Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel L. Everett

Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel L. Everett

Author:Daniel L. Everett
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780307377791
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Published: 2008-11-11T05:00:00+00:00

8 A Teenager Named Túkaaga:

Murder and Society

Joaquim, like the other residents of the Apurinã Indian settlement of Ponto Sete on the Maici, had arisen early and gone about his tasks—tending his jungle garden and small manioc field, looking for signs of game for a possible evening hunting trip, and fishing in the clear Maici water upriver from his home. Like others at “Sete,” Joaquim was broader and stronger-looking than the Pirahãs. His Tupi and Apurinã lineage endowed him with a muscularity that contrasted with the Pirahãs’ intense leanness. With broad, strong feet from a lifetime without shoes, his powerful toes could grip the path securely, giving him greater stability than Westerners in expensive hiking footwear. He was a shy man, very quiet, about thirty years old, who smiled frequently, but always held his hand to his mouth when he did so in order to hide his missing front teeth. He purloined cups (plastic, nonbreakable cups are a favorite and hard-to-come-by item) from me from time to time when he thought I would not notice. He laughed at the Pirahãs as inferior. But he was after all a man who had faced the same hardships and environment as they, accumulating much more materially than they have—a fact that, while irrelevant to the Pirahãs, was clearly important to him. But he and the others at Ponto Sete believed that they and the Pirahãs were good friends. The Apurinãs at Sete always treated the Pirahãs well.

What Joaquim could not have known was that one village of Pirahãs did not accept him or any of the Sete residents as either close friends or as having legitimate claims to the land they occupied. The material differences between his way of life and Pirahã culture only distanced him further from the Pirahãs, and this village considered him an inferior interloper.

The Apurinãs made the tragic discovery of these Pirahãs’ real estimation of them by a very indirect route. It began with a feud that developed between the Apurinãs and the Colário family, a group of traders that did business with them and the Pirahãs.

The Colários, ostensibly evangelical Christians of the Assembly of God denomination, enjoyed dealing with the numberless, preliterate Pirahãs who would accept exchange goods in a volume far below market value for Brazil nuts, latex, sorva, kopaiba, and other jungle products. But they discovered that the Apurinãs followed market prices closely on their short-wave radio, prices that the Brazilian channel Radio Nacional announced daily.

One day the Apurinãs warned the Colários, who operated three boats, not to return to Ponto Sete, because they were cheats. When Darciel Colário defied this ban and returned, the Apurinãs opened fire on his boat with their shotguns. They destroyed many of his trade goods and shot holes in the cabin on his boat. Colário escaped injury by hiding behind his stove. He managed to turn his boat around without standing up and exposing himself to the blasts of shotgun pellets and beat a hasty retreat down the Maici. The Apurinãs thought that they had taught him a good lesson.


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