(2020 Annual Report) We have talked about the determination of the Kayapo to protect their lands in every annual report since ICFC began in 2007. There are no better allies in conserving the Amazon and its rich biodiversity. This year we salute the Kayapo, with a special shout- out to those who man the guard posts and actively protect Kayapo territories in other ways.
Much like the Sioux of the American plains, the Kayapo were a warrior nation and men were trained from boyhood to be tough, fearless warriors. This stood them in good stead decades ago as they made life so difficult for the Brazilian government that it ceded to the Kayapo a protected indigenous territory unparalleled in size anywhere.
Overt warrior tradition has receded into the past. The Kayapo no longer raid other Kayapo and settler communities, and boys no longer train as warriors with the men in the “men’s house”, a central village meeting place that is still vital in all Kayapo communities. But their courage and their traditions remain.
Guard post duty involves patrolling long sections of rivers and border, dismantling loggers’ bridges,escorting illegal fishermen out of Kayapo territory and removing goldminers. The work can be dangerous. Last year 17 Kayapo from Bau village travelled almost three days by boat and on foot to an interior forest location where goldminers had cleared a clandestine airstrip. The Kayapo expedition surprised 40 armed goldminers, rounded them up, had their backers in town remove them by small plane and confiscated their equipment. If you visited a Kayapo village today you would find a people who are proud of their traditional skills— hunting, fishing, collecting wild food, gardening, navigating through forest, making everything from tools to dwellings, and enacting their great communal ceremonies. You would find independent joyful children, warm family relations and communities that function based on consensus. You’d also find a people with an amazing design sense, as reflected in their crafts, their body painting and beaded jewelry (worn by all). They are a people who know enough about outside society to know that while they have come to depend on some manufactured goods that they must buy, their desire is to remain Kayapo on the land that sustains them. And they will fight to preserve it.