Indigenous People of the Rainforest

The population of indigenous people of the rainforest in Brazil is estimated at a little over 700,000 people. There are over 200 different tribes with around 170 languages spoken within those tribes that make up the group of people referred to as indigenous to Brazil. Each tribe or culture is distinctly unique with their own customs, way of living, and language.

Some of these groups have relocated from the rural areas to the city, some live within an area they have settled into, some live in areas where they are isolated completely from other people, and still other groups of indigenous people have yet to be contacted by outsiders.

It was estimated by FUNAI in 2007 that there could be as many as 67 uncontacted tribes living in Brazil. FUNAI is the Fundação Nacional do Índio, a Brazilian governmental protection agency that looks out for the interests of the indigenous people of Brazil.

Who Are the Indigenous People of the Rainforest?

Indigenous people are those people who lived in Brazil even before the Europeans came to the country and essentially took over, which was sometime in 1500. They are uniquely ethnic groups who love living on the wealth of the land without endangering the plants and animals within the land.

Some of the tribes travel whereas others stay put in one area. Unfortunately, when the Europeans came to Brazil, thousands of indigenous people were murdered or died from the sickness brought in by the settlers.

The indigenous people of Brazil have extensive knowledge of how to live within the rainforest and the land. Their food, medicine, and clothing come from the forest.

The medicinal knowledge that the shamans and medicine men have in these tribes is extensive and is believed to be an untapped resource for finding cures to many diseases.

Why Do They Want to Stay in the Rainforest?

Indigenous people of the rainforest have lived in the lush rainforest for thousands of years and have passed down centuries of knowledge to each generation.

They like living simply and know that the forest provides privacy to live their own way with their own customs and language. They understand how the land provides their needs and they actively pursue what is called a sustainable way of living. They use the food and animals in the rainforest, but don't harm the delicate balance of the ecosystem to live they way they do.

Indigenous People of the Rainforest Could
Become Endangered

Outside influences such as illness, mining, ranching, and logging are all factors in causing the eventual demise of the indigenous people and their way of living unless active measures are taken to protect them and their culture.

Once outsiders like ranchers, miners, and loggers began making inroads to the rainforest of Brazil, the indigenous people had to move their home to another part of the forest. They were driven off the land or they were taken forcibly as slaves to work the farms or in the gold mines.

How can this happen? These tribes and cultures of the rainforest have never filed deeds for the land on which they live because they believe it doesn't belong to any one person, so outsiders didn't recognize their innate right to live there and keep their land.

Sadly, as a result of outsiders coming into the rainforest and exploiting the rich resources within it, the indigenous people have sometimes been forced to move into the cities. The lifestyle in the city is completely foreign to them and so they end up living in abject poverty, trying to figure out how to live in such different surroundings.

Recent generations of indigenous people are seeing their children leaning toward the Western world's way of living as a result of being forced to live in the cities and outside of the humble means by which they came.

It's a sad fact that as the generations of these people are moving away from the knowledge of their elders and ancestors, that knowledge will soon be lost forever.

Why Are Indigenous People of the Rainforest
Important to the World?

They embody the very essence of what it means to cohabitate with the land and the resources of the land without affecting it adversely. They understand how to live simply and comfortably by working the land to grow food, hunt for the purpose of food and for clothing, and they know how to use fruits, plants, and flowering species in the rainforest to cure many diseases and ailments naturally.

Scientists and agronomists are slowly beginning to understand and embrace the fact that the indigenous people living in Brazil's rainforest are not a threat to the rainforest, but rather an incredible asset to the forest and to the world as a whole. Learning from these people could very well be the key to conserving the rainforest's resources, food, and medicines.

Brazilian Indigenous People of the Rainforest

The Yanomami or Yanos

The Yanomami tribe resides in a territory along Brazil's border shared with Venezuela. They were given nearly 94,000 square kilometers of land to call home by the government of Brazil around 1992. They live communally with one large house as the center of the village.

There is a central courtyard in which the tribe gathers for religious ceremonies and celebrations. The roof of the central house is so large that each family of the tribe builds a hearth underneath it. They sleep on simple hammocks hung around their hearth.

Quick Facts About the Yanomami

  • Women are responsible for gathering fruit and nuts

  • The tribe grows corn, papaya, sweet potatoes, peach palm, bananas, plantains, and cassava for food

  • 40 of the 60 crops they cultivate are strictly for medicinal and religious ceremony purposes

  • Men hunt and fish for food

  • Their villages are always built near a source of running water

  • They love honey

  • They share everything they have

  • No leaders are chosen - they make decisions together

  • They work only 4 hours per day to provide everything the tribe needs

  • Much of their focus is on the nature that surrounds them and religious ceremonies

Unfortunately, despite a mandate to miners to leave the territory, many times they will return and take from the land mercilessly. Sometimes, members of the Yanomami tribe are killed in the process.

Piraha Tribe of Brazil

This unique culture is in critical danger of becoming extinct as their numbers are continuing to drop each decade. They live peaceably on the Maici River of Brazil and are considered Amazonian Indians.

Quick Facts on the Piraha Tribe

  • Speak the Piraha language

  • They can even whistle their language which comes in hand in the forest while hunting

  • They call themselves Hi'aiti'hi or straight ones

  • They pride themselves on being tough and so deprive themselves of both food and sleep, taking only short naps

Unfortunately, researchers have not been able to tap into this tribe's wealth of knowledge.

Terra Indigena Kaiapo

There is very little written about this tribe of Brazil. They reside in Brazil's Para State. An estimate of their population was taken in 2002 - they numbered around 3,300 at that time. There are photographs of the Kaiapo on the Internet, but nothing comprehensive has been written about their lifestyle or customs.

Many of the indigenous people of the rainforest of Brazil enjoy living simply and privately, which means there is very little written about them. These three tribes of Brazil's rainforest are a minute representation of the hundreds of tribes living within the rainforest of Brazil.

How Can We Help the Indigenous People
of the Rainforest?

  • Provide government policies that provide territories for the indigenous people to live peaceably

  • Create strict guidelines about outsiders entering the rainforest without proper cause

  • Glean the knowledge of sustainable living and medicinal flora and fauna from those cultures who are willing to share

  • Practice sustainable development in order to preserve, instead of destroy, the rainforest

  • Stop deforestation

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