Kanamari Indians

There are currently an estimated 2,800 Kanamari indians in Brazil. The Kanamari people posess a deep and rich heritage that has lasted for generations. They are located within the amazon jungles away from the influences of settlers. They refer to themselves as Canamari or Tukuna, which means people. The Kanamari people are also known for their natural healing methods, or curandeiros, as well as the facial tattoos of the older generations. The Kanamari people believe they were created by Tamakori, who first created them and then later left and created the whites.

The history of the Kanamari Indians

The Kanamari indians have only had contact with the outside world for the last 150 years. Their initial contact, which has been called “the time of the rubber” by the Kanamari, begin with trade with a white tradesman, or -tawari, named Jarado. They credit him with establishing town limits and mapping out future locations for rubber storehouses. He traded with them several times before he left never to be seen again. White rubber trade bosses later returned and established themselves within the Kanamari land. They soon began to require cruel labor in exchange for trade. This cruelty caused the Kanamari people to further fragment into groups as some fled the cruelty of the rubber bosses.

A portion of the Kanamari fled to Itaqui territory, where the white rubber bosses had not established headquarters.This period saw much abuse on the women and children, at the hands of the white rubber bosses. Unfortunately, the rubber bossess eventually took over this area as well, further fragmenting the people. Some Kanamari eventually settled in Javari and are currently located there. This is referred to by Kanamari as the period of living in the middle of the whites. In 1972 the white settlers began to leave the Kanamari land. The final white settlers were removed in 2002. The brazillian government agency FUNAI began to distribute cargo and assisted with the removal of the whites from Kanamari land. They also released debts owed to the rubber bosses. Many Kanamari refer to the present period as the Time of Funai because of the work of this organization.

The Present-day Kanamari Indians

Currently many Kanamari indians live in poverty created by the brutality of the rubber trade. Brazil does not recognize the right of Native Americans to own their property, which causes many landowners to take their land and drive them away from it. Corruption by landowners has created many hardships for the Kanamari people. Diseases introduced from the outside world has greatly diministed the population. Brazilian NGO the Center for Indigenous Work (Centro de Trabalho Indigenista- CTI) reports that since the year 1970 Hepatitis B and D infections have been rampant. A recent report in the year 2000 found that over 8 percent of all indians in the Javari valley have died from diseases introduced into their environment. The Brazilian government has been accused of not being proactive in providing treatment for the Indian population.

Alcoholism has also been blamed for the deculturization of the Kanamari people, with many of the Indian chiefs becoming dependent and entering the people into a slavery-type working arrangement to fulfill their addiction. In less than 50 years, they have traded their past for alcohol. The effect physically and culturally has been devastating. Alcohol was introduced by the rubber companies and was used to keep the Kanamari in debt and enslaved.

Additional Information

Information sources
Tsohon-Djapa on Ajuricaba expedition – with pictures
Projeto Canamari
Índios do Vale do Javari (AM) pedem socorro
Terra Indígena Vale do Javari é finalmente homologada
Mais dez Terras Indígenas são homologadas
Ministro da Justiça declara posse indígena de seis terras
Funai aprova limites para a Terra Indígena Vale do Javari
Anunciados os primeiros projetos indígenas financiados pelo PDPI

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