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May 24, 2011

The Ka'apor : Production in the Brazilian Rainforest

Ka'apor reserve
I hopped out of our rental car. The sounds of the Amazon rainforest filled my ears, and as I looked down, next to my sandals huge red ants were streaming by. My Brazilian cameraman said, “I wouldn’t let those ants get too close. They’ll leave a mark.” I was back in the car, scrambling for something to cover my feet. We were on a dusty dirt road on the way to visit the Ka’apor tribe in the state of Maranhão in Brazil. Our team had been stuck in Belem for three days, trying to secure two trucks to take us on the pothole-filled roads that we would have to follow to reach their village. We had finally made the best of it with a couple of VW Gol economy cars. Now we were in the rainforest, and the road ahead was submerged under a few feet of water. Luckily we were a short hike away from our destination.

                       Sequence 1 Valdemar Yupara

It was an incredible privilege to visit the Ka’apor’s village and to interview many of the tribal members and include part of their story in the museum’s inaugural exhibition Our Peoples. Although there was no English spoken outside of our team, I was warmly welcomed by the community. I slept in a hammock outside under the trees, and it lightly rained every morning around 4am. During the day, we trekked with the Ka’apor into the heart of largest rainforest in the world to see where poachers had illegally removed valuable trees from the Ka’apor’s land. Loggers have been invading the land occupied by Amazon Natives since the 1990s, looking for highly valued wood such as mahogany, which is illegal to harvest in Brazil. Although the tribe did not wish to speak about it on camera for fear of retaliation, tribal members protesting increased mandates to log their forests have been shot and killed.

                        Sequence 1 Kids Walking in the forest

This video was produced in 2004, but the Ka’apor still have to struggle to protect the forest within their designated reserve. The English voice in this video is that of anthropologist Dr. William Balée, who traveled with the team and provided a wealth of knowledge about ethnobotany, the tribe’s lifeways, and the historical ecology of the area. Vincent Carelli, a documentary film director and editor and the founder and co-director of Vídeo nas Aldeias/Video in the Villages, was the cameraman for this project and I remain indebted to his skill in bringing this story to life.



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The Ka'apor have always been known as distinctive people. They engaged in a long and slow migration that took them by the 1870s in Pará across the Gurupi River into Maranhão.

Reading your post have brought some visions of another tribe of the world. Well thank you for posting this article. I believe it will enrich other's about the diversity of this world.

It is so sad that the deforestation is forcing so many people to leave their homes, having to move to the unknown. Hopefully, one day Brasil will be able to mitigate further losses in the rain forest.

I love to travel these places.these tribals are my research subject.
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Most woodworkers supply are from Brazil which in turn encroaches on these tribes. But I guess the use of more new materials in woodworking will help reduce deforestation.

Wow! I had no idea that they had to fight so hard. I knew most of the wood I work with comes from Brazil, but wow. I guess I'll have to start finding some renewable forest resources from now on. Great post.

What a shame. These greedy business men and loggers don't even think about the interest of other people and most importantly of nature that depends on the trees and other life forms in the forest. Guess, they will only learn their lesson after it's already too late. Sustainable development should be a priority like what they do in the east.

I was willed a very detailed life size wooden carving of a indian warrior or hunter from deep inside the brazilian rainforest. It was a six day hike on foot to get to this village to obtain this carving that was aquired by trading blankets and cloths.

Great post I must say. Simple but yet interesting and engaging. Keep up a good work!

wow great information

in my country forest today still keep but few area compare to 10years ago

A great story. Keep up the good work.

It is so sad that the deforestation is forcing so many people to leave their homes, having to move to the unknown. Hopefully, one day Brazil will be able to mitigate further losses in the rain forest.

Wood cutting at the rain forests for furnitures and papar manufactures should be banned and strick monitoring should be maintaines. Growing trees for these special purpose as a farming should be encouraged instead.

Useful information like this one must be kept and maintained so I will put this one on my twitter list!

The rain forest sounds like possibly the coolest vacation ever. If more people went, more people would appreciate. Great post!

thank you very useful article once brilliant idea

not mostly true.
in my country, there are some logging company who take social responsible regarding wood cutting. Renewable forest always become the main priority.

good work

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