Tue, Nov 07, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Amazon’s guardian spirits

The Waiapi people of the Amazon show what sustainability is all about as they fight to protect their homeland


The ash helps fertilize the soil which is then planted, mostly with their staple food cassava. Once the soil is exhausted, the Waiapi leave the patch fallow, move on and carve out another.

On a large scale, slash-and-burn can devastate the environment. However, when performed by such a small tribe in a big area, the cleared patches are given time to recover, creating a healthy cycle.

Japarupi Waiapi says his people know how to maintain the balance, moving village as soon as “the land is tired, the river is tired.”

The tribe’s footprint is exceptionally light.

“When you live in the forest, when you hear the music of the animals that live there, it’s different,” Japarupi Waiapi explains during a lunch of smoked monkey meat.

“We understand and can talk to the animals.”

Perhaps seeing the look of surprise on his visitors’ faces, Japarupi Waiapi cups his hands and makes three powerful whistles, each with a slight trill.

Five seconds of silence follow.

Then from somewhere in the dark canopy of virgin forest, a bird calls back. For now, at least, the Waiapi and their beloved Amazon remain in harmony.

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