The Amazon Series
Updated: Oct 20
The Artist Telegraph By Geoffrey C. Smith
Life in the Amazon
I'd like to reflect on my time in the Amazon and draw attention to the lives of the indigenous people who live there. To say life in the Amazon Rainforest is different would be an understatement. As I journeyed deep into the Jungle, I felt as if I was transported back in time with each step in.
Specifically, my observation of how the native people lived in harmony with the natural environment, in rhythm with nature's calendar, reminded me of our how our ancestors navigated land before modernity. I came to realize that there are many lessons we can take from the tribes of the Amazon who still live in within that framework and how they reconcile their living environment with Mother Earth's natural cycles.
An indigenous boy watching us pass by.
Our guides, Guillermo and Renzo, taught us all about the Amazon people. They explained that more than 400 indigenous tribes live throughout the Amazon! The indigenous tribes are like guardians of the Amazon Rainforest who have populated the Amazon for millennia. There were at least a million people surviving in the rainforest until contact was made with the Europeans in the 16th century. Once this contact with the outside world occurred, the population of the indigenous people dramatically declined. Historians estimate the number is somewhere around 90% within the first hundred years of European colonization! Contact with outsiders brought disease, persecution, and other strife to the native peoples, which ultimately killed many. It's a sad truth in history, and no wonder some tribes choose to stay away from the modern world.
Today, as I am writing this blog on Aug 30, 2022, the news came out announcing the last remaining member of an un-contacted indigenous group in Brazil has died. He was nicknamed 'Man of the Hole' because it was thought that he dug holes as a way to trap animals or to hide from others. For years, he had been the last remaining member of a tribe that was wiped out by ranchers and illegal miners in the 1970's. What happened to his tribe was unconscionable. 'Man of the Hole' had since survived on his own up until last month. His body was found covered in macaw feathers in a hammock outside his straw hut. It is speculated that he put the feathers of a macaw on himself when he realized he was dying.
Homes on stilts off the Amazon River. You can clearly see how high the water rises here. The front porch of this home becomes their dock during the rainy season (March through July).
The Amazon River runs through the rainforest like a highway. As such, everything revolves around the river. They revere it and live harmoniously with the land. For the people of the Amazon, everything in their world revolves around water. Houses are built on stilts to protect from the water to withstand the annual flooding during their wet season. Outside their homes are platforms/patios that will double as docks during those times. Since the Amazon floods every spring, the locals must have their homes prepared for the influx of water. Not every year is matched in water levels. Some years are more severe than others, however, the locals still must be ready for anything.
In Iquitos, indigenous people commute in busses or drive around in little motor cars that are almost like a hybrid between a motorcycle and a car. They zip and swerve around each other.
Ways of life in the Amazon Basin vary. Some indigenous people live a sustainable existence, like their ancestors thousands of years before them, obtaining clothes, food and medicine from the forest. Villages outside the cities are remote. Most of the tribes have had contact with the outside world, but they continue to live their lives utilizing the ancient practices of their ancestors. Other groups of people there have a modern lifestyle, living in city centers like Iquitos. Many people earn a living through tourism, fishing, farming and/or hunting.
Our guides explained that the indigenous people we observed rely on radio and cell phones to stay in touch with the outside world. Areas have cell towers, and some families will have diesel generators as well. From afar, we saw many indigenous people tending to their homes while their children played along the riverside. The children were barefoot but dressed in modern clothing.
A treehouse where shamanic rituals occur. Westerners will travel down here to participate in ceremonies with local shamans in order to heal.