National Geographic : 1971 Sep
away until the Indians can be immunized; otherwise, measles or smallpox might sweep the region, taking a fearsome toll. But there is one thing that not even the selfless, dedicated people of FUNAI can pre vent. That is the erosion of a simple culture by a strong, complex one. The process begins the moment a wild man exchanges his stone knife for a steel one, or wears a civilizado's discarded shirt. It ends, at best, in assimilation by civilization, or survival on a reservation that is an island in an alien cultural sea. At worst, it terminates in despair and ultimate extinction. But in no event can the Stone Age Indian ever be the same again, and that is why each FUNAI sertanista,or Indian expert, carries in his heart saudade, a nostalgic sadness. For he 424 must live with the knowledge that whether he brings stark tragedy or better lives to the people of the forest, he will unavoidably diminish a simple, fragile beauty the world can never see again. Still, FUNAI has a job to do. Francisco Meireles, leader of the Cinta Largas expedi tion, was earnestly trying to do his when I first met him at the Seventh of September advance pacification camp. "Chico" Meireles is one of the most famous and experienced sertanistas on the FUNAI roster. Others are the brothers Villas Boas, Orlando and Claudio, with whom I served on the Xingu River during the pacification of the Tchikao tribe a few years ago.* *See the Villas Boas' "Saving Brazil's Stone Age Tribes From Extinction" in the September 1968 GEO GRAPHIC. The late Harald Schultz also wrote movingly of Brazil's Indians in the January 1966, May 1964, and January 1962 GEOGRAPHICS.