One of the things I most looked forward to when visiting Brazil's northern city of Manaus, known as the Gateway to the Amazon Rainforest, was the opportunity to visit some of the aboriginal people living in the Amazon. The opportunity came when we sailed along the Rio Negro river towards a riverside village inhabited by the Tuyuca (Tuyaka) people. They also call themselves Dojkapuara or Utapinõmakãphõná. Their population is concentrated in Brazil and Colombia. Tuyuca is spoken by 500 to 1,000 people in these two South American countries.

Throughout their history, the Tuyuca have been known as expert canoe manufacturers as well as specialists in the making of hammocks from Brazilian natural buriti palm tree fibre. They were among the first aboriginal people who encountered European colonists in Brazil in the 16th century.

The Rio Negro

They possess a vibrant oral history and culture. Like all the indigenous people in Brazil, they continue to nurture a powerful spiritual connection with the rainforest and their ancestral land. There are currently around 200 indigenous groups living in the Amazon Rainforest, each with distinctive cultures and speaking about 180 different languages, belonging to 30 separate language families. From these groups, approximately 50 are still very isolated and maintain minimal contact with outsiders.

Pin it!

The external threats

Our visit took place at the very beginning of the rapidly-evolving coronavirus pandemic in February 2020. It's unfortunate to see how COVID-19 has been decimating the aboriginal peoples of Brazil. At the time of this writing, Brazil represents the third-largest outbreak country in the world, after the United States and India.

Exit full screenEnter Full screen
previous arrow
next arrow

As National Geographic reported, the global health crisis hitting them disproportionally, at twice the general Brazilian population rate, has only compounded the already existing threat from encroaching loggers and miners causing massive deforestation and river poisoning. These land invaders are emboldened by President Jair Bolsonaro's right-wing government. They have been responsible for the murder of several aboriginal leaders who have called for the protection of the Amazon Rainforest ecosystem and its indigenous populations.

Exit full screenEnter Full screen
previous arrow
next arrow

Even though in 1988, the Brazilian Constitution explicitly called for protecting the country's indigenous peoples' legal land rights, existing laws are too-often blatantly disregarded. Brazil's current political leaders are increasingly calling to expand agricultural and other types of development into indigenous lands. This has resulted in a dramatic rise in violence and environmental devastation.

Exit full screenEnter Full screen
previous arrow
next arrow

The Amazon rainforest contains 10% of all the planet's biomass. So massive deforestation there has a significant effect on global warming, since the vast amount of carbons that the forest stores are released in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Visits from Manaus

Several tour companies offer day trips from Manaus to visit aboriginal villages. Tourism provides a good revenue source to the Tuyucas — who welcome visitors to share a snapshot of their cultural heritage through traditional dances and music. Recent coronavirus prevention measures have restricted the number of visitors allowed per group, and social distancing and mask-wearing rules are also being enforced.

While supporting Brazil's aboriginal peoples through responsible tourism is a good step, donating to reputable organizations such as Greenpeace who are fighting to preserve the Amazon Rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants' land rights, can help make a significant difference.

You may also like

8 Things You Can Do to Help Save the Rainforest in 2022

Featured tours


Related articles

Get the latest stories in your inbox!

Most popular articles

April 27, 2021

La vie en rose in Taif, Saudi Arabia

Category: Saudi Arabia
Known as the “City of Roses,” Taif is a city located on the slopes of the Hejaz Mountains in Saudi Arabia's province of Makkah. The sixth most popular city in the Kingdom, Taif…
February 17, 2017

Al-Balad: Journey into the heart of old Jeddah

Category: Saudi Arabia
Nearly five years into my experience as an expatriate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I can still point to the historical district of Old Jeddah, known as Al-Balad (translates as…
March 02, 2017

Trekking and trail running in the Arabian desert

Category: Saudi Arabia
No expat experience in Saudi Arabia would be truly complete without venturing out into the desert, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. One of the best and most memorable…
March 21, 2020

Holy street art, Batman!

Category: Arts
Continuing on my tradition to seek out the bohemian and artistic neighbourhoods when I travel to a new city, my first stop the morning after I landed in São Paulo, Brazil,…