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What is the Way of Life of Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon Rainforest?

June 27, 2023

The Amazon Rainforest is often pictured as having luxuriant foliage, remarkable animals, and meandering rivers that cannot be seen to the end. This tropical delight is also the habitat of potentially one million native people who have been living off the bounty of the rainforest for centuries – just like their predecessors.

The Amazon basin is home to hundreds of indigenous tribes, such as the Yanomamo and Kayapo, and it is interesting to explore how these people live compared to our own way of life. Additionally, it is thought-provoking to consider the effects of the quickly changing world on their day-to-day lifestyle. Even though much is still unknown about the lifestyles of these tribes, it is possible to glean an understanding of their habits.

Here is a brief overview of the history of Indigenous tribes

A look into the past reveals a long and complex history of the indigenous tribes that populated the land before the arrival of colonists. This narrative covers their customs, traditions, and culture passed down over generations and their struggles when confronted with the changing political climate. It is a reminder of the strength and resilience of these communities and the importance of preserving their history and culture.

Now, to explore further, let us look back in time. It is known that the Amazon had been populated by indigenous groups for more than 11,200 years before the Europeans came to South America in the 16th Century and began persecuting the native people. It is believed that approximately 6.8 million Amerindians lived there at the time. However, within the first 100 years of European colonization, this population decreased by an incredible 90%.

The population decreased significantly primarily due to diseases brought by European explorers – including smallpox, measles, and the common cold, which native people had no immunity to. Those who managed to survive lived in the depths of the rainforest or were forced there due to European persecution, enslavement, and warfare.

Now, the native groups are dealing with sickness and the issues caused by those who legally and illegally take advantage of the forest. Drug running, lumbering, rubber tapping, mining, ranching, and other deforestation activities put them in a position to protect the areas that have been their home for a long time. Indigenous tribes suffer the most from the disastrous fires that have destroyed their land and way of life.

The Routine of Everyday Life

Many native Amazonians presently inhabit areas of the woods called indigenous lands in which they exist through a mixture of traditional and modern practices. Several tribes have adapted to life near large urban areas of the 21st Century, making their livelihood through tourism, trading at nearby markets, selling crafts to visitors, and wearing Western attire and cooking tools. Some remain entirely separate from the chaos of the modern world, which is referred to as ‘uncontacted tribes’ (see below for additional information).

Round huts crafted from wood, bamboo, and straw are typical dwellings of tribal people. These homes are significant, having the capacity to house up to 400 people. Each family has their own fire inside the hut, with hammocks strung up around it. In the middle is a spot where feasts and exhibitions are held. Tribal members usually decide on matters collaboratively, allowing everyone to express their opinion through lengthy discussions.

From a young age, teaching kids agriculture and hunting is still an essential part of life. Indigenous people have become well-versed in coexisting with the wild, and they know how to hunt animals like capybaras, tapirs, crocodiles, monkeys, deer, fish, and turtles with blowguns, arrows with poison tips, spears, traps, and guns (if they can get them). This has helped them maintain the forest’s biodiversity for thousands of years.

People in the riverside regions subject to flooding during the wet season, referred to as ‘varzea,’ take advantage of the fertile soil and ample wildlife to harvest crops such as beans, bananas, wild rice, and manioc. Those residing on the dry land further into the forest utilize the ‘slash-and-burn’ technique of farming, transferring their cultivation to new locations when the soil’s nutrients have been used up.

For the past 500 years, European colonization and the destruction of their local habitats have caused the Amazonian people to adapt to a more sedentary way of life. This lifestyle has caused them to lose their nomadic ways, and the land they inhabit does not receive the opportunity to recover.

In local communities, men typically have the role of hunter-gatherer, while women are in charge of keeping the home in order, tending to crops, nurturing children, and cooking. Everybody works together to go fishing.

The clothing of the tribes in the Amazon rainforest varies greatly. Some of the tribes that remain uncontacted are usually without clothing. Those tribes that have contact with the modern world, however, typically wear loincloths, straw skirts, or Western clothing. Additionally, tribal face paint is often seen. This could be used to intimidate enemies, for camouflage, or for spiritual purposes.

The spiritual aspect of life is critical to many native cultures. It is thought that all things contain animal spirits, some of which may be malevolent. To have a deeper connection to the spirit realm, shamans take hallucinogenic substances found in certain plants. When members of these tribes farm and hunt, they do so with an appreciation for the rainforest and the spirit of everything within it.

Indigenous Peoples with Little Contact with the Outside World

Despite the fact that there are only a few of them, there are still a small number of tribes that have chosen to remain isolated, mainly in Brazil and Peru. Governments in South America have set laws in recent years to make sure that these tribes are not disturbed and remain uncontacted.

The prospects of uncontacted tribes being infected with illnesses like measles or influenza are always a worry. In the past, outbreaks have had a major impact on the indigenous populace, potentially playing a significant role in the Europeans’ victory in their colonization of the New World. To protect these people from exploitation and modern-day sickness, Peru and Brazil have created a system of designated reserves.

Little is known about these ancient societies. We need to find out which language they use, how many are present, or their lifestyle. In Brazil, the Amazon is thought to contain up to 70 uncontacted tribes. As deforestation and land exploitation grow, some tribes have taken steps to reach out and initiate ‘first contact .’This has caused significant upheaval for protective agencies, as they have to reevaluate their strategies and figure out how to handle the disease, language disparities, the setting of borders, and the massive gap in understanding.

Gaining Insights From Them

It is evident that the native tribes inhabiting the Amazon Rainforest have a lifestyle that could benefit the rest of the population. Research has determined that around 12 percent of the Amazon’s terrain has been created gradually by humans due to the careful supervision of native cultures. They have acquired adequate knowledge on how to live in concordance with their environment without causing any damage. For centuries, they have kept one of the most biodiverse regions in the world – the ‘lungs of the world’ – safe, which is of great advantage to everyone else.

So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring the Amazon Indigenous Tribes through your lenses, taking the first step towards exploring this magnificent ecosystem. Learn how to become the best landscape and nature Photographer you can be. Check out our adventure retreat photography workshop’s schedule for 2023 and 2024 here, and reach out to luanastudiomanager@vitor-lindo.com if you have any questions or to learn how to get $500 OFF your tuition.

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