These are the Waiapi, an ancient tribe living in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest but currently fearing invasion by international mining firms. Major AFP reporters to some very small settlement of palm-thatched huts hidden in foliage, the tribesmen streaked in red and black yarn vow to protect their land. They brandish six-foot (two-meter) bows and arrows to reinforce the purpose.
“We’ll keep fighting,” says Tapayona Waiapi, 36, in the settlement named Pinoty. “When the companies come we’ll keep resisting.”
The Waiapi native book is in pristine rainforest close to the eastern end of the Amazon river. It’s part of a much larger conservation zone called Renca, covering an area the size of Switzerland.
Inspired by rivers and towering trees, the tribe operates almost entirely according to its own laws, with a way of life at times nearer to the Stone Age compared to the 21st century.
Yet modern Brazil is barely a few hours’ drive away.
In August, President Michel Temer abruptly ended mining restrictions in swaths of Renca, sparking an outcry from environmentalists and celebrity campaigners like Leonardo DiCaprio.
Temer backtracked in September. However, the Waiapi, who were nearly wiped out by disease after being discovered by outsiders in the 1970s, remain terrified.
The rainforest, says 35-year-old Moi Waiapi, another inhabitant of Pinoty, “is the basis for our survival.”