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The Kayapo


*Displayed in First World Exhibition*

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At the heart of the Amazon rainforest, in the Brazilian state of Para, Chief Raoni tells us the story of his people, the Kayapo:

"In the beginning, we lived in the sky. One day, a hunter followed a wild boar all the way to its den and called the other men. They looked into the hole and down below they saw a beautiful forest with abundant game. They decided to go there, so they put together a ball of ropes tied up and threw it down from the sky. Then, one after the other, my ancestors climbed down the rope and settled here on earth. Back then, we lived far away from here where the sun rises.

Kayapo Headress

The famous Kayapo headdress made of macaw feathers.

There was no night like we have now. We went hunting and fishing and slept in the daytime. There was only today. Tomorrow and yesterday did not exist. We didn't even know how to make a fire. A jaguar man taught us how."

For many centuries, the Kayapo were considered as the most dangerous natives of the Amazon. They killed all lumberjacks, gold diggers and rubber-tree latex gatherers who dared to venture onto their territory. Every effort was made to try and exterminate the Kayapo. Blankets infected with smallpox were even thrown out of planes with the intention of contaminating them.

Kayapo Spear

Kayapo Spear

Today, thanks to the work accomplished by Raoni, their Supreme chief, the Kayapo have managed to survive and to keep their immense territory, the largest indigenous reservation in all of Brazil. They do their best to keep up their traditions and customs.

This achievement is unfortunately a rare such success in the First World.

Raoni was about 20 years old when he first saw a man on horseback. "How strange," he thought, "white men have four legs and two heads."

Kayapo Necklace

Kayapo Necklace

Raoni has now become one of the world's most famous Native American chiefs. Two hundred generations separate the Stone Age from the Space Age. Chief Raoni bridged this amazing gap during his lifetime. For now, the Kayapo are the masters of their land and of their fate, but illegal invasions continue to happen and the forest still burns up around their reservation. Soon, alas, their land will be a lone green island amidst a devastated Amazonian landscape.