The Reappearing World
Throughout history, many native tribes have been subjected to the effects of colonialism. They are often stripped of their land and resources, and are forced to adapt to a new way of life. Their cultural values and even political presence weaken as they become a mere product of acculturation. There is no doubt that the clash of two unique societies with mismatched power usually has violent and unfair outcomes. However, there have been a few cases where the effects of colonialism did not completely penetrate the ideology and lifestyle of a culture. Living proof of this is the aboriginal Kayapo Tribe of the Brazilian rainforest who stood up against pressures from the outside world in order to preserve their way of live. Even though the Kayapo are outnumbered and are disadvantaged technologically, they have still been able to coexist with Brazilian society and maintain their cultural integrity. The film The Kayapo’s: Indians from the Brazilian Rainforest, directed by anthropologist Terry Turner, depicts the social and economic struggle between the traditional Kayapo tribes and the modern post-colonialist Brazilian society during the 1960’s. It also shows how to two distinct groups of Kayapo Indians responded to the situation differently. This ethnographic film begins with a sequence of black and white photos of Kayapo Indians holding modern electronics, such as a TV. What stands out is that the images on the electronics are in color. This contrast is symbolic of the clash between traditional Kayapo with the new modern Kayapo. The second scene in the film shows a traditionally dressed Kayapo Indian covered in feathers going into a bank. He speaks in Portuguese to a bank teller about the Kayapo account, which just received around 2 million dollars that year from gold miners. This Indian belongs to one of two distinct Kayapo groups called the Gorotire. The Gorotire, in return for some of the revenue, allow Brazilians to mine and settle their land. The Chief of the Gorotire and his sons are constantly traveling to the Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, to negotiate with Brazilian politicians. Most of the Gorotire dress in modern cloths around the Brazilians; speak fluent Portuguese and even wear sunglasses. However, when they return home, they resume wearing traditional Kayapo garments. They believe that their interaction with Brazilians has not threatened their culture and identity. The second group of Kayapo Indians, the Kapot, is completely against allowing Brazilians onto their land, and strives to remain unaffected by the outside world. They dress traditionally at all times. Chief Routny, the Kapot leader, is described as an intelligent leader and diplomat who persuaded the Brazilian authorities to grant his people a legal title to his land and a stretch of the Xingu River. Chief Routny stresses that his people need to protect their timber and fiercely guard their territory so that their forest is not spoiled. He is constantly in conflict with Brazilians; in fact he has killed more than 50 Brazilian intruders throughout his life. He fears that Brazilian influence threatens their culture, for at one time Brazilians introduced them to coffee, sugar, and food; they slept with their women and made their people lustful for money. The Kapot now resist Brazilian interaction in order to preserve their society. Not only are the Kapot aggressive towards colonialists, they also have a hostile relationship with other tribes that try to settle on their land. They believe that this hostile attitude towards all outsiders enabled them to gain respect as a presence not to be reckoned with in Brazil. Both Kayapo groups preserve their traditional way of life by maintaining a harmonious relationship with nature. Through the eyes of the Kayapo, the forest is not only a source of food, but it is a world infinitely rich in meanings, where every plant or animal can be used in rituals, medicine, and even body...
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