" until 1965, when they confronted workers building a highway through their territory.

The Yanomami live in northwestern Brazil and southern Venezuela. They are estimated to number between 20,000 and 25,000 and form but one group among roughly 200,000 indigenous people who inhabit villages in the rain forests surrounding the Amazon River.

Like other Native American groups, the Amazonian Indians are believed to be descended from migratory Asian people who crossed the Bering Strait into North America--on a land bridge that once connected the two continents--some 35,000 years ago. Descendants--of these people reached and settled in Amazonian about 15,000 years ago.

A smaller group is the Satere Maue. Their population, estimated to be about 8,000 at most is scattered over a region encompassing seven rivers in western Brazil. They live south of the Amazon and westward of the states of Amazonas and Para. These people hunt with bows and arrows, spears, and blowguns; their darts are often coated with a paralyzing poison. Their diet includes alligator, monkey, and piranha. The Satere Maue also cultivate small plots of land near their villages crops like manioc (cassava roots) and bananas. …

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