National Geographic : 1979 Jan
Innocents in the rushing stream of progress, the once fierce, now pacified Nambicuara Indians have dwindled from an estimated 20,000 in 1907 to perhaps 500 or so today. Already ravaged by the white man's diseases of influenza, measles, and tuberculosis, they faced what might have been a final blow in 1958, when a new road across their lands opened the way for a flood offazendeiros, or homesteaders. On the open savanna, where this young woman crosses a rapid (left), ranchers now graze vast herds of zebu cattle. Below the plain, farmers and lumbermen are felling much of the mahogany-rich forests, where the Wasusus traditionally catch fish by stunning them, first with poison, then with blunt arrows (right). Efforts by the Brazilian Government to resettle many of the Nambicuaras on one reservation failed because of deep-rooted incompatibilities. In a turnaround, it adopted a policy of small reserves based on long-standing group differences. Restored to their forest wilderness, the Wasusus now have much to smile about (above).