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LA BOUDEUSE IN AMAZONIA, Meet the Yuhup Page 1 2 3 4 Page 1 2 3 4
|I greatly appreciated the rare gift they had given me 30 years ago: the possibility to follow through birth, marriage and death the complete history of this small group of humans lost in the middle of the jungle. |
No traditional sailing ship had ever navigated the Japura, nick-named the 'river of surprises' as the water level varied without warning. And no reliable map existed...
At the beginning, sailing up the Amazon presented few difficulties. Other than the constant lookout for displaced tree trunks,
we progressed smoothly, with radar guiding us at night thru the countless islands scattered along the river...
They are called Yuhup. Their names were Pein, Ado, Donwed and Nyamati and despite the great cultural divide, I was accepted among them as one of their own. To each other, they are 'yuhups' meaning ‘the men’, and were no more than a couple hundred, living naked in groups of 5 to 6 families constantly moving thru the Amazon jungle. For centuries these nomadic indians have roamed the same territory, within Brazil and Colombia, carefully avoiding all contact with the outside world.
Elusive, and peaceloving, the yuhups were hunters and gatherers; true nomads. They possessed nothing other than their bows and arrows, which fit easily into the rattan baskets carried by the women. Immune to suffering, having endured the unendurable, they had a unique bravery, ready to bludgeon a
puma without hesitation.
The powerful Indian tribes rooted geographically around them do
not know their real name, and call them Macuje, meaning ‘savages’, because the yuhups do not live in huts and do not grow manioc. These sedentary
tribes were however no less afraid of the yuhups because of the legendary healing and magical powers that yuhup shamans achieved thru intense mental concentration. The Yuhups also were the sole distributors of 'curare', the vegetal poison used on sarbacane (blow-pipe) arrowheads. No other indian tribe knew the secret recipe.
All this happened some 30 years ago. Back then the yuhups were without a doubt the most mysterious of the amazon nomads. Ethnologists knew almost nothing about them, neither their name or their number.
After many obstacles, we established contact with a yuhup clan of about 30 people living near the source of the Jovatella river. Little by little we gained their confidance; we became nomads among the nomads. I liked their materially unencumbered lifestyle. And despite the raw simplicity of their existence, the yuhups were more endearing than I could have ever imagined. Blow pipe hunting, fishing, gathering insects and worms, endless walks thru the heart of the jungle, evening chants and dances: this is how they spent their days. And then one day we left for other horizons, other adventures.