Gabriela Viseur


Akiko was awakened by the uproar of howling monkeys. She dressed quickly, and left her tent. She yawned, stretched her body, and stood for a moment admiring the sunlight filtering through the green profusion of trees and bushes

Spotting her field assistants who were already sitting by the fire, she called, "Good morning, Thiago, Sergio."

"Good morning, Dr. Tsurugawa," they replied in unison.

Sergio added, "Coffee is ready,"

Akiko sat down by the fire and nodded, smiling, "Thank you".

She filled her cup, added sugar and had a sip. She bit into a biscuit and raised her eyes in time to see a group of brilliantly-hued macaws fly away, chattering loudly as they drew a rainbow coloured line in the sky over the river.

Sergio´s voice brought her back to reality,"Dr. Akiko..."


"Do you think we are near our destination?"

Akiko nodded, "According to the GPS coordinates I have, we should find this tribe soon."

"We are from this area and have never heard of or seen them..." Sergio told her. "It was surprising seeing those photos in the office."

Akiko agreed with Sergio, "And it was lucky those pilots saw them." She smiled and added enthusiastically, "That´s the great thing about working for the Foundation of Indigenous Affairs, isn´t it? I mean, we get to explore new places, know new people and their ways of life while we help protect their land against forest cutting and commercial exploitation."

"Yes, of, course, I'm glad to be doing this, it´s a nice job" said Thiago. Then he murmured worriedly, "I hope they´re peaceful, andfriendly."

Akiko reassured him, "Well, since I´m a woman and we have no weapons, I don't think they'll feel threatened." She drank the rest of the coffee, ate another biscuit and said, "If you've finished your breakfast, we can pack everything and move on."

The men stood up, "Oh, yes, sure..."

Akiko stood up, too, and then she froze: a group of people had suddenly appeared like magic, leaving their hideouts from behind the trees. They had long, black hair and were almost naked. They carried spears, arrows and bows, but were not holding them in a threatening way.

A woman stood in front of them. Her stern, proud bearing and the penetrating look of her dark, almond-shaped eyes, |

Akiko slowly raised both hands. Her assistants imitated her and the woman nodded. She said something to her people, who put their weapons on the ground.

The anthropologist pointed at herself and said, "Akiko."

The woman nodded again and repeated, "Akiko..." Then she pointed to herself and said, "Iviruti.”

The chieftain walked a few steps forward, took the anthropologist´s hands and shook them as she repeated, "Akiko".

The researcher smiled and repeated, "Iviruti" She pointed to her associates, "Sergio... Thiago."

Iviruti went to the men and greeted them in the same manner.

The chieftain made a gesture indicating the other hunters, "Kawapore"

Sergio asked in a whisper, "What is she saying?"

Akiko answered, "I don´t understand her language... It´s different from others I know. But I guess they call themselves Kawapore."

Iviruti then named the hunters who approached one by one and shook hands with the explorers.

After that, the leader moved her arms in a circle encompassing the trees and all the forest, "Omeede"

Thiago was puzzled, "And what now?"

Akiko explained, "Seems they call the forest omeede."

Iviruti was looking at them, apparently waiting for something. Then she pointed at the anthropologist,"Akiko?" Moving her arms around, with the palms up, she said, "Owaitai?

"She wants to know where we are from?" Thiago murmured.

Akiko nodded, "I think so." She made a circular gesture including her companions and herself. "Brazilians" Then she indicated the river, pronouncing it, and  pointed to the horizon, "far away."

Iviruti nodded.

The anthropologist continued, "We came by boat"

The chieftain stared at her, puzzled.

Akiko went to the river shore and patted their boat that was beached on the white sand, "Boat"

Now Iviruti nodded her understanding. She approached the boat an examined it carefully, then she mimicked paddling, "Waruhi'?"

"Oh..." Akiko shook her head, "No, no… waruhi" Pointing to the engine, "Motor"

Iviruti gave Akiko a doubtfoul look and scratched her head.

Akiko raised her hand and turned to her companions, "Push the boat into the water and show them how it works."

The natives' shock at the engine's noise turned to admiration when they saw the boat moving so fast through the water.

When the explorers came back to the shore, the chieftain pointed to herself then to the boat,"Iviruti... katumi"

"Ok, let´s take her for a ride," said Akiko.

At first, the woman seemed a bit nervous, grasping the bench, but then relaxed and enjoyed the speed. She smiled at Akiko, her eyes shining joyfully.

On their return, they were received by the excited cheering Kawapore who indicated they wanted to go on the boat themselves.

Akiko consented, so the hunters were given turns.

In the meantime, onshore, Akiko and Iviruti were working on ways to communicate with one another.

After everyone enjoyed the motor boat novelty and calmed down, Iviruti said something and they picked up their weapons and got ready to leave. She then gestured to the visitors to follow her.

As Akiko looked on, Sergio and Thiago secured the boat and gathered up the gear they would carry on their backs

After a long walk through the hot, wet dense forest, the hunters and their exhausted guests arrived at the "maloca", the Kawapore´s village, just as the sun was setting.

The villagers were surprised to see strangers accompanying the hunters and their chieftain, but welcomed them.The children surrounded the newcomers, watching them with the greatest curiosity.

In spite of being tired, Akiko was very excited about this whole new experience. She would have loved to grab her camera and start taking pictures, but she thought it might put her in danger because the Kawapore could suspect she was doing a threatening thing. Her earlier experiences with tribal societies taught her this caution.

There was so much to see: a little girl with a domesticated squirrel monkey sitting on her shoulder; the dignified older women who looked at the newcomers from a certain distance; a group of men bringing fruits; a young mother nursing her baby.

The newcomers were introduced to the tribe´s members, about fifty persons. They met Okavura, one of the elders; Iviruti´s brother Mboare who was married to the warrior Boharati; the chieftain's cousins Awatere and Tukuma and Nyamatiri, Tukuma´s daughter.

After the introductions, Iviruti directed the men to gather wood and light a fire to cook the meat and fish the hunters had brought.

Later, when the moon was high, the food was ready and they all enjoyed the meal. Akiko was concerned when she noticed that Boharati did not participate in the general enthusiasm, but stared at the newcomers with disapproval.

The anthropologist forgot her worry when the young men started drumming and singing, and a group of young women dancers, their bodies painted, and adorned with feather headdresses, began to perform.

Meanwhile, Iviruti stood up and left silently, unnoticed by the visitor who was distracted watching the dance.

The rhythm became faster and wilder, and Akiko was greatly surprised to see the chieftain, also painted and feathered, join the dance. She observed admiringly the agility and flexibility of Iviruti´s sculptured body.

* * * * *

Next morning when Akiko woke up she was surprised to find herself in unfamiliar surroundings. She looked around quizzically before remembering the Kawapore village, and that she was in the big common hut where the tribe gathered for meetings and ceremonies. This corner of the hut was the living quarters assigned to her and her crew. Now reassured, she took out the photo of a young, handsome man from her bag and smiled at it, "Good morning, Tavinho! At last I reached the end of my journey, and hope that I can return soon to be with you again!"

Then the anthropologist examined everything carefully, noting how the wooden posts were tied to hold the structure together and that the roof cover was made of huge dry palm leaves.

She walked to the door and looked out. The morning mist veiled her view, but she was able to pick out the small thatch huts where the villagers lived. She couldn't see it, but knew that the rainforest, with all its beauty and dangers was just beyond the huts.

She went back inside and lit the fire to make breakfast, thinking about how she would communicate with the tribe. She reminisced about her luck in finding Thiago who was a native of the forest but who was now fully acclimated to life in the city. His knowledge of native languages would be a great asset to her project. After their initial confusion, he was able to catch some words and told her that the Kawapore spoke a language similar to the Guahibo, so he would translate to Xingu, a language that Akiko could understand and Iviruti also knew. They were surprised to find this out, but Akiko then thought they possibly had some contact with other tribes. That was a mistery, because no other people had mentioned the Kawapore before.

But the anthropologist and her companions still had to rely on mimicry and pointing, to learn the names of things in order to communicate with the rest of the villagers. The Kawapore were kind and patient willing to teach them. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that this tribe was a peaceful one She had heard of those who demanded isolation and repulsed strangers.

She thought of this when the chieftain´s sister-in-law, Boharati, still kept the stern attitude she had adopted upon the explorers' arrival. This worried Akiko because she didn´t know what to expect. But she would soon find out.

Even though she couldn't speak fluently to ask questions, the scientist observed that the women had the highest status in the tribe, including commanding the men. They learned to use weapons and were the hunters. This was a great excitement for Akiko, because it was unlike other Amazonian cultures she knew, and, in fact, it was one of the few matriarchal societies still existing in the world.

That, of course, made her even more interested in learning as much as she could about the life and language of the Kawapore, so Okavura and Iviruti had to do their best to satisfy her curiosity.

Another matter was on her mind. She needed pictures to accompany her observations, so for that, she had to obtain permission and the tribe's confidence in order to use her camera. She and Thiago had to find a way to bring up the subject of picture taking." Really, Iviruti, Okavura I thank you for things you teach me," Thiago translated for Akiko.

The women replied, shyly, "Yes. It is good we do this."

"We want to learn  what to do and what not to do, so we do not cause ...err... trouble..."

The chieftain interrupted her, "No, no" she gestured to encompass the village.  "All know you not know ...uh... things we do so no one...cares. No one make you trouble." 


Okavura told her, "We want you to ..uh feel...uh...good. That is our Way."

"Then, if you don´t mind, I woud like to use my... my picture box."

Thiago told them Akiko´s wish and the women repeated curiously, "Picture... box?"

Akiko pointed to her eyes and said, "Eyes. I see you," pointing to herself and then to them. "You see me." She looked at them intently until they nodded their understanding

She opened her bag, took out the camera and pointed to the lens. "This is the eye of the picture box."

She pointed it at Thiago and said, "It sees Thiago. I do this." She pressed the button, slid the switch of the display, and immediately turned over the camera to show them."And this is the picture of Thiago."

Some villagers had come over to see what was going on. "Oh!" they exclaimed with Irivuti and Okavura when Thiago translated.

Iviruti asked, "Why do you want to have this... picture in your box?"

Thiago trasmitted the chieftain´s question and Akiko told her, "To remember what I´ve seen and to show it to other people who were not with me that moment... just as I am showing you now"

Her assistant translated the anthropologist´s explanation.

Boharati arrived as Thiago was translating Akiko´s words. After the young man finished the explanation, she said, "You see, they want to bring others here to our lands and take it from us, cut down the trees, kill us."

Iviruti tried to reason with her, "Oh, please, Boharati! They do not mean any harm to us."

"Oh! Seems you´re already bewitched... I just hope you won´t regret trusting them." She turned to her husband and told him. "Let´s go to our hut, Mboare. We must not be a part of this betrayal of our tribe and land. "

Okavura calmly called, "Boharati, please listen..."

The warrior woman answered harshly, "I´ve got no time to waste here!"

All the villagers froze, shocked by her insolence. When Boharati turned around to leave, Iviruti thundered, "Halt!"

Mboare hesitated , looking first at his sister and then at his wife, who did not seem to care about the chieftain´s reaction and replied disdainfully, "You cannot command me!"

Boharati walked away, but Iviruti caught up with her, and grabbed her arm, "As long as I am the leader of this tribe, you´ll obey me as everyone else does!" When the warrior turned to face her, she added, "Unless you want to challenge me?"

They stared at each other in silence for a moment until Boharati gave up, murmuring, "No... I do not. I won´t break the peace and union of our tribe because of those ... strangers."

"Good, then you owe Okavura an apology. You were rude to her instead of being respectful of her as an elder."

"All right," Boharati said, looking Iviruti straight in the eye, "I'll apologize."

* * * * *

The not quite intractable warrior woman offered her apology to the elder, Okavura, who accepted it without rancor.

Akiko, who had been stunned speechless by Boharati's outburst, recovered and, aided by Thiago's translation, said to the chieftain, "We are very sorry ...We... don´t … want that."

"I know...nobody wants," Irivuti responded.

Okavura spoke and Thiago translated," Boharati has to learn... you are here ... uh... in peace".

The visitors were taken aback somewhat when Iviruti suddenly asked ..." Why you are here?"

Akiko spoke slowly, choosing her words carefully, "People in city show me picture of this village," sweeping her arm around. "

Okavura interrupted her, ... pic-tur?"

The anthropologist nodded, "Yes... Some of my people flew... over village...

After Kuhapari, one of the warriors, heard the translation, she commented, "Oh, so that was the big noisy bird we saw in the air?"

Thiago translated and Akiko nodded, "Yes, they came… in that huge noisy bird. They took pictures"

Iviruti asked, "And so you came here?"

She nodded again, "No one know you here. They tell me, 'go see the people, see if things all right there. Then I tell my people what I see."

The chieftain insisted, "But why?"

Understanding that, Akiko replied, "My people... there are good people. Many good people. But there are bad ones, too."

Looking to Thiago who translated, Iviruti nodded pensively, "I see..." and she repeated what she just heard.

"It happens much," Okavura nodded in agreement.

Akiko went on, "The bad ones want to cut down the trees, destroy the forest."

After repeating her words, Thiago turned to look at the villagers when they spoke out in great agitation, "So Boharati is right! She IS dangerous"

"We must ban her from our village!"

"Silence!", Iviruti commanded. "We must listen to what she says."

The anthropologist defended herself when Thiago told her what was happening, "I´m not dangerous! I ... want to bring... information about the Kawapore to my people, so they ... will know you... are peaceful, good people... they make no trouble for you. No, it is bad people who make trouble for you."

The villagers were not convinced, "We want no bad people to destroy the forest!"

"Yes, leave our village immediately!"

The worried Akiko did her best to calm them down, "No, no! My people have Great Council. They will say... no one will disturb the Kawapore.

Okavura asked, "What council?"

"My people...a council... chieftains... all people must do ...what they say."

The leader of the tribe nodded, "Is good".

"So the bad people can be stopped."

"I understand."

Okavura, who had been silent, thinking, turned to Thiago to translate: "Then you have to go back to your people and tell them what you saw as soon as possible."

Akiko nodded, "Of course! But first ...I must learn... as much as I can, and I need... pictures... in my box."

Realizing the import of Akiko's request, the opening up of the tribe to the outside world, Iviruti decided to call a general meeting in the Great Hut where everyone could express their concerns. She asked Thiago to explain that to Akiko, then announced her decision to the tribal members.

After all were settled in the meeting room Iviruti called them to attention. "Listen, everyone! Akiko is our friend... she wants to help us. So, if she wants her box to see you, let her do it. You must not fear, there is no danger."

Awatere questioned the chieftain about that, and her fellow warrior, Tukuma, also expressed doubts: "Yes, how do you know she is telling the truth?"

"I understand your doubts, my sisters. So far she has done us no harm. I know it is a risk, but I feel we can trust her."

Okavura spoke up, "If she does what she said, we´ll continue to live peacefully in our land. If we chase her, there´s the risk that those bad people will come, after all. Because of that possibility I think we must call on Agarepa, our shamaness, the far-seeing one.

The villagers and warriors murmured among themselves, then quieted down when Iviruti stood and raised her arms: "What Okavura said is true. And yes, we will call on Agarepa. It is the thing to do. When she speaks with the spirits they will show us the way we should follow."

Akiko was troubled when Thiago translated for her. She felt a positive response would be a great help, but there was the chance the result would not be positive in her view. It all depended on the spirit guides' will, good or bad.

* * * * *

Iviruti and Okavura, escorted by three of the warriors, led Akiko and her associates to a hut hidden in the forest.

All were told to wait outside while Iviruti and Okavura went into the hut to talk to the shamaness.

Some time later, the chieftain beckoned the rest of the group to come in.

Once they were inside, Akiko and her companions met Agarepa, an old woman with long, white hair framing a wrinkled face. Her dark eyes studied the anthropologist and her companions carefully.

Her look was sincere and reflected a wise and noble soul.

Akiko felt reassured.

Finally, the shamaness spoke with a strong, clear voice that was surprising in someone so old, "So these are the strangers?"

The chieftain nodded and answered most respecfully, "Yes, Wise Mother."

The shamaness continued, "Tonight, I'll call the spirits to hear what they have to tell me."

Iviruti agreed, "Good, then we´ll be back tomorrow to hear their answer."

Thiago translated and Sergio asked, "But why must we wait until tomorrow? Can´t she talk to the spirits right now?

Akiko explained that usually, this kind of ceremony needed a special preparation, and that some shamanic rituals like this were performed privately, because the contact with the spirits could be dangerous, so only someone very wise and powerful could do it.

Iviruti, in a gesture of respect, bowed to the shamaness, rose, and left the hut. The group followed her and all returned to the village.

* * * * *

The next morning, the same group went again to Agarepa´s hut to listen to the spirit´s answer. Akiko, Thiago and Sergio were anxious because they knew that much depended on the shamaness ´words.

After they entered the hut and sat in a circle on the floor, Agarepa spoke, "I have talked to the spirits, and they revealed the future to me."

Iviruti asked, "And what did you see, Wise Mother?"

"These strangers are pure, their intentions are goo. "

Akiko sighed with relief. but Agarepa looked at her and said, "However, I also saw danger."

The warriors were puzzled, "But... how´s that possible'? You said..."

The shamaness interrupted them, "Not danger from her, but for her."

Akiko frowned when Thiago translated, but the messenger of the spirits quickly reassured her, "Don´t worry! You´ll overcome all the problems and prevail."

Awatere, the warrior, wanted to know, "But tell us, Wise Mother, what´s the future of the Kawapore?"

"I saw a peaceful future."

Okavura asked, "So we should accept the strangers?"

The shamaness nodded, "Yes, we have to offer them our hospitality, because they are the ones who will bring us peace."

Iviruti bowed , "It will be done as the spirits decreed."

Agarepa raised a hand, "But before you leave, I´ll pray to the spirits to protect us as well as the strangers."

She picked some dry leaves from a bag next to her, threw them in the fire and a scented smoke fllled the hut.

The shamaness started chanting and praying. The sound of her song made Akiko feel calm and relaxed. At last she felt really welcome among the Kawapore.

* * * * *

When they returned to the village, Iviruti called the tribe together and told them the message of the spirits. They were glad to know there was no reason to fear the strangers.

Akiko and her team of researchers were now free to take pictures, and make notes and do all they needed for their research.

However, they would soon find that their presence was still contested.

A group of hunters came back bringing a tapir.

There was excitement and joy in the village, because such a catch assured there would be enough for everyone. Nyamatirí, the young leader of the hunting group, distributed the meat among her people, naming each one and giving each their appropriate portion. Then she cut off another piece of meat and named Akiko. The anthropologist received the hunter´s gift with deep gratitude.

Immediately an objection was heard, "Why do you give her meat?"

Nyamatiri asked Boharati, "Why do you complain? You already have yours!"

"They are not our people."

"They are living with us, now!",the young hunter responded.

Tukuma reproached Boharati, "Come on! Do you want them to starve? That would be a shame for us!"

Iviruti spoke up, "What´s this, Boharati? Didn´t you hear the message of the spirits? They are welcome among us!"

Nyamatiri added, "And since I´m the hunter, I have the right to give the meat to everyone, as I wish." She went on, "The Mother of the Forest gave us this, so we must share Her gift."

"That´s right! And since we had such a good hunt, I think it´s a sign She´s pleased with the presence of our guests," Tukuma reminded her.

Boharati replied, "All right, celebrate it now, then. As for me, I´m going to my hut." She left taking her family with her.

Akiko felt sad and apologized when Thiago explained what just occurred.

Okavura told them, "Never mind! Boharati seems to think all strangers are dangerous, like the turtle men of the legend."

"The... turtle men?"

Iviruti told them, "it´s an old legend." She looked at Nyamatiri and smiled, "Come on! You are our storyteller."

The young woman smiled back and began her narration, "Long, long time ago, the grandmothers of the grandmothers of our grandmothers met a strange people. They came on a huge boat, and there was something hard on their heads and also on their breast and back... like a turtle shell. There were strange animals with them, big deer without horns, but with hair on their necks and long tails. Strangest of all, is that the men could sit on the back of these hornless deer and the beasts obeyed them and carried them where they wanted to go. Our ancestors wanted to chase them away from our land, and fought bravely against them, but these strangers had a rod that spat fire and made a terrible noise like thunder. And so, it is said that from that time we have been hiding in the forest and avoiding encounters with strangers."

After Thiago´s translation, Akiko said, "That´s a very interesting story. So we are the first strangers to be welcomed by your tribe. Hmm."

"I´ve never heard something like that," Sergio said doubtfully.

Akiko went on, “We are very honoured and happy that you accepted us among you. You could have killed us…”

Iviruti shook her head, “Oh, no! We wouldn´t do that since you were unarmed… that would have been treacherous.” She chuckled and added, “And well, you are not turtle men!”

After the general laughter, Nyamatiri said, “It´s a story, only that. No one takes it seriously… well, except Boharati.”

* * * * *


Later that evening, Akiko and the men were in the hut that served as their living quarters which were partitioned for sleeping.

Before they turned in, "You are very silent, Dr. Tsurugawa." Thiago observed.

"Oh, I was just thinking about that story about the ... turtle men."

Sergio shook his head, "And you believe such a legend?

"There could be something real behind it... When Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana and his men arrived at the Amazon river, it is said that a tribe of warrior women fought against him."

Thiago´s eyes opened wide in amazement, "And you think this story has to do with that?"

"Turtle men... Hornless deer ... Sorry, but it seems like nonsense to me!" Sergio shrugged in disbelief.

Akiko explained, "It is possible that they kept these memories through oral tradition.." She turned to Sergio, "And they had never seen metallic armour... Turtle men seems to me a good description of something they didn´t know. They related it to something that was familiar to them. It´s the same with the hornless deer: they did not know horses, just the deer. Then, a horse would look to them like a huge deer without horns."

Sergio admitted, "Yes, seen that way it seems logical."

"And the rods? That would be the firearms?"

The anthropologist nodded, "Yes that would be... I cannot think of another way of describing the noise of a gunshot but thunder... Can you?"

* * * * *

The next morning, Akiko greeted Tavinho´s photo as she usually did, wondering what he was doing back in Sao Paulo at that moment .Then she had a talk with her associates and they agreed to provide some food for the tribe and themselves. They did not have weapons for hunting, but they could go fishing.

They went to the river and had good luck. Akiko and Thiago caught two catfish, but Sergio, who used fruit as bait, captured a huge pacú. As someone born in the region, he knew that this relative of piranha, unlike its ferocious "cousins", lives peacefully feeding on the fruit that falls in the water.

Back in the village, they showed their catch to their new friends. Okavura said, "That´s good,…nice fish. But you don´t need to bring food."

"We want to help... not to be a burden."

Awatere said, "No, not a burden. Everything we have we share. But we appreciate this."

In the following days, they helped the villagers with common chores and in so doing, Akiko was able to learn more of the language and the daily life of the Kawapore.

It gradually became easier to converse with them and thus made her feel a part of the group, not so much an outsider.

One day, while Sergio and Thiago were cutting wood, Akiko watched Iviruti honing her archery skills with the other warriors. After a while she left to go into the forest to gather fruit.

She was walking along a stream in the forest, distracted by her search, when suddenly the whiz of an arrow that narrowly missed her brought her back to reality. The missile buried itself into what seemed to be a huge log, but when it moved, she paled in terror.

At the sound of running footsteps, she turned and saw a figure charging at full speed. Akiko hardly recognized Iviruti, whose face was disfigured by a fierce expression.

The chieftain threw herself onto the anaconda and repeatedly stabbed the enormous reptile with the stone knife she always carried. The huge serpent´s body shook convulsively for some moments until finally only the tail beat slowly in its death throes until it ceased moving.

Akiko struggled to recover her breath while Iviruti stood with her eyes fixed on the enormous animal, the blood-covered knife still in her hand. At last she relaxed and sighed, "It is... dead."

In a sudden impulse, Akko threw herself at Iviruti, grabbing and holding her shoulders tightly. "Oh, thank you, thank you!", she cried. The chieftain reacted by putting her arms around the anthropologist´s waist, but then let them fall.

When Akiko raised her eyes, she saw the embarassment in Iviruti´s eyes and the reddish colour of her earth-coloured, high cheeks. Now she too felt embarassed, and whispered, "I... I´m sorry. I... thank you. You ...saved my life."

"It is my duty to protect you as well as the tribe," the chieftain said softly. But I must tell you not to go alone into the forest again.”

Still disconcerted by her atypical behavior and the stern warning she just received, Akiko nodded and said yes.

Then, looking at the anaconda´s corpse, she asked what would happen now.

"First, we will thank the Mother of the Forest, because she gave us the life of this serpent... Then, you will help me carry it to the village."

"Carry it to the village?" A shocked Akiko repeated.

"Of course! It is a lot of meat. It will feed us all for some time. Come, we must build a frame to carry it on." The chieftain gave Akiko a quizzical look and wondered at her own first reaction to her guest after the kill.

* * * * *

 Akiko is in the forest, walking under the trees. A branch slowly lowers and stretches toward her, the leaves fade away, and it turns into an anaconda fixing its cold eyes on her. Akiko screams, runs away, but now all the branches come to life as snakes, so she finds herself surrounded by anacondas hissing and opening their mouths threateningly...

Akiko awoke gasping, and covered in cold sweat. There was loud knocking on the panel separating their quarters and Sergio and Thiago were calling, "Dr.Tsurugawa! What's wrong? Are you all right?"

Akiko shook her head as if to discharge the snakes from memory, wrapped her arms around herself to still her shaking, then called to her colleagues: "Just a moment, please." Putting on her robe, she walked over to the entrance of her room and let the two men in.

Thiago said, "You were screaming... We were worried."

"It was a horrible nightmare. I'm sorry I awakened you."

"Oh, don´t worry... What did you dream?" asked the ever curious Sergio.

She told them.

"Well, it´s not surprising, after the fright you had today."

Sergio added, "It was good luck Iviruti was there and saved


"Oh, yes, I was very lucky."

"Do you need anything now?" Thiago asked

"No, no, thank you. I´m all right."

"Well then... we'll go back to bed. Hope you'll sleep OK now." Thiago said.

She thanked them again and they left.

The disturbing dream haunted her, naturally causing her to rehash the real life trauma. She chastised herself for her actions, for not considering possible consequences of going into the forest alone.

It's not as if I didn't know about forest predators...just not intent on wanting to contribute food that I could gather myself. So I didn't ask anyone,                           any of the young warriors or Okavura to accompany me. Foolish!       I felt like such a child when Irivuti scolded me. Rightfully.


For a while, Akiko  contemplated with her mind's eye, Irivuti' s charge and dispatch of the serpent. "What a magnificent woman she is...What power! Then, I worsened my error by grabbing and hugging her. That must have shocked her as much as seeing the anaconda preparing to strike me... At this thought, Akiko shuddered. Calming herself she continued "... and as much as it shocked me...     but she immediately wrapped her arms around my waist... "The memory of how good that felt caused an unexpected warmth to envelop her…

What is this? Another shock when she realized that only Tavinho had ever been the source of such a reaction from her. "Oh  my..." Sighing, "I am grateful, of course, and she has my admiration for what she did, but I cannot let these unusual feelings interfere with my job... I must kep my objectivity..."

* * * * *

The next morning, the researcher and her companions went fishing. When they came back,they found Iviruti, Kurupahi and a group of warriors talking excitedly.

They soon discovered that Mbenbetarí, Kurupahi´s daughter, was having her period for the first time. She was now in a small hut apart from the village, and had to stay there fasting for three days. During that time, only her mother could approach the hut to bring her water.

Meanwhile, there was.happiness and expectation as the villagers prepared a party in honour of the new warrior woman and her rite of passage.

Two days later, just before sunset, all the people gathered at the edge of the village and waited until Mbenbetari and her mother appeared. The daughter was now adorned according to the rank she had just acquired. The warriors, painted and feathered, then escorted the new member of their group to the ceremonial place, cheering loudly. Akiko was v

ery pleased, because she was able to take many good pictures and was witnessing an important tribal ritual.

Men lit the fire and cooked the food. The elders and married men began singing while the young boys danced in honour of Mbenbetari.

Akiko enjoyed Mboare´s powerful baritone voice. She observed that Anangura, Tukuma´s son, was the one who displayed the most strength and grace, capturing in the process, the young warrior woman's attention. The anthropologist also saw Kurupahi and Tukuma, the mothers of the couple, as they exchanged a glance and a knowing smile.

It was time now for the warrior women's dance to welcome the new member to their ranks. Akiko was very surprised when Iviruti stood in front of her, summoning her to the dance with a gesture. The anthropologist tried to refuse, but Iviruti held her hands and made her stand up. Akiko felt confused and shy when she met the chieftain´s eyes and smile, but she recovered immediately, accepted the invitation, and followed the paces and the beat as well as she could, feeling clumsy among the nimble and graceful warrior women. She felt even more embarrassed when she stumbled on a pebble and Iviruti held her in her arms, preventing her from falling.

* * * * *


After such an exciting evening when she witnessed a special tribal ceremony, and participated in the festivities, the dance and all, Akiko was reluctant to even think of leaving, but it was time to make preparations for the journey home. She told Irivuti they needed to talk with her so she came to the common hut the next day.

Akiko began, "We... we have to people are waiting for information about your tribe. You know, the people who want to clear cut the forest are strong. I am hoping what I tell will help us stop that." Akiko told her.

Iviruti nodded her understanding.

"So we want to start our journey in 2 days."

"But you can´t leave just like that! You´ll need food..."

Sergio spoke up, "Oh, we´ll catch fish..."

"Yes," said Thiago, "We did that when we came and brought our own food..."

Ivirity shook her head, "All the same, it doesn´t seem right... we can give you some smoked meat and fish."

Akiko replied, "Oh, we don´t want to cause trouble..."

Iviruti insisted, "You are our friends... we want to give you a gift."


The anthropologist chuckled, "I´m sure Boharati won´t agree with that."

The chieftain shrugged her shoulders, "Who cares? That´s not how the rest of us feel."

"Thank you very much for that."

Iviruti murmured shyly, “We... we´ll all miss you."

"And we´ll miss you too!", Akiko said. "But I hope I can come back."

"Really?" the tribal leader, obviously pleased.

"Yes, I hope so. There are still many things I want to learn from the Kawapore..."

Iviruti smiled broadly, "That's... very nice. I... I like that."

* * * * *


Akiko was awakened by a loud rumbling sound and was nearly blinded by the light from jagged lightning crossing the sky. She was a little unsettled by a whooshing sound but then realized it was wind and heavy rain pounding the thatched roof. Fortunately, it was strong and well constructed. Her appreciation of the natives' building skills rose.

She looked at her watch which showed it was half past seven. Yawning, she got up and joined Sergio and Thiago who also had been awakened by the storm. Their plan to leave this day would have to be put on hold, she was thinking.

"So, it woke you up, too," she remarked, seeing the men standing outside their quarters inspecting and admiring the construction of the hut that protected them so well.

"Yeah. Rough stuff. We were just saying we'll have to wait for better weather."

Akiko looked at Thiago, "Right. This will give me a chance to do more work on my report.     Why don't you take some pictures of the inside of the hut...I saw you checking it out, " she smiled and he nodded his assent.

When the rainfall became lighter, Iviruti  appeared at the door. "Good morning, Iviruti!," Akiko welcomed her.

"Good morning to you! I wanted to see if you are all right.

That was a strong storm. I think some roads may not be good. Maybe you leave another day."

The storm made roads temporarily impassable so the travelers would stay another day or two. They certainly didn't relish boating on the river in the rain.

* * * * *


The proud chieftain asked Akiko to accompany her when she left the common hut. They sloshed through the mud to her hut, the Brazilian very curious about the invitation. This would be her first visit to the leader's living quarters and she felt a twinge of anticipation.

Akiko looked around. The sleeping hammock was tied to two poles in a corner, ready to be used. Below it was a gourd for drinking water and a couple of pots. The spear, bow, and quiver with arrows were leaning against another pole.

Meanwhile, Iviruti went to a chest in another corner, searched among some things and selected a small leather bag. She took Akiko´s hand in both of hers, "This... is a small gift for you."

Akiko opened the bag and found a beautifully carved wooden token representing the head of a jaguar.

"Oh Iviruti, this is lovely, but...but..." the puzzled anthropologist hesitated to accept it.

"I want you to have it, Akiko. It means strength...and...Agarepa blessed it... It will protect you from the dangers of the forest..."

"Well then... thank you... very much! It's really beautiful and I appreciate its value. Also your friendship. I will always keep this and memories of my visit with me."

The next morning, when Akiko woke up, she saw it was sunny and nice. She got dressed, attached the jaguar token to a leather strip and put it around her neck. Her assistants noticed it when she joined them for breakfast.

"Oh! That´s a nice pendant, Dr. Tsurugawa!", Sergio commented.

"Yes, isn´t it?" She held the token and looked at it while she explained, "It´s a present from Iviruti. She said it will protect me from the dangers of the forest because Agarepa blessed it... and well, I wanted her to see I like it and that I appreciate it."

Thiago agreed, "Sure, she´ll certainly be pleased."

They got ready to go, and then went to say goodbye to their new friends, butwere puzzled when they didn´t see Iviruti. Okavura told them that she had gone hunting, so the disappointed anthropologist and her companions had to start their journey without bidding farewell to the chieftain.

When they reached the river, they saw that "irupé", the giant Amazonian water lily had grown some distance away from the place where they had left the boat and now was in bloom. A jacana that was standing on the huge dish-like leaves flew away screaming in alarm when it saw them coming to the river shore.

The adventurous trio pushed the boat into the water and started their journey back to Manaos.

* * * * *

Senh. Luiz Antonio de Sousa, the FUNAI representative of the Manaos office, closed the folder and looked at Akiko who sat at the other side of the desk, carefully watching his reaction .

"Well, Dr. Tsurugawa... I am .... simply speechless! You have done a wonderful job in such a short time."

She smiled, "Thank you very much, Senh. de Sousa!"

"Your report will be sent to the Ministry of Inner Affairs. They will be alerted to include the Kawapore on the list of Native Nations. That department will be responsible for their protection. And the Ministry of Economy will be concerned with preventing activities such as exploitation of the forest in that area."

This information pleased Akiko very much indeed, and she expressed her satisfaction.

"So now, what are your plans?" The agent continued.

"I´ll be working this week to leave all the papers and my office in order, and then, I´m going to Sao Paulo on vacation, to see my parents and family."

He nodded, "Good"

" Senh. de Sousa..." Akiko began...


"You know... when I return from Sao Paulo... I´d like your permission to go again to the Kawapore village..."

"Oh?" Then,"Of course! You already know them, they trust you... you have learned a bit of their language.."

"Yes sir. And I´d like very much to continue my field research among them..."

He nodded,"I know. I know. I imagine that must be very interesting."

She said enthusiatically, "Yes, the Kawapore are unique and... fascinating!"

"And we must see to it that things remain so." He thought for a moment, "Actually... it´s really strange that we didn´t know about them until now."

"I agree, it is strange"

"But you told me the chieftain and one of the elders, speak Xingu."

"Yes, that´s seems they have had contact with other tribes."

"And yet, the natives we know about never mentioned the Kawapore... that´s curious!"

"Well, that is what we still have to research... their contact and exchange with other tribes..".

Senh. de Sousa smiled, " Certanly, it is a matter for investigation. You have my permission to return there."

"Thank you so much, sir. "

"Meanwhile, you have earned a good rest. I wish you a pleasant holiday with your family."

"Thanks, I plan to."

* * * * *


After her farewells to her dependable and talented fellow s, Sergio and Thiago, Akiko went to the airport to pick up Tavinho.

As she carefully maneuvered the car in traffic, she took quick sideways glances at him. He was looking very handsome, she thought, with his blond hair and beard neatly cut and trimmed. She admired how the sky-blue polo shirt and white bermuda pants complemented his tanned skin.

"I´m glad you could come here. It was lucky that you finished the project for the new building and that the shopping mall project was postponed...", she said to him.

"Yes, that gave me the idea of spending these days with you here in Manaos and going together to Sao Paulo", the architect looked at her, feeling quite charmed.

She chuckled, "I hope you have brought an elegant suit. I bought tickets to go to the opera at Teatro's "The Magic Flute".

His green eyes sparkled and he replied in good humour, "Yes, I saw that on the internet so I put a suit in my luggage... I guessed you´d like to go."

"Sure, it´s one of my favourite operas…"

"It's mine, too! How cool!"

* * * * *


Akiko looks around the splendid concert hall of Teatro Amazonas, now dark and full of people. The orchestra is playing the overture to"The Magic Flute" and the glorious sound invades her, filling her soul with infinite pleasure.

The overture ends with three vibrant chords and the curtain opens revealing a dark, mysterious forest. The violins start playing again with an anxious tremolo "in crescendo"... and then Akiko is no longer in her comfortable seat. Now it is she, instead of Prince Tamino, in the middle of the stage pursued by a giant snake and desperately calling for help "Zu Hilfe, zu Hilfe..."

Just as she is about to faint, Iviruti, instead of the Three Ladies, appears, and kills the serpent with her spear . The trumpets' blast proclaims the victory as the chieftain sings "Triumph!..Triumph!"...

Akiko awakened with a start, breathing heavily, but soon relaxed in the bed with a big sigh of relief. She got up and went to the kitchen for a drink of water. Although she didn´t turn on the light, Tavinho, aware of movement, wakened.

"Uh-- ah... What happened, Akiko? Are you all right, my love?"

"Oh, yes, it´s nothing... I just had a ... strange dream."

"A bad dream?"

"Hum... Not exactly bad... but...weird."

"Really? What did you dream?"

Akiko told him.

"Well, it´s not so strange. You were certainly very scared

when that anaconda threatened you and Iviruti saved your life. And the beginning of the opera brought that back to your memory..."

She chuckled," With a bit of help from the caipirinha* we drank last night.."

He chuckled, too, "Yes, the caipirinha surely contributed."

Hugging her and kissing her forehead, he gently protested, "And yet, you still want to go again to that village in spite of all the dangers..."

"But, Tavinho, that´s my job, what I chose to do, what I want to do! Or you expect me to stay home?"

"No, no, my dear, of course not! But maybe you could work for FUNAI in the office, and teach at the University, without risking yourself..."

She asked him stiffly, "Really? Are you sure?" Then, in a calmer tone, "You see, sweetheart, just going out in the street can be dangerous. You can get hit by a car, attacked by a thief... The druglords rule in the favelas*... Anything could happen to anyone. Of course there are many dangers in the forest, but ....our cities are frightening jungles, too."

He thought for a moment and reluctantly admitted, "Yes, that is true, too."

"Good... So, it´s early... Shall we go back to sleep?"

"Yes, honey." He kissed her lips briefly, "Sleep well"

"You sleep well, too."

But Akiko didn´t asleep easily: she thought again of her dream, the attack of the anaconda and Iviruti´s timely rescue, and she remembered the physical power yet softness when they embraced... and she shivered..


*Caipirinha: it´s a drink made with cachaça, a kind of liquor distilled from sugarcane, similar to rum, mixed with sugar and lemon.

Favela: slum. Actually, former Brazilian President Lula da Silva and current President Dilma Rousseff had to send the Army with tanks to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to stop crime, because the drug clans fight among themselves, murdering and terrifying the other people of the favela who have nothing to do with that.

* * * * *

The sun was shining high over the Praia d´Ipanema and the light coming through the window illuminated the antique furniture, the artistic pottery and the jaguar fur that carpeted the floor. This was the posh office in Rio de Janeiro of Efigênia Figueira- Gomes.

The wealthy woman smiled when she saw the letter from the Ministry of Agriculture on her ebony desk, but her smile quickly faded as she read. Her feline green eyes flashed with anger and her lips curled nastily.

She threw the letter on the desk, reached for her i-Phone inside her Gucci bag and selected a number from the contact list. "Hello! This is Senhora Figueira- Gomes. I want to speak with Atty. Barbosa, please... Good"

After a moment, "Hello, Ferdinando, Efigênia here..." A pause, "Yes, I´m fine, but well... I've just had some disgusting news.." Another pause, "You see, I filed an application with the Ministry of Agriculture requesting a license to make use of the forest area next to my ranch in Amazonas State and to expand the range area for my cattle, but now I received a letter saying it has been denied." She inhaled, snarled, and continued, "It´s because there´s a stupid tribe living there that is being studied by some stupid anthropologist."

Answering a question from her attorney, she went on, "Well, I was wondering if maybe you have some contacts in Brasilia... What? You... can´t do anything..? Yes, I know it´s the law, but..." She listened and replied, "Sure, I could join forces with others in my situation, but it would take time to change the laws, and I can´t wait that long. I´ve got a paper mill waiting to buy the wood and the burger guys are getting impatient for my cattle business to grow. Seems junk food is still in great demand..."

* * * * *


After lunch, Akiko was having a coffee and talking with her mother Satomi in the kitchen of her parents' home in Sao Paulo.

"I´m so happy you´re here, Akiko! I just wish you could stay longer...",Satomi said.

"I know, Mom, but well... I must get back to work."

"But you´re not going back to the forest, are you?"her alarmed mother asked.

"I have to! I can´t leave my research incomplete."

"But you found this exceptional tribe, ruled by women... Isn´t that enough?"

"It´s much more than that, Mom... There are many things that we still don´t know about them..."

"You know, my dear, it makes me so scared... It´s so dangerous!"

"That´s right, but, as I already told Tavinho, big cities are dangerous, too."

"I see... but then, what about him?"

Akiko loked at her mother, puzzled, "What do you mean?"

"You are going to leave Tavinho alone for such a long time?"

"Err. .. We.. we already talked about that, and I made clear to him that this is my job and my career."

"So you don´t care about him?"

"Oh no, Mom, it´s not that! Sure I like him and I enjoy being with him..."

"But you´re leaving all the same."

Akiko said, patiently, "Well, I didn´t study at the University and earn a doctorate to stay at home, right? And Tavinho knows that if I go away, it doesn´t mean I don´t care for him."

Satomi stared at her daughter, "Really? When you love someone, you want to be at that person´s side."

"If you really love someone, you accept your partner´s individuality and liberty. Loving doesn´t mean you have to be tied to another..."

Her mother shrugged, "You know, Tavinho may get tired of being alone. He could find another girl and leave you."

"Please, Mom, things are different now... There´s more to a woman´s life than getting married... Couples are different now, partners are more independent."

"Well, dance to your own tune, then. But then don´t tell me I did not warn you."

* * * * *


Her vacation over, Akiko returned to her office for a meeting with Sergio and Thiago to organize their next expedition to the land of the Kawapore. The first assignment for the men was to check the tents and the boat. While they were gone she worked on the shopping list for their provisions.

But before leaving for the supermarket, she received a call from Senhor Luiz de Sousa who asked her to come to his office. "There´s someone I´d like you to meet."

"Oh...! Yes, I´m coming."

A few minutes later she entered his office and saw an attractive middle-aged woman.The FUNAI official introduced the woman who stared at Akiko with cold green eyes.

"So pleased to meet you, Dr. Tsurugawa."

"And I´m very pleased, too, Senhora Figueira-Gomes."

Akiko felt rather embarrased comparing her own blouse and jeans to Efigênia´s elegant light green "tailleur" outfit and the gold and emerald ring glistening on her finger.

"Senhor de Sousa tells me you met a very special tribe, that was unknown up to now."

The anthropologist nodded enthusistically, "Oh, yes! The Kawapore are very special indeed... they, along with the Mosuo who live in China, are the only authentically matriarchal societies we know of and, yes, we've had no contact with them until now..." She reflected a moment, "But... how did you know? This has not been announced to the public yet."

Efigênia answered calmly, "Well, it´s a casuality. I tried to get approval to utilize that forest area, but it was denied because of your research... It was really fortunate you contacted them before any harm was done."

"Oh... I´m sorry if it affected your business interests, but, as you will understand, we have to protect and support native people.", Akiko explained.

"Of course! And what you found out interests me a lot."

"I can show you some pictures I took, if you want to see them."

"Oh yes, I´d love to!"

* * * * *

A few days later, the three explorers set out in their motor boat, heading upriver. Akiko gazed in awe at the verdant forest along the coast, the white beaches where alligators lay lazily warming up under the sun, and the trees seemingly covered by quivery white flowers that actually were dense flocks of small egrets roosting on the dry branches.

Hours passed until Thiago finally pointed to a place on the river bank, "We could go there... looks like a good place to camp."

"Yes, it does look promising," Akiko concurred, and so it was settled.

They prepared the camp, unloaded enough provisions for the evening meal and sat around the fire to eat.

Swallowing his last mouthful, Thiago broke the silence. "We covered a good distance today. Tomorrow we´ll arrive at the fazenda* of Senhora Efigênia."

"And her men will be waiting for us," Akiko added.

Thiago shook his head and sighed, "I don´t understand why they´ll accompany us to the village...This time we know where the village is and we could find it on our own."

"Oh, I don´t like it either, and I think it´s unnecessary... but she was so willing to help... and insisted so much... On the other hand, it´s good to know we can find help and support at her ranch in case of need."

Sergio admitted reluctantly, "Mmh... maybe."

* fazenda: ranch

* * * * *


The next day, Akiko and her collaborators arrived at Efigênia´s ranch. There they met Arsenio, Elpidio and Gesualdo, three strong looking men who would accompany them on their journey to the Kawapore village.

When the greeetings and introductions were over, Sergio commented, "This must be a strange job for you...I mean, you'´re certainly used to working in the fazenda with the cattle..."

Arsenio said, "Oh,no! Actually, we do not work in the fazenda."

"Really?", a surprised Akiko commented.

Gesualdo explained, "No, we´re not from here, we´re from Santo Antônio do Içá. We used to work on the docks, as porters."

Elpidio completed the explanation, "And then, someone told us that Senhora Efigênia needed people for this job. So, they hired us... and here we are!"

"A curious story", the pensive Thiago said.

Akiko nodded, "So, then, carrying our things won´t be something unusual for you."

"Of course not.", Gesualdo said.

Arsenio added, "It´ll just be a change... a change of scenery for us."

Elpidio agreed,"Great scenery indeed! The mighty rainforest..."

The anthropologist announced, "And we'll be going there tomorrow. We´ll rest here tonight and leave in the morning."

Gesualdo informed her, "No problem, all our things are packed so we´ll be ready whenever you want."


Deep in the rainforest a shamaness sat in her hut, her eyes fixed on some far, invisible point. Her face was expressionless as if she were a statue and her soul had abandoned her.

"So, there´s trouble coming... It´s time to act," she sighed, coming back from her visions.

She took some herbs from a bag, threw them into a wooden mortar and powdered them with the pestle, chanting a prayer. Then she added water to prepare a potion and drank it...

* * * * *

Mbenmbetari came running into the village and breathlessly called out, "Iviruti! Iviruti!"

Other warriors soon gathered around her, "What happened? Is someone pursuing you?"

The young warrior insisted, "I must see Iviruti! Where is she?"

The chieftain joined the group, "I´m here. Why are you so alarmed?"

"I was in the forest, checking the traps, and I heard the jaguar roar, near the trail from the river to the village."

Iviruti´s face turned serious as she commanded the warriors, "You´ve heard it. Call the rest, we must meet inmediatly in the Council´s hut."

Minutes later, when all the warriors were present, Iviruti gave the news and issued orders: "A small group will go with me to see what our Guardian and Protector is telling us, and the rest will stay here to protect the village."

"I want to go with you!" Mbenbetari pleaded, knowing the answer.

The chieftain shook her head, "No, you will stay. You´re too young" Then she smiled with satisfaction, "I know your mother´s courage, and I know you´re her worthy heiress. You will help your mother as her second in command." She turned to Tukuma, "I trust you, my dear friend, but in case of doubt, I´d like you to rely on Okavura´s wisdom and advice."

"Of course."

Then the cheiftain addressed specific warriors, "Boharati, Awatere, Nyamatiri! Go fetch your weapons. You will go with me."

"You...want me to go with you?, her surprised sister-in-law asked.

"Of course! We need your courage and experience. Undoubtedly, the jaguar's presence is a sign of something extraordinary."

The departing warriors said goodbye to their friends and family and were soon lost in the green depths of the forest.

* * * * *


The group travelled many hours on the river, until Thiago finally guided the boat to a small sandy bank covered by trees.

The men pulled the boat out of the water, secured it with a rope, then carried the baggage and placed it under the shade of the trees.

Elpidio asked why they were going to camp already. "It´s early... We could still go further..."

Akiko told him they would have lunch " and then we'll go to the Kawapore village." She pointed to a narrow space between two trees. "It´s at the end of that trail."

"Oh, good! So we´ll be there this afternoon, right?"

The anthropologist nodded, "Yes, that´s right."

"We'll, make a fire now and prepare our food," Sergio looked at them.

"OK" Elpidio said.

He, and the other man exchanged a look, crouched to open their bags, searching among their things and then, they stood up at the same time, holding pistols.

"Wha... what´s this?, Thiago stuttered.

The shocked Akiko tried to negotiate, "Please, ...if.. there´s ..anything you want,... just take it."

"Yes, you don´t need to harm us..."

Gesualdo smirked, "Sorry, but Senhora Efigênia wants you dead... and she´ll pay us well for that."

* * * * *


Agarepa moved fast and silently, well hidden by the exhuberant vegetation. The air moved easily in and out of her lung, and her limbs, strong and nimble, carried her effortlessly to her destination.

Her keen eyesight allowed her to see the world in its smallest detail; her acute hearing detected even the slightest sounds of an insect moving or a leaf falling.

Coming near the river, she stopped, carefully exploring the world around her with her powerful senses. Now she was sure: she heard strange voices, and noted a distinctive smell, very different from the usual scents of the forest: wet earth, fading leaves, mosses and grass.

"Strangers", the shamaness thought. Then she moved again, slowly and cautiously, toward the river...

* * * * *

The gunmen aimed at the defenseless trio, but before they coud shoot, a jaguar sprang from  a tree branch onto Gesualdo sinking its fangs into his neck, killing him instantly. The terrified Elpidio and Arsenio stepped back and turned to  the feline, but before they could take aim, it leapt away and disappeared among the bushes.

 Meanwhile, Thiago, the first to recover from the surprise, shouted, "Come on! Run!"

The three started running before the shocked criminals recovered.  But then:   "Stop! You can´t escape, no matter how fast you run!,"  Arsenio bellowed. He and Elpidio stood still, ready to shoot the fleeing explorers when  the jaguar appeared again, like golden and black lightning.   It atacked Arsenio,  its fangs piercing the gunman's throat.

Elpidio muttered, "Onça condenada!" (Damned jaguar!)

He pulled the trigger but missed: the predator was again hidden in the forest.

"Gato do diavo!" (That devil´s cat!), he growled angrily in frustration. He crouched next to Arsenio, who was gasping his last breath.

He stood up, turning away from his dead partner and carefully approached the folliage, looking for any sign of the spotted feline.

"Where is it?", he thought.

While searching for the jaguar, he came upon Akiko and her comrades, again.

"Ah, I´ve got you!" A mean sneer of triumph on his cruel face.

The trio started running again, but Akiko stumbled on a  branch and fell to the ground. 

Elpidio aimed his gun at her, while Sergio and Thiago watched in horror.  They hadn't seen her fall and were too far ahead to help her. With a callous curl of the lip, the jackal said, "Adeus   meninha!"  (Goodbye, girl!)

Suddenly there was a tremendous  roar, he turned  in time to see the jaguar charging  him. Before he could react, the fierce predator leapt, throwing him to the ground and latching onto his neck, flailing him wildly.

Akiko sat, frozen with terror. Her companions now approached to help her as they called, "Please, Dr. Tsurugawa! Come with us!

The anthropologist moved slowly, and crouched,ready to stand up. She gulped  and froze again,as the jaguar raised its head and fixed its eyes on her. Her terror melted away when she sensed that the big, golden eyes had an almost human look...

Then the majestic feline calmly walked away, its head erect and tail proudly pointing to the sky. The stunned trio watched it vanish into the forest.

* * * * *

 Moments after the jaguar left, a group of warriors arrived at the beach. Akiko smiled, happy to see the chieftain again.

Iviruti greeted her with a broad grin, "Akiko, friends! How good to see you!"

"And we are very glad to see you, too!"

"We came because we heard a big noise... like thunder..." She looked around, "What happened here? Who're these men?"

Akiko and her companions took turns telling the story.

"So... these were bad people who wanted to kill you?"


Boharati spoke up, "Because there´s a bad woman who wants to destroy our forest."

Akiko looked at her and sighed, "Yes".

The warrior turned to the chieftain and rasped, "You see? I said we shouldn´t have admitted them.     They've brought outsiders, led them here to our region. If they hadn't come here, no one would know about us."

Iviruti replied calmly. "Boharati, please remember what the spirits told Agarepa."

"And see, the Jaguar protected them." It was Nyamatiry who pointed this out.

"Well, yes, this time, but will the Jaguar be able to protect us if more of those people come?"

Iviruti reminded her, "This has already been discussed and settled. The Spirits assured us we will be safe."

Awatere supported her, and added, her patience waning, "Yes, let's not waste anymore time with this. It's time to go back to our village."

"Humm... I think we´ve got something to do here first," Irivuti put it mildly, spreading her arms to encompass the bloody mayhem left by the jaguar.

"Oh, why worry about them? They´re not our dead. They were enemies... they came with bad intentions." Boharati 's disdainful retort.

The young warrior, Nyamatiri, reproached her, "Even so, we must show them respect. Would you rather leave them to the vultures?"

Iviruti turned to Akiko, "How do your people deal with the dead?"

"We bury them."

"All right. We´ll help you."

"That is good, but first, we need to take pictures." Akiko told her.

"Pictures? Why?"

"We have to explain what happened here to the authorities in Fonte Boa. "

Sergio continued, "We must show that they were killed by a big cat, so we need pictures of the wounds and the traces..."

Thiago finished, "That's important or they will accuse us. Someone could say WE killed them."

"Oh, yes... I see." Iviruti then spoke to the warriors, "Boharati, Tukuma... please, go to the village ad tell our sisters about this situation. Meanwhile, the rest of us will stay and help our friends. "

* * * *

By the time the gruesome task was completed, it was late. The shared rations of the trio, augmented by fish from the river, fed the tired group sufficiently before they turned in for the night.'

The next morning, after breakfast, Irivuti and the warriors prepared to return to their village. She looked at Akiko in expectation.

"Well... actually... we.. we´re not going to the village right now."

The chieftain´s face reflected her disappointment, "What? You... you´ve just arrived and you´re leaving so soon?"

"Oh, no don´t worry! We will come right back."

"But where are you going?"

"As we said, we must tell the police about yesterday´s events." Thiago told her.


"They protect people who obey the law from the people who don't, " Sergio explained, "and to catch the bad guys and put them in prison."

"Oh, I see. Pri-son. Like ... put bad ones away." Irivuti continues to learn new words from this other culture.

"Yes. We have to tell them what happened to those men, show them the pictures..." Thiago went on with the explanation.

"And we ´ll give them their things, so they can send them to their families, if they have any." The anthropologist further clarified.

Iviruti nodded, "Good! But when the... uh.. po-lice... know they wanted to kill you, they´ll want to know why, and..."

Shaking her head vigorously Akiko assured her: "Oh, no, no, we´re not going to tell them that!"

"What?" said a stunned Iviruti. She'd caught a sense of the power of these authority figures… the po-lice. One doesn't keep things from them.

"We know who told them to do it, and we don´t want to alert the bad people that we know about them. In the criminal world information gets out so easily."

"We´re just going to say it was a great misfortune, that a jaguar killed them..." Thiago said.

"Which is the truth, after all." Sergio put in.

Ivirut thought for a moment and smiled, "Yes, seems like a wise plan to me."

* * * * *


Akiko and her helpers gave their report to the police of Fonte Boa and immediately returned to the Kawapore lands where they were again warmly welcomed by Irivuti and the warriors.

But right away, trouble came in the form of Boharati who was accompanied by a small group of warriors she had gathered, apparently for support. In her previous confrontation with the chieftain about the presence of the foreigners, she had backed down. Now, her attitude suggested she was prepared to force a faceoff with the leader.

"So, the strangers are back!"

Iviruti calmly responded, "They are our friends, they have the right to come and go."

Now Okavura spoke up, "Remember, Boharati, the Spirits said that there was nothing to fear."

Completely ignoring both Irivuti and Okavura, the enraged warrior, remembering the three men killed by the jaguar, was absolutely convinced of her initial argument: "More people will come, and what will happen? They´ll destroy our land, and what then?"

Still maintaining her calm, the leader replied, "They are our chance to avoid that. Don´t you see? They are trying to help us..."

"Yes, by bringing more strangers! If I were the chieftain, I´d send them away!

"But I am the leader and I accept the words of the Spirits "

"That can change!", Boharati snapped.

Iviruti opened her mouth, looking at her in disbelief, "What... what do you mean?"

"Yes, I am challenging you! Or are you afraid?"

"You know I´m not. I´m just sorry .We should join forces, instead of fighting each other."

The Elder pleaded, "Please, stop this nonsense. We are all sisters."

Mboare spoke to his wife, "Yes, my love, listen to her! Think of the consequences. If you lose, we´ll have to leave and be exiles... Do you want that for our son?"

"I intend to win, then I´ll be the leader, and we´ll get rid of the strangers and we can be in peace. Isn´t that worth fighting for?"

Iviruti interrupted, "So you are decided... you will fight against me."

"Yes! And you?"

"I´m ready if you're sure you want this. As my brother says... the consequences..."

"I do...and I don't intend to be the one to need to consider that."

"I think this is reckless behavior, sister, but since it is my duty to accept the challenge, I do. I suggest Awatere to be the judge. She´s a brave, respected warrior."

"Yes, that´s right.", Boharati agreed."

" I´ll see you at sunset, then."

"I´ll be there." the warrior said, feeling so sure of herself.

The two warriors went to their respective huts as Akiko and her friends exchanged worried looks, uncertain of their future...



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"Yes, that´s right.", Boharati agreed."

" I´ll see you at sunset, then."

"I´ll be there." the warrior said, feeling so sure of herself.

The two warriors went to their respective huts as Akiko and her friends exchanged worried looks, uncertain of their future...



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