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The Poturu also known as ZoƩ


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In the state of Para, Northern Brazil, in one of the last still largely unexplored rainforests in the world, a new tribe, the Zoe, was recently contacted. They live between the Amazon River and the country of Surinam. The Zoe are part of the tupi linguistic group. Little is known about them. They are semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers. Their favorite prey is monkey, which is plentiful in the region. The Zoe's hunting grounds cover an area of over one million acres. In such immensity, they don't have a notion of territory. The Zoe say that land belongs to no one. Their sense of property applies only to their hunting trails. When they kill a monkey with young babies, they bring them back to the village, where they are treated like family pets; they are even given their own hammocks and they never get eaten.


"All Zoe wear the poturu, a wooden plug piercing the bottom lip. They don't know where this custom comes from. It has always been this way, the poturu distinguishes us from all other tribes."

From the age of six, both boys and girls wear the poturu. Small at first, it reaches up to seven inches at adult age. The Zoe have large plantations near the villages where they cultivate manioc, bananas, sweet potatoes and urucum.

Monkey Skull Spoon

Monkey Skull Spoon

The seeds of this prickly fruit are crushed to produce a red dye, highly prized by the Zoe, who cover their bodies with it. It is also used to dye wild cotton before spinning. Fire is never put out in a Zoe village and it seems that it has been passed on from generation to generation since the dawn of mankind.

Poturu Mangle

Poturu Mangle

The women are familiar with abortive herbs and they regulate their pregnancies, usually having a baby every three years. Newborns with birth defects are buried before their first cry because they could bring bad luck and endanger the survival of the group. Children live enchanted lives in this Garden of Eden.

Parents avoid any patronizing in order for children to learn fast enough to fend for themselves. They never get punished, except of very rare occasions, when they get scratched with a fish bone to rid them of their bad blood.

The Zoe are unaware of their land rights and human rights. They don't even know that they are Brazilians. Contacts with our society are always harmful to Native Americans. Each object introduced to them is another nail in their coffin. It triggers new needs and selfish behavior. They soon contract new diseases and develop greed for the timber or gold on their land.

Protecting them is the responsibility of the Brazilian government and of each one of us. Otherwise the Zoe will disappear, like hundreds of other native tribes since Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas.