SURVIVING

Fishing and hunting is for the Amazon Indians the way to get their food. This food is used for their own consumption but is also used for trading. The children learn very young how to survive in the Amazon area. The boys grow up with fishing and hunting and the girls learn how to cook and to weave (for example baskets).

In the Amazon river swim more than 2000 different kinds of fish. Many species of the catfish, tetra's, dogfish, cichlids, piranha's and so on. One of the largest fish in the Amazon river is the Pirarucu. This fish can become 3 meters long and he can weight up to 200 kilogram. The dry scales of this fish are used for window decoration and as a file.

There are different ways used to catch fish. The most widespread method is using a net or a bow-net. Another way is to hit the water with a poisoned liana or using the juice of a poisoned plant "the barbasco". This happens, of course, in a blocked off piece of the river. The poison prevents the fish to breath. Stupefied, but not dead, the fish is then picked out of the water as they float towards the surface. The mild toxin in barbasco does not permanently affect the fish so it causes no permanent damage to the fish that is not caught and, most importantly, is not toxic to mammals. 

a harpooning indianboy
a harpooning indianboy in a kanoa

The most spectacular way is harpooning of the fish. Especially children use this method often. The fish will be harpooned the moment he swims to the surface to breath. This method takes, of course, a lot of patience.
The Amazon Indians hunt also for many kinds of wildlife like the capibara (waterpig), the pekari (wild pig) and the tapir. Also for this kind of hunting they use different kinds of methods like the rival, the bow and arrow and the blow pipe. In the blow pipe they put little darts made from slivers of the wood of the "inajyuga" palm and using down from "kapok" seeds creates an airtight seal. The darts will be tipped in a poison called "curare" .Curare is a muscle relaxant that induces paralysis. Not only does curare kill the prey, it also relaxes the muscles thus reducing the chance of muscle spasms keeping the prey out of reach in the rainforest canopy.

Other important food sources for the Amazon Indians are fruit, nuts and yucca.
Yucca or manioc (or cassava in Africa) is the ultimate multipurpose vegetable. From the roots from the yucca they make many kinds of food like the farinha. Especially in Brazil people eat this with everything.

Also other products, like soap, are made from yucca.

 

preparation of the farinha
preparation of the farinha
Photo: Jacqueline van der Kort