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I t came in low, guns bristling through the open bay. Such a strange apparition, like a giant insect, almost familiar but for its unnatural sound and fury and the faces staring down at them, striped in the black and green warpaint of the pariwat outsider.
As the shooting started it reminded some of carnaval firecrackers in Jacareacanga. But only for an instant. The Munduruku knew pariwat gunfire when they heard it, so they ran. The one young man not out hunting, Adenilson Munduruku, was killed by a bullet to the back of the head, execution-style. Could the Brazilian Armed Forces have mistaken Adenilson for an illegal gold miner as they hovered over a Munduruku village and gazed upon an indigenous culture engaged in its daily rituals?
Any such explanation must be rejected given that a dozen people were injured in the November attack, children among them. Tensions have persisted, particularly with Brazilian State agents trespassing on Munduruku territories seeking to develop a region over which the indigenous group claims sovereignty. Because this claim means nothing to the forces arrayed against them, the Munduruku have seen no choice but to resist.
They know that development of the valley poses an existential threat to both the tribe and the forest. In an hour, it bounces onto a landing strip surrounded by dense vegetation, and we exit with five other passengers, heading for the cinderblock terminal to retrieve a key from the guard. We sit down, and drape our legs over the edge, pleasantly cooled by the moisture of a recent shower.
Two miles away on the opposite shore, the forest seems to form a canyon wall, while in the distance, downstream, the river winnows through a maze of islands and disappears. Just upstream, a line of rapids connects both sides of the valley with a thread of broken water. For the next hour or so, we discuss the dam project, the wonders of Amazonia, and why human beings never seem to be satisfied with anything.