Fight the Google Jugend

[There is a small preface here]

We are miserable creatures.
We are stunted in our growth.
We are mostly naked.

Our faces are hideous, bedaubed with paint.
Our skins are filthy, green tobacco slime drips down from our chins.
Our voices are discordant.
Our gesticulation is violent, without any dignity.
Our language is like the clearing of a throat.
Our language is hoarse, guttural, clicking[1].

We are savages.
We do not need search.
We know everything we need to know.

We are not like you. We do not like you. You are not like us. We will hunt you like a wild pig. We will plunge our spears deep into your body many times. The spears will not break. Down you will go. We are like the jaguar. We have no fear [2]. We are fighters. We are poets. We know things from up close and from nearby. You are a gluttonous office-mule, Styrofoam is your middle name. We loathe all travellers and all explorers, we shrink the heads of tourists, we shoot the anthropologists if they dare to come near, we will eat the missionaries if they enter our lands. Stay home! Do not leave your air-conditioned rooms! Stay behind your computer! Do not come here and complain to us about the mosquitoes! We refuse to be described, we will never be evangelized, we are not the photo opportunity of a life time.

We slash and we burn. We drift from fallow to fallow. Our gardens are in splendid state, the crypto-forests are waiting to be harvested. We are not lazy, as you seem to think, we are in fact highly economic: we take what we need and that is that; lazy days. We live by what we can SEE and HEAR and SMELL and TASTE, we are hunters, gatherers and gardeners, but we are ambitiousness too and we want to garden beyond the garden, we want to see beyond what we can see, we want to see the inside of that what makes us see and hear and smell and taste. We know spirit vines which can do that. We want to go beyond the sensory experience of consensus reality, we want to go beyond the interface of everyday routine. Listen to what shaman said to Manuel Cordova-Rios: “You must realize, my friend, that the deeper we go into this, both written and spoken words of formal language become less and less adequate as a medium of expression. If I could arrange it we would have a session of visions ourselves and then you would understand. But that would take time. Meanwhile we will continue with indifferent words and inflexible modes of expression” [3].

Opampogyakyena shinoshinonkarintsi [4]; you have long suspected us of apathetic sadness, you think of us as mute victims of progress, asylum seekers from the stone age. Ogakyena kabako shinoshinonkarintsi; you hate our silence, you are deaf, dumb, stupid and blind. Okisabintsatana shinoshinonkarintsi; you waste the night with sleep, we take naps when we need them. Amakyena popyenti pogyentima pogyenti; we chat and we rave and we drink real ale – home-made, spit-fermented from the finest sweet manioc in our gardens and take all the time we need to tell the story of the sleep-inducing tree, of the girl who married a jaguar and of the boy who lived with the fire-ants. Amakyena tampia tampia tampia; listen to Jerome Rothenberg sage of EthnoPoetics: “Measure everything by the Titan rocket & the transistor radio, & the world is full of primitive people. But once the unit of value to the poem or the dance-event or the dream (all clearly artifactual situations) & it becomes apparent what all those people have been doing all those years with all that time on their hands” [5].

Let me tell you. I went to find food. Here I will tell. Now I will tell. Listen to me. It was a cool morning and I started following the trail that begins next to that old banana-tree. I followed the trail for a time. I spotted a tapir’s trail. I followed it. I followed it for the better part of the afternoon. Then I lost the trail. I could not find the tapir. I did not know where I was. I did not know where to go. But I was not lost. We do not get lost: a Curipira was messing with my mind. The red-haired, green-teethed, blue-eyed Curipira, the hairy man that guards the forest against invaders, recognize his by his call: “Ayyyy emmmm youllisious ayyyyy emmmm”. The Curipara has feet like human feet, only pointing backwards: if you would try to find him by following his footsteps you would walk away from him. This is the genius of a trickster! These are the paradoxes that inform our philosophy! The Curipira is the daemon ludens of forest psychogeography, the savage messiah of the wayfinders confidence, it clouds your inner compass and no longer do you know where you are. But the Curipira likes to play and a good puzzle will never fail to excite it. From a piece of bark I made a rope. The rope I tied around two pieces of wood, and the resulting puzzle I left near the end of the tapir’s trail. I walked onwards, trapped in a circle but after a number of perambulations I suddenly saw a creek I knew, my bearing had returned at the moment the Curipira tried to  solve my puzzle it had forgotten me, attempting to free the string without breaking the wood, its tongue licking its lips. That night I had a dream, a man came to me in my dream, he said: Where you were yesterday, in the tapir's path, there is a log that crosses the trail. There am I going to leave a stone. Tomorrow you should go there and get it. This is a stone for manioc and yams. I never suffer from hunger. Don't neglect the stone. Give it anchiote to drink, because it killed my sister. Take care of it.”[6] The next day I went back and found the stone. We placed it in our garden and our garden has never looked better[7].

Birds cry in the distance, a red sky against dark clouds, a recuperating garden, first one and then two of the people come into frame, the first one is the oldest and wears a blue shirt and carries a rifle underneath his arm, the other is just a boy wearing a vintage Adidas tracksuit. Two other man, both young, the first is wearing a once white tank top and he nonchalantly carries a rifle over his shoulder, an ad-hoc bag made from banana leafs is attached to the barrel. The other man has a baby face and he also carries a rifle. More people walk into frame, three man and a woman the latter wearing short trousers and a Moulin Rouge red bra. They walk in line, talk in hushed voices, their faces betray their patient eye for detail, they have entered dense forest. Headshot: the first man we saw, now painted with one red spot at his forehead and 12 red spots running from his temples to his chin, speaks.
Subtitle: “We the people do not need to take food with us as we go into the forest like you guys do.”

An average size tree, 25 or 30 meters long, has fallen to the ground a year ago or more. At the top it is covered with moss and white yellowish brown mushrooms grow abundantly on the side. First we only see a foot but as the camera pans out we the rest of the man’s body is revealed, he is pointing to the mushrooms with his bow and speaks.
Subtitle: "Turtles eat these mushrooms, they are called turtle crackers.”

The man who pointed out the mushrooms, recognizable by his blue shirt with white stripes, speaks, his head turned to his fellow People, standing in the underbrush, pointing with his arm into the direction he thinks the turtles can be found. Carefully he moves ahead, scanning left and right, using his hand to remove the leafs of sapling trees out of his face. The man with the white tank top and the rifle peeks observantly into a bush, bending over a huge fallen tree while keeping one leg firmly on the ground, beneath that bulky cassava fat there are Olympic muscles. The man with the blue shirt moves through the foliage, the ground is uneven, tree stumps covered in moss are rotting, large green leafs lay on the ground and underneath them is a thick layer of dead brown leafs. There is no trail, sometimes the man shout to one and other in order to coordinate themselves.
Subtitle: "The turtle is one of the most common foods around here. There are turtles with black meat and with white meat. Only the ones with white meat are eaten."

The camera shows us a man from behind: he only wears a pair of blue shorts and he is knocking with his machete on a turtle shell, it makes a loud, not unpleasant, drumming sound, all the while he is shouting: “owo hey”. The angle changes and between the roots of a small tree there sits a green turtle the size of a football. The man keeps hammering the turtle while people drift into view from all directions. Inspecting the catch for themselves. The man lift the turtle up, repositions himself and places it on the ground again. Using twigs the turtle is wrapped in length and in width, this takes only seconds. The group is now complete, the man in the blue shorts is tying two bark arm straps, which he in turn attaches to the twigs around the turtle. The groups leaves, the man who found the turtle is carrying it with him like a backpack. He is wearing Hello Kitty flip-flops.
Subtitle: "We the people do not need to carry food because there is already food in the forest. We are used to eating this way, and that's good because we like to walk in the woods and we like to eat the food we find here. That's what makes us happy."[8]

Let me tell you. I killed the panther. Here I will tell. Listen to me. Here the jaguar pounced upon my dog, killing him. Here the jaguar pounced upon my dog, killing him. It happened with respect to me. There the jaguar killed my dog by pouncing on it. With respect to it, the jaguar pounced on my dog. I thought I saw it. Then I, thus the panther, pounced on my dog. Then the panther pounced on my dog. Then I spoke. This is a panther. Then I spoke with respect to the panther. Here is where it went. I think I see. Uh. I said, the jaguar then jumped on the log. As for the dog, the panther pounced on it. The panther killed the dog by hitting it. Then when I had gunshot the jaguar it began to fall. To Kaapási I spoke. Throw a basket. Throw me a basket. To put the dog into. The cat is the same it pounced on the dog. The panther pounced on the dog. This it caused him to be not. Put the jaguar into the same basket with the dog. Put it in with the dog, he caused the dog to be not. He has therefore already… [9] Sorry, I gotta go, the bush pigs won’t wait.

You eat food that was frozen first and tastes like plastic. You eat a sandwich that was wrapped in cellophane a week ago, but makes you happy because it tastes as if it is only two and a half days old. You eat white chocolate. Are you people insane? You spend your days in office spaces the size of a toilet and they hardly smell any better. You spent entire days without seeing the sun and yet you count yourself lucky. Because your hands are clean and your cloths are stainless. All these things we see in magazines. You are writing and reading all day and you say it makes you very tired. A stranger from your world told us (and we laughed and laughed…). The shaman's tonic evokes the infinite from a cascade of vomit and bile in the same way the sun appears from behind a thundercloud. One day you will want to know this too. A spell is cast, a terrible disease will come over you. This happens. Assaulted by sorcery, a snake in your hammock, a frog poison in your lizard-soup, a hairy spider reprogrammed to bite you. Assault sorcery can happen to anyone unknowingly entering the wrong clearing at the wrong time. Your professeurs are trying to steal our secret names, they are spooks from the netherworld, you can't just come here thinking you can trick us into selling our souls in exchange for two glass beads and a mirror. This is Kanaima truth, listen to Neil L. Whitehead: “When the grave site is discovered, a stick is inserted through the ground directly into the cadaver, then the stick is retracted and the maba (honey-like) juices sucked off. If the corpse is indeed sufficiently 'sweet' (sopaney), it will be partially disinterred in order to recover bone material and, ideally, a section of the anal tract. The use of previous victims body parts is necessary to facilitate the location and killing of the next victim”[10]. I have this on good authority. A shaman who doesn't want to be found can't be found. I have this on excellent authority. Have you ever seen a devil's garden? A place where the canopy is full but the under brush refuses to grow? This is where the shaman goes to work magic, where he chants his chant. Listen to what Jacques Lizot overheard the shaman chanting: “Ocelot spirit, come down into me! Hekura, you did not help me. For whole nights I pondered my vengeance. I pondered the Vulture Spirit and Moon Spirit. Moon Spirit was struck by Suhirina's arrow when he invaded the dwelling, eager for human flesh; and from his wound, from his spilled blood, were born a multitude of flesh-eating vultures. Vulture Spirit, Moon Spirit, you are cannibals. Vulture, your head is polluted with blood, your nostrils teem with worms. The dragonflies gather in the sky. Those who have ordered the demons to capture our children will receive my vengeance, wherever they may be. Already the Hekura are advancing on them; already the hekura are rushing on them. Soon night will come, they will sleep soundly, and the little children's cries will ring out. they are many; the hekura in my breast! May lightning unveil the sky, may thunder explode! However distant you may be, I will reach you; I shall choose the most beautiful child, the one with the attractive smile, and I shall kill him. I, too, eat children. My hekura will come toward you, do not doubt it, and they will tear the bird breast's and the decorative feathers; then my nostrils will fill with the strong odour of the newborn; they will breath out the stale smell of mother's milk, and my breast will be like a carcass. This is how my breast will be! Moon piles up the roots of rotten manioc with which he makes the cakes that he cooks in old potsherds. When the cakes are ready, he prowls around the dwellings and calls for the children from afar, shouting: COME TO ME, I AM HUNGRY FOR HUMAN FLESH!”[11].

Despite ourselves we have our Caribbean moments. One day a very unhealthy looking man with a face as white as ash and with dark circles around his eyes came to us. He said he was from Paris-teri. He requested to live with us. He seemed to live on cigarettes. As said, we took it easy that day and said ok. We remember him clearly because all the girls were afraid of him. He told us that an ancestor from his country had learned from one of our ancestors that our whole day is spent in dancing. He wanted to see it, but we couldn't help him. He stayed nevertheless. One evening, when we were all eating trio of monkey at the longhouse he started to tell a story in a language so broken as to be inhuman. What he was saying though, we found out after a while, was familiar, but in a strange way. He was telling us where we got fire from, where we got manioc from, how the milky way was formed. This man was telling us our own stories as if he had invented them! He had weaved many small stories into a very long story and we never heard it like that. It was like a basket case. Which was amusing. And it was raining anyway. His story had many continuity errors though and he wanted us to tell him what they were. Then he left and we had never remembered him if this other white face had not come. There was much time in between because my uncle's father's brother's daughter, who I call sister, now had given birth to four children. He was very pale and very sickly. He was always in the roundhouse after dark. ‘Lounging’ he called it. He would say nothing, but sometimes he would pick up a book and look through it as if searching for something. One day, when Sededetiu was telling about the coming of Oshosha, at the time the old ones ate dirt and nothing else, he was doing this again and suddenly he started to speak. He asked Sededetiu why he was telling the story the wrong way[12].

You ignored the twigs clearly broken to warn you long in advance. You ignored the crossed spears that marked the point of no return. You ignored the waypoints. Your GPS told you that you have no business here. Now you must find out the hard way. No one owes us a living. This is our world. We are the natives here, because the place can't exist without us[13]. Everybody knows this. We find you laughable, you are unable to make decisions for yourself. You are loyal to a chief you have never met and do not trust. Your chiefs needs armed man to do the things that are supposedly for the greater good of all people. We are never sure where falsehood and cynicism replaces irony and sincerity in your language. A real chief leads by example. Your presence is not enough to declare us 'contacted'[14]. You have seen nothing yet, but I like your sunglasses. Give them to me. We are not a tribe, we are a self-help group. We are splitters not lumpers, we are not like the others cannibals; have you not read the monograph that was published about us by the Yugoslavian Ethnographic Society in 1963? Your brain is too large for your skull but I like your watch. Give it to me. Given enough time we can face everything the world puts in our way without a losing our own way. We do not speak for each other as if we have one mind. Every tribe, every village, every family, every individual person is able to speak for him or herself. You are not your own boss and who are you talking to anyway, chattering all day long into that phone, asking for answers while the problem you have is right here in front of you, but I like your shoes. Give them to me. We do not want to eat you. First you need prompting to say the right words to announce your arrival and your willingness to perform your duty. “Aju ne xé peê reiurame”, how difficult can it be? Every child here knows these words. But when dinner time comes you turn out to be a shivering baby-faced coward. You cry and weep and beg for mercy, bah! We do not want to eat something as weak and scared as you[15]. We do not want to become like you, but I like your Swiss pocket knife. Give it to me. Obey the yammerschooner syndrome[16]. Begging is the power of the Force[17].

God does not exist. Nothings happens when you say it. God does not exist. See! That’s why we killed the culture-hero of your tribe.

The Panare killed Jesus Christ,
because they were wicked.
Let's kill Jesus Christ,
said the Panare.
The Panare seized Jesus Christ.
The Panare killed in this way.
They laid a cross on the ground.
They fastened his hands and his feet
against the wooden beams, with nails.
They raised him straight up, nailed.
The man died like that, nailed.
Thus the Panare killed Jesus Christ…[18]

Our world is not a green hell and it never has been, you need to change your frame of reference[19]. Civilization did not begin in Babylon, culture did not begin in a Greek temple, art did not begin in a cafe in Paris, nature, as you call it, did not begin in the Lake District. Animals know things. When we first came here we observed ant, tapir, peccary, deer, monkey to know what to eat and what to avoid[20]. We live in a garden of complexity and peculiarity that has grown above our heads, high into the canopy, and this is the way it should be. Our gardens look like a random selection of grasses and weeds to you. What you call weeding we call second rate, even the Inca could do better[21]. The entire forest is our plaything and your wilderness is our orchard. We are gardeners in permanent transit, weeding and pruning as we go, forever planning the next trek. In our village nobody is ever at home. The lonely limp dogs left behind leave the message: gone trekking. We love to trek, it makes it easier for the girls to talk to the boys. It is fun to search for turtle shells and yellow and red macaw feathers, while we live of fallowed fields and collect foods from the dump heaps of yesteryear[22]. A trek gives the ants and termites the time to clean up back home. We let garden islands flower from an anthill[23]. This manioc left here will feed our grandchildren. This peach palm grove is our Delphi. Evolution is the generative survival of the singular as a part of the plural and the result is a red queen's race between the weirdest and the monstrous. We, in the largest definition that can contain us, in time and place, have created the forest in our own image. All the forest is a fallow[24]. The forest is our art and our science[25].

Our ancestors could never have believed that our world was being watched keenly and closely by intellects cool, dogmatic and unsympathetic (Yeah!), who regarded our world with envious eyes, and who slowly and surely drew their plans against us (Yeah!). Early in the sixteenth century came our great disillusionment, we were all counted amongst the dead when the pananakiri came[26]. We are the feral children of the forest (Yeah!). The collateral damage of the search for that mystery land of liquid Inca gold (Yeah!). Doomed orphans of El Dorado (Yeah!). We have survived the euro-germs, for now, but as long as anyone of us dies from the common cold, the measles or the flu, the discovery of America is not yet over.……


(Go on!)


Earth scraped bare (Yeah!) ! Plunder and deforestation (Yeah!) ! Rubber Rubber Rubber (Yeah!) ! Death Death Death (Yeah!) ! Sold into slavery (Yeah!) ! The state will eat us all (Yeah!) ! The centre cannot hold (Yeah!) ! Anarchy unleashed, chaos and turmoil (Yeah!) ! Fire and pain, disease and suffering (Yeah!) ! The shabono teargassed, the maloka nuked ! (Yeah!) Thousand corpses, grinning missionaries (Yeah!) ! Deluded anthropologists (Yeah!) ! Post-crash Tupi-Surrealism (Yeah!) ! Myth verified as history (Yeah!) ! The blotted-out forgotten past announces our second coming (Yeah!) ! The raised mounds of Marajo Island (Yeah!)[27] ! The garden cities of Xingu (Yeah!)[28] ! The lost cities of Z (Yeah!)[29] ! The forest islands of the Beni (Yeah!)[30] ! The geogplyphs of the upper Purus (Yeah!)[31] ! They are all coming to the surface like badly healed broken bones scarring the skin from underneath (Yeah!) ! Red and blistering (Yeah!) ! Infected and rotting (Yeah!) ! It all started with the wrath of Viti-Vití (Oh Yeah!)!

Viti-Vití was just like a person, he had a nose, he had a mouth, he had ears and he had two eyes. He had everything we people had. He went up in the tree to collect honey. He went in the night because the bees were very fierce. He went with his brother-in-law and his sister. Up in the tree Viti-Vití scraped his right leg with a shell. He made his leg thin and end in a point, to resemble an animal’s leg. Blood fell down in the clay pot, the brother-in-law ate it all because it was dark. Then he found out and told his sister. They left, Viti-Vití  didn’t know where they had gone. Viti-Vití went home but his brother-in-law had closed the entire house, fearing Viti-Vití would kill him with his pointed foot. Viti-Vití left. Viti-Vití went on an indefinite walkabout in the forest. Nobody ever saw his face again. He took all his people with him. Everywhere he went that seemed a nice place to live he created long deep ditches for his people. He advised his people to build their villages outside the ditches, within the semi-circle described by it, the ditches should be used in the season of the cold winds and one side of the arc should always touch water. Most of these ditches are overgrown. Viti-Vití's now lives at the shores of the great Kuikúru-Ipa Lagoon, at one end of the ditch, where it meets the water. At night Viti-Vití’s footsteps can be heard there. They make a dry sound when he steps on the ground with his pointed leg: toc, tim, toc, tim…[32].

That is all[33].

[1] Listen to Charles Darwin, he tells about meeting the people of Tierra del Fuego: “These poor wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces bedaubed with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, their voices discordant, and their gestures violent. Viewing such men, one can hardly make one's self believe that they are fellow-creatures, and inhabitants of the same world. It is a common subject of conjecture what pleasure in life some of the lower animals can enjoy: how much more reasonably the same question may be asked with respect to these barbarians! At night, five or six human beings, naked and scarcely protected from the wind and rain of this tempestuous climate, sleep on the wet ground coiled up like animals. Whenever it is low water, winter or summer, night or day, they must rise to pick shellfish from the rocks; and the women either dive to collect sea-eggs, or sit patiently in their canoes, and with a baited hair-line without any hook, jerk out little fish. If a seal is killed, or the floating carcass of a putrid whale is discovered, it is a feast; and such miserable food is assisted by a few tasteless berries and fungi.” Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (London, Penguin Classics, 1989).

[2] Listen to Joe Kane: “Spear killings remain a central fact of how the Huaorani see themselves. Many adults carry, and proudly display, spear scars from the battles of their youth, and the old people still chant killing songs.” Gangsta! Segment based on a Waorani spearing song as given by Joe Kane, Savages (London, Pan Books, 1997).  

[3] Manuel Cordova-Rios, F. Bruce Lamb, Wizard of the Upper Amazon. (New York, Atheneum, 1971).

[4] Lines from a Machiguenga poem transcribed by father Joaquin Barriales and given by Mario Vargas Llosa, The Storyteller (London, Faber and Faber, 1990).

[5] Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred (University of California Press, 1985).

[6] Found object garden magic, quote from Michael F. Brown, Tsewa's Dream: Magic and Meaning in an Amazonian Society. (University of Alabama Press, 2006).

[7] Listen to S. Alexandrian: “Breton organized group walks to look for stones, sometimes on the banks of the Seine; he saw in the mineral kingdom ‘the domain of signs and indications’. The interpretation of the stones which one finds is considered to satisfy and develop the poetic sense, which needs to be educated in man. In La Langue des Pierres, Breton stated the method of the cult: ‘Stones – particular hard stones – go on talking to those who wish to hear them. The speak to each listener according to his capabilities; through what each listener knows, they instruct him in what he aspires to know.’ The discovery of a bed of stones on a drizzly day in the country gave Breton ‘the perfect illusion of treading the ground of the Earthly Paradise’. The divinatory nature of stones, and the ‘second state’ they induce in the connoisseur, are found only when the stones have been discovered as the result of a special expedition. Breton said that an unusual stone found by chance is of less value than one which has been sought for and longed.” S. Alexandrian, Surrealist Art. (London, Thames and Hudson, 1970).

[8] Inspired by Ka’apor Turtle Hunt video at

[9] Excerpt from Daniel Everett, Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes, Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle. (London, Profile Books, 2008).

[10] Listen to Neil L. Whitehead. “Kanaimà is a form of Amazonian dark shamanism and involves the killing of individuals through a violent mutilation of, in particular, the mouth and anus, into which are inserted various objects. The killers are then enjoined to return to the dead body of the victim in order to drink the juices of putrefaction. The victim will first become aware of an impending attack when the Kanaimàs approach his house by night, or on lonely forest trails [asanda], making a characteristic whistling noise... a direct physical attack might come at any point, even years thereafter, for during this period of stalking the victim is assessed as to their likely resistance and their suitability as 'food'. In some attacks the victims may have minor bones broken, especially fingers, and joints dislocated, especially the shoulder, while the neck may also be manipulated to induce spinal injury and back pain. This kind of attack is generally considered to be a preliminary to actual death and mutilation;... fatal attack will certainly follow but, informants stress, many months, or even a year or two, later.” Gothic! Neil L. Whitehead, Dark Shamans: Kanaimà and the Poetics of Violent Death (Londres, Duke University Press, 2002).

[11] Jacques Lizot. Tales of the Yanomami: daily life in the Venezuelan forest (Cambridge University Press, 1991).

[12] Inspired by Marc de Civrieux, Watunna: an Orinoco creation cycle (University of Texas Press, 1997).

[13] Listen to William Burroughs “He is a native to the place when the place can't exist without him.” William S. Burroughs. My Education: A Book of Dreams. (London, Picador, 1996).

[14] In 1994, in the middle of the night, a bulldozer unwittingly dozed a path straight through the gardens of the ‘uncontacted’ Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, the ‘people from the place of the wild pigs’. Listen to Esoi: “While I could hear the noise, I was thinking I was going to kill the bulldozer with my spear. We were all crouched like this. Jonoine got closest to the bulldozer. We thought you could kill a bulldozer, so we were looking at its flank to see how to kill it. But it was getting dark quickly, and the bulldozer was getting towards our house. We really didn't want to leave our house, as the soil there was very good.  Suddenly the bulldozer turned round. We said 'look there is a fire coming towards us.' We were all very worried about the headlights. I thought I heard a man firing at us. I looked around but we were all still alive. Then I realized it was the noise of the trees the bulldozer was flattening. I saw Ojnai throw his spear at the bulldozer. I got ready to throw mine. We could see it because the sky was very clear. I threw my spear. It made a noise that was strange to us as it hit the metal sides. I looked around to see if the others were next to me, they were all still alive. I had to run because I had no other weapons. I kept on looking back to see if the bulldozer was following me, but it wasn't. I started to shout at the bulldozer, saying: ‘I have wounded you with me spear, come and follow me,’ but it didn't, so I kept on shouting at it. My father came up and asked if I had hit the bulldozer. I said that my spear had not penetrated its skin. We thought then that bulldozers have skin like people, but now we know that they are made of metal.  I listened to the noise of the bulldozer as it went away. That's all.” Transcribed from a video provided by Survival International (

[15] Inspired by the story of Hans Staden (1525-79).

[16] Listen to Charles Darwin: “It was as easy to please as it was difficult to satisfy these savages. Young and old, men and children, never ceased repeating the word ‘yammerschooner,’ which means "give me." After pointing to almost every object, one after the other, even to the buttons on our coats, and saying their favourite word in as many intonations as possible, they would then use it in a neuter sense, and vacantly repeat ‘yammerschooner’.” Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (London, Penguin Classics, 1989).

[17] The power of begging, listen to Patrick Tierney: “In 1800, they [the Yanomami], too, seemed destined for extinction. The Yanomami’s subsequent territorial and demographic success underscored one of the principles of coalition theory: weakness can be strength, and strength can be weakness. If the Yanomami had been a highly organized, well-armed, military group led by a charismatic chief, they would have provoked immediate opposition and destruction. The last charismatic Amerindian chief in the area, Ajuricaba, proclaimed himself the king of Gran Manoa in 1720. The Portuguese promptly sent an army that crushed his coalition and carried Ajuricabe off in chains. By contrast, the Yanomami expanded in all directions without a central authority. Everywhere they went, they asked for food, steel goods, medicine, clothes. Two airstrips in Yanomami territory, one at Boca Mavaca, Venezuala, and one near Surucucu, in Brazil, were nicknamed ‘Give me.’ The Indians’ habit of endlessly asking for steel and food annoyed outsiders, but is also disarmed them. These tiny, technologically poor people multiplied eightfold while expanding their territory tenfold. Father Luis Coco half jokingly spoke about ‘the Yanomami Empire’”. Patrick Tierney, Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon (New York, W.W. Norton and Company,  2000).     

[18] Listen to Norman Lewis: “Difficulties arose from the fact that, as in the majority of Indian languages, there are no equivalents in Panare for many words held as basic to the concepts of the Christian religion. There is non, for example, for sin, guilt, punishment and redemption. There are many other pitfalls. The concept of a universal God runs contrary to all processes of Panare thought, and in any case he cannot be thanked, but only congratulated. 'God is love' may be translated 'the great spirit is not angry'. The Panare mentality and character were established in a relatively protected forest environment over thousands of years. In this famines were impossible, plagues are not recorded, and the wars that shaped our history were reduced here at most to a ceremonial skirmish. Consequently the Indians can only grope after the meanings of words coined in a more stressful society. The biblical dramas become hardly more than shadow plays. How can the walls of Jericho fall down for a man who has never seen a brick? How can a Indian, who has never known dearth, be urged to store up treasure in heaven? What point can the parable of the talents of silver have to a Panare whose language has no word for profit? Most of the biblical animals are missing in the rain forest, so 'The Good Shepherd' may have to be translated as 'the foodsharer who looks after the pigs'. (To some the image seemed inappropriate, so elsewhere small numbers of sheep were imported and raised in an unfavourable environment, so that this could be put right.) Redemption is explained as a trading bargain after the arduous rigmarole of cash payments, debts and credits have finally been made clear. Adam and Eve and the fall of Man are omitted from Panare translations owing to their horror of incest... The translators may have decided that the best way of tackling this was by re-editing the scriptures in such a way as to implicate the Panare in Christ's death”. Norman Lewis, The Missionaries God Against the Indians. (London, Picador, 1988).

[19] Listen to Julian Duguid: “At first sight, especially if seen from a boat, Green Hell is just a wood, silent, empty, a little aloof as it paddles its roots in the river. Except for an occasional palmtree, it might be a slice of England such as Symonds Yat on the Wye, or some parts of the Devon and Somerset border. Shady, cool and green, motionless in the sunlight, it gives an impression of beauty and security that has lured many a novice to his death. During the next seven months I began to know that forest, and to understand the fiendish, callous power that underlay the calm exterior. Under the shadow of its leaves I was tired, elated, thirsty, hungry and afraid. It hedged us in, dared us to venture through its bowers, coyly hid its water-holes from our sight, and loosed a covey of vampire bats when our animals could ill afford the blood. I make no claims against the snakes and jaguars that we met, for we sought them deliberately for our own ends. And the Indians that surrounded us were poor, driven creatures who knew no better“. Julian Duguid, Green Hell Adventures In The Mysterious Jungles Of Eastern Bolivia. (New York, The Century Company, 1931).

[20] Listen to Marc van Roosmalen “Most of what I have learned about survival in a neo-tropical rainforest I have learned from the red-faced spider monkeys from Surinam. I also learned a lot from other animals. From mammals, reptiles and birds who, like me, live on the ground. Agouties, agouties and peccaries led me to those seeds and seedlings you can eat without risk, and to others that are poisonous enough to kill you by touch alone if you happen to have a scratch or small wound. Tapirs and deer taught me which seeds and seedlings to avoid. They also taught me which green leaves from which trees I could eat with relish. By studying the food habits of a wide variety of animals, by observing what foods they are looking for, what foods they eat, and from which foods they sometimes accidentally die, I soon started to feel comfortable in my new daily surroundings. More and more I started to look like a native of the forest“. My translation. Marc G.M. Van Roosmalen, Blootsvoet door de Amazone, De Evolutie op het Spoor. (Amsterdam, Bert Bakker, 2008).

[21] Listen to Mark Plotkin: “’Look at that garden,’ Kamainja whispered. ‘I've seen better-looking agriculture inside a leafcutter ant's nest!’ To my untrained eye, the peasant garden did not look at all different from Indian agriculture. Once Kamainja stopped laughing, I asked him to explain. ‘Look at that manioc! It is planted too far apart. You saw how we put ours together; the leaves form a canopy like the forest's, which keeps the sun and rain from directly hitting the soil. And they have only one kind, whereas in our garden we have more than twenty. That plantation is an invitation for the bugs to move in.’ Kamainja was right. Since the manioc pants were all of one variety, insect that feed on that one variety might undergo a population explosion. I began to see what looked 'primitive' to the two Indians. ‘Look at the weeds!’ Shafee chimed in. ’I don't see any.’ I said. ‘Exactly! In our gardens we always leave some behind it binds the soil in the rainy season. The peasant's garden is probably cleaner than his house!’ ‘And another thing,’ said Kamainja. ‘You look at the plantation and you know the man doesn't understand the forest. A well-planned garden should look like a hole in the forest opened up when a giant ku-mah-kah tree falls over. Small openings in the forest are filled in by fast growing weedy plants that attract game animals. When you cut down too much forest, the little plants can't seed in from the surrounding jungle and you don’t have any birds or peccaries coming in that you can hunt.’” Mark J. Plotkin, Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice. (London, Penguin Books, 1993).

[22] Listen to Darrel A. Posey: “Although ‘settled’ for several decades now, the Kayapó have not deserted their semi-nomadic habits entirely. They spend several months each year in the Brazil nut groves living in communal houses; go on frequent collecting and hunting trips; and before major festivals make two- or three-week treks to acquire ceremonial game and feathers. The Kayapó have never left everything on their journeys to chance, however, but have developed an interesting ‘nomadic agriculture’, which they continue to use today. While routinely scavenging about the forest, the Indians gather dozens of plants, carry them back to the forest campsites or trails, and replant them in natural forest clearings. The plants include several types of wild manioc, three varieties of wild yams, a type of bush bean, and three or more wild varieties of kupa. These forest fields are always located near streams, which generally guarantee a stand of trees. Even in the savanna, where patches of forest are often few and far between, there are areas where collected plants have been replanted to form food depots. The Kayapó once maintained an extensive system of interlacing trails linking all their vast territory. Most of these ancient trails are now abandoned, but not all, and the Kayapó are still masters of the forest and savanna and travel considerable distances. I once travelled for five days with four Kayapó man on long-abandoned trails to an ancient village site. Although the trails were overgrown and difficult to follow, they had been used so much that in some places they were etched six inches into the hard earth. Each night we would stop at a stream in some spot flattened and hardened by years of use. The men would slip off into the forest and soon return with a variety of roots, tubers, stalks and fruits. Foods were readily acquired even on parts of the trail known to have been abandoned 40 years before.“ Darrel A. Posey, Kayapo Indians: experts in synergy. (ILEIA Newsletter 7(4), 1991).

[23] Listen to Darrel A. Posey: “The creation of forest islands, or Apete, demonstrates to what extent the Kayapó can alter and manage ecosystems to increase biological diversity. Apete begin as small mounds of vegetation, about one to two meters round, created by ant nests in open areas in the field. Slight depressions are usually picked out because they are more likely to retain moisture. Seeds or seedlings are planted in these piles of organic material. The Apete are usually formed in August and September, during the first rains of the wet season, and then nurtured by the Indians as they pass along the savannah trails. As Apete grow, they begin to look like up-turned hats, with higher vegetation in the centre and lower herbs growing in the shaded borders. The Indians usually cut down the highest trees in the centre to create a donut-hole centre that allows the light into older Apete. Thus a full-grown Apete has an architecture that creates zones that vary in shade, light and humidity. These islands become important sources of medicinal and edible plants, as well as places of rest. Palms, which have a variety of uses, prominently figure in Apete, as do shade trees. Even vines that produce drinkable water are transplanted here. Apete look so "natural", however, that until recently scientists in fact did not recognise them as human artefacts. According to informants, of a total of 120 species inventoried in ten Apete, about 75 percent could have been planted.“ Darrel A. Posey, Kayapo Indians: experts in synergy. (ILEIA Newsletter 7(4), 1991).

[24] Listen to Laura Rival: “[The Huaorani] see in their forested land the historical record of the activities of past generations. They are quite explicit about the inseparability of people and the forest, which they describe as a succession of fallows. Most of the western part of Huaorani land is said to be ahuene—that is, secondary forest. Only in the Yasuni, they tell me, are there pristine forests, omere, with really high and old trees. Secondary forests are further divided into huiyencore (four-to-ten-year-old clearings characterized by the frequency of balsa trees), huyenco (ten-to-twenty-year-old clearings), huiñeme (twenty-to-forty-year-old clearings characterized by the high incidence of adult palms), and durani ahuè (forty-to-a-hundred-year-old clearings, remarkable for their big trees). Before the arrival of missions, huiñeme forests were the preferred sites to establish main residences. However, all types of forest were—and still are—continuously visited and lived in for longer or shorter stays. Cultivars are found—discovered—throughout the forest. This further indicates an evident strategy of resource dispersion within specific regions. Fish-poison vines are found along the creeks where people fish, semiwild fruit trees near hunting camps, and numerous useful palms (such as Astrocaryum chambira; in Huaorani, oönempa) along trails. The regional groups (huaomoni) are constantly moving through their vast and relatively stable territories. Hilltop longhouses are regularly left for hunting and foraging trips, during which forest-management activities take place. Wherever a Huaorani finds herself in the forest, she chances upon needed plants. Informants are vague as to whether these strategic and handy resources were planted by someone, or just happened to grow there. What matters to them is that their occurrence can be related either to individuals known for using a particular area regularly or to a house-group who lived in the area, sometime in the past. For instance, when young Huaorani unexpectedly discover useful plants in a part of the forest they are not familiar with, they often attribute them, with noticeable pleasure, to the activities of past people.” Laura Rival, Domestication as a Historical and Symbolic Process: Wild Gardens and Cultivated Forests in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In W. Balée (ed.), Principles of historical ecology. (New York: Columbia University Press. 1999).

[25] See: Charles C. Mann. 1491 New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. (New York, Vintage Books, 2006).

[26] Based on the opening lines of H.G. Wells, The War of the World.

[27] Anna Roosevelt,  The Rise and Fall of the Amazon Chiefdoms. (L'Homme, 1993).

[28] Listen to Michael Heckenberger: “Rather than ancient cities, complex settlement patterns in the Upper Xingu were characterized by a network of permanent plaza communities integrated in territorial polities (~250 km2). This dispersed, multicentric pattern of plaza towns (~20 to 50 ha) and villages was organized in a nested hierarchy, which gravitated toward an exemplary political ritual center. We refer to these hierarchical supralocal communities as galactic clusters, inspired by Tambiah’s ‘galactic polity’ model, which draws attention to the basic similarities between small-to-large centers and the ‘radial mapping’ of satellites in relation to an exemplary center. The galactic clusters existed within a regional peer polity composed of geographically and socially articulated but independent polities that shared basic features of techno-economy, sociopolitical organization, and ideology.“ M.J. Heckenberger et al. Pre-Columbian Urbanism, Anthropogenic Landscapes, and the Future of the Amazon. (Science 321, 2008).

[29] David Grann, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. (New York, Vintage Books, 2010).

[30] Clark L. Erickson, The Domesticated Landscape of the Bolivian Amazon. In Balée and Erickson (ed.), Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology. New York, Columbia University press. 2006.

[31] Listen to Pärssinen et al: “The function, or functions, of the geoglyphs remain a mystery. A nineteenth-century historical account gives a dubious clue, since it is not clear whether the explorer is talking about these geoglyphs, although he mentions the existence of a ditch in an Indian village in the area where geoglyphs are found today. Chandless describes how, descending the Aquiry (today Acre) River, he observed that the Indians fled, leaving their belongings behind in fear, before they could reach them: ‘All that was portable they had taken . . . This village [maloca] seems to be the main one, and, so to speak, the capital of the nation. It has 3 or 4 houses, or, better stated, huts with open sides; of good size and well made; another, quite apart, all closed, and with an entrance of only three open hands tall, which is the storage room for things for festivities, some very curious as we discovered when we returned. Between the storage room and the houses there is a trench, the extremities leaving only a small entrance, next to the forest. This we thought to be a defensive work; but the Indians later told us that was no more than an arrangement for parties’.  As laconic as this passage may seen, it is a reference to a possible reason for the earthwork’s construction – e.g. related to feasts and possibly ceremonies – although it has to be considered that the region had already gone through profound demographic transformations when Chandless traveled up the river in the 1860s. The people who then occupied the land had not necessarily built the geoglyphs.” Martti Pärssinen, Denise Schaan & Alceu Ranzi, Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in the upper Purus: a complex society in western Amazonia. (Antiquity, 2009).

[32] Viti-Vití, subtitled ‘The Origin of the Ditches’, is Kuikúro myth explaining the earthworks now known as the cities of Z/the garden cities of Xingu. Orlando Villas Boas, Claudio Villas Boas, Xingu, The Indians, Their Myths. (London, Souvenir Press, 1974).

[33] It is as Yeh Shieh wrote in 17th century China: “When I write something different from former masters, I may be filling in something missing from their work. Or is it possible that the former masters are filling in something that is missing in my work." Deforestation is playing out a subtle palimpsestic game with the landscape of Western Amazonia. Modern day clearings, villages and roads are mixing and aggregating, contrasting and accentuating with squares and circles, parallelograms and plazas, mounds and ditches, fishing weirs and glyphs dripped across clear-cut lands like a glass of red wine spilled over an expensive white tablecloth. The present is haunted by the past, the vanished civilizations of yesteryear have cartoon ghost transparency but they point to something that used to be anathema to greens and industrialists alike. The West has built her societies at the cost of the forest, the pre-conquest civilizations of the Amazon did not just sustain the forest as their numbers grew, they improved it. Improvements that are with us today. It is as Ezra Pound wrote: “An age old intelligence does not go away in an era of speed.” That is all.