National Geographic : 2003 Aug
Long hidden from modernity's gaze, a man from the Tsohom Djapa tribe (below) was first contacted three years ago by Kanamari Indians, who are believed to have lured some members of the Tsohom Djapa into servitude. Collisions with outsiders have been cata strophic for isolated peoples, says Possuelo, who sees gold dredges bordering Indian lands (right) as yet another shadow ahead. "Uncontacted Indians live in a lost paradise," he says. "I'm just giving them some time." The Flecheiros themselves had fled into the sur rounding jungle, leaving behind prodigious heaps of smoked meats-monkey, tapir, turtle- and smoldering campfires. "It's their system of security," Possuelo nods gravely. "They scatter into the forest." The Flecheiros seemed to have been prepar ing for a feast, the scout reports. In the middle of the village, the scouts found several ceremo nial masks made from long strands of bark, alongside ceramic vats filled with red uructi dye used to decorate faces and bodies. More omi nously, the Indians took all of their weapons with them when they fled. But they left behind a sharp bamboo arrowpoint and the broken end of a blowgun, which the scout now holds aloft for all to see. We thus learn for the first time that the Flecheiros have other weapons besides the bow 22 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * AUGUST 2003 and arrow. And they also left two large clay pots brimming with curare, the dark poisonous goop that they apply to their arrow tips. Most dis turbing of all, the Kanamari's footprints van ished without a trace down a path on the far side of the village. Now Ivan Arapa silently demonstrates, cov ering his mouth with one hand and drawing an imaginary vine around his neck with the other, how the Flecheiros could have jumped our com panions from behind, gagging them and yank ing them off their feet into the undergrowth. "I'd say they've been taken by the Indians," Possuelo says. "Now we have to get out of here. Maybe the Indians will let them go." He looks out into the shadowy forest surrounding us. "But we can't wait for them here," he adds. "We're go ing to march to a more advantageous position. We'll camp by the river and see if they show up."