The Xingu Indians are perhaps most famous today as the Amazonian Indians that Sting once lived with. However, the Indians’ real importance is as one of the great environmental victories of the twentieth century. Brazil’s Xingu National Park is an area of protected Amazonian rainforest, created in 1961 by the Villas Boas brothers, where 15 indigenous tribes live in 5.6 million acres free from the advance of the society that has devastated the rainforest around them (one of the first political achievements on behalf of a tribal people).
Claudio and Orlando Villas Boas were born into a wealthy Brazilian family and in 1941 joined the Roncador-Xingu expedition (along with their brother, Leonardo), which explored central Brazil. By 1943 they had reached the state of Mato Grosso meeting the Indians of Alto-Xingu, who had no previous contact with the outside world, and spent the rest of their lives researching the lives and culture of the Xingu Indians while defending them against the encroaching and dislocating effects of ‘civilisation’. Today the Xingu Indians still live in isolation from the modern world in ecological and social balance, maintaining their traditions and culture.
Drawn from diaries written over twenty-five years by the Villas Boas brothers, Brazil’s most famous Indianists, Xingu is an encyclopaedia of observation and research into the ways of the Xingu Indians, their history, oral traditions and their myths (never previously revealed to any other outsiders). It is also a compendium of information on the plant and animal life of the region, as well as of its climate.
The myths of the Xingu, which make up the bulk of this book, explain the relationships, rituals and culture of the Xingu while retaining the vitality of stories that have passed down generations, unchanged since the creation of the tribes.
For their work in founding the Park the Villas Boas brothers were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 and 1975. They were awarded the Founders Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1967. Claudio Villas Boas died in 1998 while Orlando died in 2002
“A remarkable account of the Xingu Indians, their relationships, rituals and oral stories, which have been passed down unchanged since the tribes’ beginnings and are still resisting the advances of the 21st century.” The Ecologist
“Classic account of Brazil’s indigenous tribes.”
“This book is an eloquent testimony of the sort of disasters that civilisation is inflicting on defenceless peoples the world over… This book and its description of the folklore of these peoples can help us and enrich us.”
Fourth World Review