Global Oneness Project: People of the Big Water

Nhakri and Nhgreiproti, Xikrin women in the village of Poti-Kro, stand for a portrait under the fruit trees behind their houses.
Nhakri and Nhgreiproti, Xikrin women in the village of Poti-Kro, stand for a portrait under the fruit trees behind their houses.
A view of the village of Poti-Kro. Xikrin villages are always built in a large circle with the communal meeting house in the center.
A view of the village of Poti-Kro. Xikrin villages are always built in a large circle with the communal meeting house in the center.
Mukuka spends time with relatives during the midday heat. The village of Poti-Kro is made up almost entirely of direct descendants of the two village elders.
Mukuka spends time with relatives during the midday heat. The village of Poti-Kro is made up almost entirely of direct descendants of the two village elders.
Food generally comes from the river and the jungle. Honeycomb has been gathered to harvest honey and beeswax, which is used as a traditional medicine.
Food generally comes from the river and the jungle. Honeycomb has been gathered to harvest honey and beeswax, which is used as a traditional medicine.
Bepoti and his wife Kopri are the two elders of Poti-Kro. It is the elders' responsibility to pass on the tribe's myths and stories. Villagers are unwilling to share these stories to outsiders, because they are considered the elders' "property."
Bepoti and his wife Kopri are the two elders of Poti-Kro. It is the elders’ responsibility to pass on the tribe’s myths and stories. Villagers are unwilling to share these stories to outsiders, because they are considered the elders’ “property.”
the xikrin
Xikrin women spend much of their time painting the bodies of their family and friends. The designs are passed down from mother to daughter, and the Xikrin often say that they do not feel like themselves when they are unpainted.
xikrin practice of inhokara
The Xikrin shave their hair from the forehead to the crown of the head in a distinctive hairstyle called inhokara. With increased exposure to the outside world, it is mostly the elder women who still practice shaving while the younger generation usually adopts more modern hairstyles.
The Bacaja River is a tributary of the Xingu River, which is being dammed by the third-largest hydroelectric project in the world, the Belo Monte. As the dam quickly nears completion, the Xikrin have already seen a negative impact on fish populations, and scientists warn of a lowered water table that could dry out this area of the Bacaja.
The Bacaja River is a tributary of the Xingu River, which is being dammed by the third-largest hydroelectric project in the world, the Belo Monte. As the dam quickly nears completion, the Xikrin have already seen a negative impact on fish populations, and scientists warn of a lowered water table that could dry out this area of the Bacaja.
A Xikrin woman walks back to her village from the riverside. Most Xikrin villages are situated next to a river for transport and fishing.
A Xikrin woman walks back to her village from the riverside. Most Xikrin villages are situated next to a river for transport and fishing.

Every single day, people have to fight to sustain their way of life. Big Money often comes with Big Eye-blinds.

Investors and companies and growing industrial “Western” communities are influencing the way of life of rural and indigenous peoples, and making decisions that will ultimately bring about an end to these age old “pagan” cultures. Because that is what they are, pagans.

Country dwellers. Farmers. Storytellers. Hunters. Mothers. Brothers. Fathers. Children.

Content peoples who for decades have lived close to the land without a worry of invaders.

Well now, consider them invaded.

They may have adopted some of “western” culture: clothes, guns, and basic modern tools; but their culture has survived.

Many of these tribes and cultures are much like the Xikrin, who find themselves on the fine line of assimilation and annihilation.

Here is an article and photo essay by Taylor Weidman.

“Taylor Weidman is an award-winning documentary photographer and co-founder of the Vanishing Cultures Project. His work focuses primarily on the effects of modernization and human rights issues. The Vanishing Cultures Project is currently fundraising for their next project working with tribes affected by the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest.”

Please, Support the Amazon Belo Monte Dam Project

Deep in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest, on a tributary of the mighty Xingu, live the Xikrin, the “People of the Big Water.” “Everything we need, we have here,” says Ngrenhkarati, a Xikrin woman. “For food we can fish, harvest manioc, and hunt.” The Xikrin live a subsistence lifestyle within their villages and depend on the river as a supplier of food, the primary mode of transportation, and a tie to their ancestors.

However, this way of life is coming under threat. A few miles away on the Big Bend of the Xingu River, construction of the world’s third-largest dam is peaking this year. As the dam nears completion, the Xikrin have already seen a negative impact on fish populations, and scientists warn of a lowered water table that could dry out this area of the river. The Xikrin, whose lives, history, traditions, values, and practices depend on the river, have not been given proper consultation under the law and are fighting an uphill battle against the construction of the dam.

This essay features a selection of images from the upcoming book, The Xikrin: Indigenous Life in a Changing Amazon. Proceeds go towards supporting Xikrin cultural initiatives.Sign up for the Vanishing Cultures Project’s newsletter for book updates.

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