National Geographic : 1962 Jan
Big-lipped I dians . icle and photographs by HARALD SCHULTZ T IS SUMMER in the Southern Hemi sphere. From the hot, steaming heart of Brazil, word comes that a primitive tribe, the Suya, has discovered the 20th-century world and made peace with civilization. To me at the Sao Paulo State Museum this news is most exciting. The Suya have long been feared as one of Brazil's fiercest tribes. Little is known about them except that their men distort the lower lip grotesquely by mak ing a hole and inserting progressively larger disks of light wood. What a challenge, what an opportunity for the student of primitive man! I study a map and make inquiries.... By Air to an Outpost of Civilization Now the little Piper plane climbs steeply from the new landing strip on Bananal Is land and heads westward (map, left). Bushy plain and virgin forest stretch to the farthest limit of vision, broken only by the gleam of lakes and rivers. Smoke rises from the fires of the dry season, veiling the blue of the sky. The little plane rocks and dips in the wind and the rising thermal currents. At last I see in the distance a silver-gray sinuous band-our goal, the Xingu River. In its forests and endless savannas, a few In dian tribes still pursue their original way of life in heavenly freedom. How long will this last? Today their domain is more and more threatened by small farmers and cattlemen. The Piper circles over the river, then glides to a fresh clearing in the forest and halts be tween rows of straw-thatched houses. This is one of civilization's last outposts, the tiny settlement called Diauarum. Two gentlemen with black beards meet the plane. They are the famous Villas Boas brothers, Claudio and Orlando. For nearly two decades they have looked after the In Turned-up disk shows the well-developed lip muscle of a Shukahamae Indian. Unlike the Suya (opposite page), he started wearing his disk in childhood. Lip disks of Brazilian Indians are smaller than the platters once worn by the Afri can Sara, miscalled Ubangis, who deformed the upper lip as well. Stretched lip and disk of the well-dressed Suya are dyed red. One-eyed Robnd6 wears earplugs of twisted palm leaves whitened with chalk, a broad band of red dye across eyes and cheeks, and a palm-frond headband. The beads were giv en him by the author. Robnd6 is one of 65 living Suya. Map locates their home.