Figure 7. Intoni Suyá. The electric eel, spotted and black jaguars, and the catfish:
powerful creatures of the Xingu river basin, 1981.
inventions of things like water, fire, sex, food, science and technology. Whereas
on Xavante lands we traveled mostly on foot, or in a tractor or pick-up truck, in
the Xingu Park we traveled mostly in canoes and small motor-boats. Up and down
river became even stronger a place of reference, as most villages and administrative
government posts were located either on the margins of the magnificent Xingu
River, or along its main tributaries.
But it was only many years later, when Intoni Suyá and I worked together in 1999
on a court case to demarcate ancestral Suyá territory, the Terra Indígena Wawi, that I
fully understood what is known as Amerindian perspectivism: “the ideas in Amazonian
cosmologies concerning the way in which humans, animals, and spirits see both
themselves and one another” (Viveiros de Castro 1998: 469). In Chapter 2 in this
topic, Intoni Suyá and I discuss the idea that the world is inhabited by different sorts
of persons, human or not, who map reality and act upon it to reaffirm their existence
as sentient beings who help create the world they inhabit and envision on a daily basis.
Mairawê Kayabi, the administrator of the Diauarum Indigenous Post, where the
Diauarum School was located in the Xingu Park in the 1980s, inaugurated the first
day of school in January 1981 with the following observation in Portuguese (my
The one thing I'd like us to consider here in this Indigenous school is to change
the abbreviations “AC” and “DC” - Antes de Cristo e Depois de Cristo [Before
and After Christ], to “AB” and “DB” - Antes do Branco e Depois do Branco
[Before and After the White Man]. It was after the White Man arrived that
everything changed for us. [January 1981]