National Geographic : 1968 Sep
Joyfully stepping ashore on park land, the Tchikao cluster around Mavira, a Kama yura tribeswoman. From this site on the Culuene River, a jeep and trailer transport ed the Indians a few at a time to park head quarters at Posto Leonardo, seven miles away. When the newcomers arrived, the Waura chief recognized his daughter, kid naped by the Tchikao as a child; Waura women have long been prized by other tribes because of their pottery-making ability. She peers from between her husband and a tree at far right. Days of persuasion by the au thors were required to prevent a reopening of old tribal wounds. themselves with necklaces of palm nuts. The tribe, when we first met them, had fewer feather ornaments than other Xingu tribes. They painted their bodies with bright vegetable colors, especially favoring red from the urucui plant, which they cultivated. Always a tense people, they sometimes re laxed sufficiently to dance and sing. Pavulu, their elderly chief and shaman, or medicine man, would sing for hours at our request, keeping time with his right foot. Villagers joined in near the end of each song. When in the midst of unknown words we heard Pavulu imitating the sounds of our airplanes, we knew he was improvising as he went along! Old Pavulu had picked up a pair of eye glasses without glass from a diamond hunter. These he proudly wore in conjunction with a pair of spent 12-gauge shotgun shells, one in each ear (page 434). Once the Tchikao tried to calm a furious thunderstorm by singing and blowing on little whistles made from the hollow bones of birds (page 428). Each time the lightning flashed, they blew the whistles furiously. So that we-and our presents!-might come to them more easily, the Tchikao built an airstrip beside their village. They did this completely on their own, without a hint from us and without telling us their plan. However, they built on land slashed by gullies. They made the strip too narrow and left too many stumps. Sadly we passed over without landing on it (pages 430-31). New Invasion Imperils the Tribe In 1966 a flood of garimpeiros rolled over the hunting grounds of the Tchikao. From Cuiaba, capital of Mato Grosso State, more than a thousand diamond seekers came down the Jatoba River in boats; their supply planes followed (map, page 431). Federal police, fearing the diamonds would 440 be smuggled out of the country, came after them. Before the garimpeiros left, however, they clashed with the Tchikao and further diminished their numbers. In the same period the construction gangs building a highway between Brasilia, the na tion's capital,* and the Amazon port of Ma naus had reached the Xingu area and opened it to the world. The time had come to lead the surviving Tchikao into the park. *See "Brasilia, Metropolis Made to Order," by Hernane Tavares de SA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, May, 1960.