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Amazon Communities of Brazil

When we think of wild and pristine destinations, the Brazilian Amazon is usually among the 1st locations that spring to mind.

This fertile and lash swath of rainforest is a distinctive world of its own: a destination filled with rare flora and fauna as well as 240+ indigenous groups still living according to the ways of their ancestors. Some of their human settlements across the Jungle date back to about 11,000 years ago.

These groups also produce pottery, clear small sections of the forest for agriculture, and manage the wilderness to optimize the distribution of useful species throughout the rainforest.

Before the 16th Century, most native tribes in the Brazilian Amazon lived along Whitewater Rivers, where they had fertile floodplain soils for agriculture, excellent fishing spots, and good means of transportation.

However, when the Europeans arrived, they were the first to be affected because Europeans used the same rivers as highways into the interior.

Nowadays, most of the remaining groups live in the interior of the rainforest, either pushed there by invaders or conventionally living there in small groups.

Without further delay, let us look at the main indigenous groups you’ll find in the Amazon of Brazil.

Tikuna

With more than 40,000 people, this is the largest Amazonian tribe in Brazil today. They are indigenously from the Brazilian Amazon. But over the years, some of them have bled over the borders into Peru and Colombia.

Unfortunately, like most indigenous groups in the rainforest who have come into contact with settlers, the Tikuna community has suffered displacement, violence, and slavery.

The tribe is well known for being overly artistic, painting for pleasure, and its ability to make beautiful masks, baskets, crafts, and statues.

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Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau

The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau (also known as the Jupau Indigenous people) were first officially contacted 40 years ago in Rondonia, Brazil. Today, the tribe consists of approximately 400 people, most of them young (13-35) because most elders did not survive contact with non-native intruders.

Locally, the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau tribe is known for its production of cassava flour, which is highly sought-after by locals from towns surrounding the indigenous territory of Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau.

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The Awa

Most people from the Awa tribe still live un-contacted in the rainforest and hunt with 6-foot longbows. Their arrows fly high and silent through the forest’s canopy, allowing them to make several shots before animals are alerted of the hunters’ presence.

Other settled Awa tribesmen have managed to confiscate shotguns from poachers, and have become skillful snipers. But all hunters still have their nicely crafted bows and sets of arrows to act as replacements when their ammunition runs out.

Better yet, the Awa know their territory by heart. Every trail, stream, and valley is inscribed in their minds. They all know which trees of the rainforest are coming to fruition, where to find the best honey, and when the wildlife is ready to be hunted.

To them, the forest is perfection.

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Korubo Indians

Korubo Indians are the most recently contacted Amazonian tribe in Brazil, and they live in the regions surrounding the convergence of the Itui and Itaquai rivers in the Javari Valley. They were first discovered by the outside world in 1996 and were quickly given the name Caceteiros by locals.

The word Caceteiro means “club wielders” in Portuguese and refers to the tribe’s habit of carrying clubs around as weapons to defend themselves.

The first expeditions launched by the Brazilian Government in an effort to establish peaceful contact with the Korubo tribe comprised interpreters from all different tribes of the Vale do Javari (Javari River Valley) including the Kulina, Kanamari, Marubo, Mayoruna-Matses, and Matis.

The language of Korubo Indians turned out to quite close to that of the Matis. In fact, both tribes share other traits, such as the use of blowguns to hunt.

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The Kawahiva

The Kawahiva is a small group of uncontacted Indians living in Brazil’s rainforest. They are survivors of multiple genocidal attacks carried out in the regions.

Such attacks are responsible for the extinction of multiple tribes in the rainforest over the last century.

To date, the Kawahiva are still on the run, escaping the nonstop assaults in their forest homes by ranchers, miners, and loggers.

Their current territory is the Rio Pardo in Mato Grosso State where illegal deforestation rates have hit record highs in the Brazilian Amazon.

The Kawahiva are nomadic hunters and gathers. Other than that, little is known about the tribe since no peaceful contact with outsiders has ever been established.

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The Yanomami

The Yanomami is the Amazonian Tribe with the largest volume of land in the Brazilian Rainforest. They also live relatively remotely in the northern parts of Brazil and the southern part of Venezuela.

The Yanomami is the Amazonian Tribe with the largest volume of land in the Brazilian Rainforest. They also live relatively remotely in the northern parts of Brazil and the southern part of Venezuela.

Their Brazilian territory spans across 24 million acres of land.

Regrettably, cattle ranchers and gold miners are slowly intruding their forest space and have even infected them with new diseases their bodies are not used to.

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Akuntsu

This is one of the smallest native ethnic group in Brazil with only a handful of survivors. They were regularly subjected to land theft and murders, which subsequently led to drastic deforestation.

Nowadays, they try their best to maintain a sense of their traditional culture as they struggle for rights to their ancestral lands.

The Piripkura

No one knows what this tribe calls itself but Gaviao Indians, their neighbors, call them the Piripkura or the “butterfly people.” This name denotes the way the tribe constantly moves through the rainforest. They speak Tupi Kawahib, a linguistic family shared by several tribes in Brazil.

When FUNAI first contacted the tribe back in the 80s, there were 20 people left in the tribe. And after contact, they all went back into the forest.

But since then, contact has only been re-established with three members of the tribe.

No one knows if there are other surviving Piripkuras.

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The “Man of the Hole”

This is the smallest indigenous tribe in Brazil, with only one known surviving member, The Man of the Hole.

He is the sole survivor of a small tribe that was attacked by ranchers in the late 90s. He was given his name for his habit of digging up deep pits.

Little is known about the tribesman. Not his name, the language he speaks, or even the name of his vanished people. To date, he has avoided contact with outsiders and insists on leading a solitary life in the rainforest where he hunts, plants vegetables, and manages to survive.

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