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The Zoë Tribe

The Zoe TribeAlthough access to remote tribes is usually denied to outsiders by the Brazilian government, a rare permit to enter Zoë territory was granted for filming a sequence of the large-format film Amazon. The Zoë are an isolated group of about 160 aborigines speaking a Tupi tongue. They may be the only intact tribe in the Americas largely unchanged by Western culture. They are the sole human inhabitants of an upland rain forest near the northern edge of the Amazon Basin.

Interesting Facts about the Zoë:

  • They sleep in heavy handmade hammocks slung in thatched huts without walls.
  • Fabulous archers, the men hunt, while the women process manioc (a fleshy rootstock yielding a nutritious starch), and all gather Brazil nuts.
  • Only one tribesman, Kuru, speaks some Portuguese. Others are adept at sign language.
  • The tribe fears encroachment from east and west, and they think the northern forests may conceal a race of giants.
  • But visitors from the south—gente de fala boa (nice people) who arrive in small aircraft—are met with joy.
  • In an attempt to preserve tribal culture, FUNAI denies them barulho, as well as store-bought food and clothing, metal cookware, factory-made hammocks and red yarn for arm and leg adornments.
  • The Zoë go utterly naked without regard to age and gender.

"One hope I have is that people will see Amazon and have a better appreciation for the unique and beautiful peoples of the region," said director Kieth Merrill. "I hope people will come to see the logic in preserving the people of the rain forest—and not just in order to 'civilize' them."