National Geographic : 1962 Jan
ground. Then they cut the vine into arm-long pieces. We hear the noise of timb6 harvesting everywhere in the forest. Before the gray of dawn, heavy blows re sound from the shore. Men, youths, and boys are beating the timb6 vines with axes, reduc ing them to golden-yellow strands. They tie them in bundles and lay them out in a long row like sheaves in a grain field. Then the owners of the bundles sit behind them, quiet and motionless for a while, in what seems to be some sort of ritual. Now Pentoti comes, followed soon by Kwedkere, the leader of the other group. The men shoulder the bundles of vines and walk through the woods to a big lake, the women and children trailing behind with baskets and knives. When a deeply indented inlet is reached, the young men erect a loose screen in the wa ter with branches and leafy twigs. This is to prevent the frightened fish from escaping into open water. Then, with a loud shout of Hoouuh! Hoouuh! all the men jump into the bay. They beat the shredded timb6 vines and wave them back and forth in the water. The whitish-blue soaplike sap spreads out over the entire surface as the men wade ahead with wide movements of the arms. Frightened fish attempt to escape, but the older men wait at the leafy barrier and shoot them with bow and arrow. Now benumbed and dying fish begin to ap pear on the surface. Women wade into the water, finish them off with a bush knife, and throw them into their baskets. The lake soon looks as if sprinkled with giant snowflakes - the white bellies of dead fish. On the bank are growing piles of them, a wide variety of species. Each family gathers some for its needs. No envy, no haste, plenty for everyone! But there is nothing left the next day. Tribe Gets Salt From Aquatic Plants A few days later we saw the way the Suya make salt, katuyani. At a lake in the midst of the forest, the women wade hip-deep in water till they reach a mat of floating green water hyacinths (page 124). They drag festoons of them ashore and let them wilt in the hot sun. Now a wood fire is lighted, and the women shove burning brands into the pile of plants. By morning only a tiny heap of ashes remains. The camp stirs awake, and Pentoti fash ions a funnel with flexible sticks. His eldest wife hangs it on the fork of a branch and lines 126 it with banana leaves. Then she places a fil terlike layer of plant fibers in the bottom, fills the funnel with the ashes of the aquatic plants, and sets a clay pot underneath. When she pours in water, it trickles through the ashes, leaching out the salt, and is caught in the pot. She then places the pot with the liquid on a wood fire and repeats the whole process with a second pot. The liquid boils for many hours, evapo rates, becomes dark brown, until finally a yellowish-brown crystalline powder remains - scarcely a couple of handfuls. Men, women, and children come and take tiny pinches with the fingertips and put them in their mouths. They smack the tongue with pleasure and pronounce it good. Katuyani! Salt! Very fine! It is bitter and stings my tongue. It is not common salt, sodium chloride, but mostly potash and potassium chloride.