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“ ZO’E’”

A Possible Utopian Tribe

Author: Angelo Bonelli

Multimedia: Angelo Bonelli


The Zoë tribe are one of the 38 groups that live isolated in the Amazon forest. They are documented by the anthropologists as being the last native indigos ‘intact’ in the Amazon forest.
Zoë in the Tupi language means “WE”, therefore the tribe ‘we’. They live in a mountainous area north-east of the state of Parà in the Brazilian Amazonian, their language belongs to the Tupi-Guarani dialect; they were documented in the 90’s as being one of the last indigo tribe to come into contact with the western society. In 1977 (the organisation for the protection of the isolated indigo by the Brazilian government) Johao, a Brazilian was appointed to guard this un-invaded area and protect it from the western world in search of gold, diamonds and wood, armed simply with a radio. He has lived there for 6 years with his wife. Since 23-04-2001 this land has been demarcated as a natural reserve of 624.000 hectares that initially should have been 2, 1 million hectares. I met the Zoë on their home ground, something extremely rare, thanks to the responsibility of the Ong Brazilian ‘SAUDE and ALEGRIA’ (health and allergies). This Ong has a precious and strategic responsibility, in Santarem in the state of Parà, assisting the members of sanitary in the riberinhe caboco community (they are a mixed breed between indigos and the black population), that live along the river Tapajos Since I’ve been working in this area the infantile mortality has reduced by 75%, and very important, this has discouraged the abandon of the forest. The indigos have been taught how to make use of the resources of the forest, how to make the water drinkable, they’ve been organised in a community structure making their presence a strong obstacle for the wood cutters and the cultivators of soybean.


I speak of the Zoë as a possible utopian tribe where unhappiness and hierarchy do not exist, a race that lives in harmony with the forest. This indigo tribe has been in contact with the western world for only a very few years and it remains totally indifferent to the community Saude and Alegria, which have constant dealings with the urban reality. The Zoë are totally isolated and live in the same conditions now as they did thousands of years ago. To reach them, after being authorized by the Brazilian government, you travel from Santarem Airport with a four seated aircraft, then after a one hour and forty minute flight directed northwards towards the boundary with Suriname, landing on a 500 metre runway. When you land you are among the Zoë immediately. They welcome you with a smile and say “auhanne” which means “what’s your name?” They touch your body, curious to verify any possible differences between you and them. It’s impossible to remain immune to their courtesy and affection. It’s not rare to see someone who becomes suddenly sad attacked by the children, women, men and elders until they recapture the happiness that they lost a few minutes before. Their happiness, serenity and cordiality appears so strange to us, unreal, yet at the same time it conquers you and makes you understand how this tribe is at one with the forest. The rare contact between people from the western world and the Zoë imposes skin protection from illnesses that for us are totally harmless (like conjunctivitis or flu) but can be mortal for them. In the second half of the 90’s the Zoë suffered from serious skin problems after coming into contact with ‘white people’: in 1998 the indigo tribe was reduced to 130 units, while now thanks to a process of recuperation we are able to count 208 units.


Today there is a real threat for the future survival of this tribe. The threat comes from the gold and diamond searchers, the cultivators of soybean from the multinational companies (American and Japanese) like Cargill and the woodcutters in search of wood: in fact the forest 30 kilometres from the Zoë natural reserve is burning. Gigantic cargo ships load the cultivated soybean, the cut wood and transport it to the saw mills and deposits. The unexplored natural reserve of the Zoë has now been drawn to the attention of the criminals who advance and destroy everyone and everything. These people risk extinction, this natural paradise, this cultural heritage, all risk extinction even before the entire world knows about them and the international community is in the condition to help them. The process of control and abuse of the Amazon territory has exterminated the majority of the native population. Several indigo tribes powerless when faced with invasion, resisting with force to the destruction of the forest, have penetrated remote areas of the Amazon forest beginning a course of action of radical resistance. Many of these tribes will die without ever being known. Fundamental aspects of their origins, culture and society have been lost or compromised by this process of permanent escare.


In 2002 25.000sq. kilometres of the Amazon forest has been destroyed, a surface area equivalent to the island of Sicily, while in the last 25 years 55 thousands of hectares of forest have been destroyed. If this trend is not reversed within the year 2040 three quarters of the forest will be transformed into a semi-dry savannah and the Amazon will no longer be (maybe today it no longer is) the lung of the world because the areas hit by destruction emit more nitride carbonic than it absorbs. The Zoë tribe has a dream: to be able to cross the boundaries with tranquillity and without hostility and be able to continue to live in their world in security. As representative of the political party “Verde” we are occupied in launching an appeal and an international mobilization to save guard the indigo tribes and the Amazon forest and to stop an ecologic and humanitarian disaster. This advancement must be stopped by involving all the international organisations and governments also through the innovated proposals like the ‘Credito al Carbonio’. International economical contribution in favour of the nations that stop the deforestation in order to give oxygen to the planet and save guard its inhabitants including the indigos.

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