Amazon River Tariano Indian Kids

Asked to accompany a local church work team to Brazil for two weeks of filming, we spent the first week in a barrio of the capitol city, Brasilia, documenting the construction of a church building. We then were flown to Manaus, where we boarded a 100’ wooden riverboat for a medical mission trip down the Negro River to the Amazon and east into an area occupied by the Tariano Indian. We stopped at a floating island in the Amazon the first day out, where we were greeted by three Indian children playing on the dock. They climbed on the boat, the vendor’s tables and us. Their energy eventually began to wane and I shot the photo when they came over to sit next to me on the dock.  

Val and Amazon River Friend

While I was busy making friends with the Indian kids and the digital display on the camera, Val was making friends with one of the locals on the other side of the dock. Both were beautiful, yet, wary of one another’s company. We would see many more exotic birds in the wild as we continued on with the medical team.

Amazon River Girls

The riverboat made its own landings as the captain would drive the bow into the bank’s soft mud. With the gangplank lowered to the bank, within minutes there would be a ling of folk ready to board for treatment by the doctors and dentists on the team. They came in their dugout canoes or they walked, as roads do not exist in this part of the world. These three were excited about being aboard such a large boat. They received a health checkup and dental exam; something they would never have access to in their normal lives.

Riverboat Dentist

Tooth decay is a general problem among the folk who live along the Amazon. Infrequent access to proper medical and dental care and poor diets contribute to poor health. The team dentist had to quickly train some of the high school team members to assist with the many extractions that needed to be performed during the week. Having no prior experience, one student alone was responsible for a dozen extractions during her time working with the doctor. Here a team member is holding a flashlight while the dentist administers a Novocain injection.

Tariano Indian Canoe

I love mornings. It’s generally quiet and I can read and write without interruptions. One morning on the Amazon, I was writing in my journal out on the bow deck when three boys spotted me and paddled over to the riverboat. In the bottom of the dugout lay half-a-dozen piranha fish, some of which were still flopping. One of the boys with a machete stabbed one of the piranhas and held the fish up to me. I thought he was trying to sell me the fish, but I wasn’t sure, as I speak very little Portuguese and zero Tariano. He made sure he had my attention and then flipped the squirming fish off into the shallow water between their dugout and the riverboat. Within seconds, the fish had been attacked by other piranha in the water and was gone. Once more, the young boy stabbed another one, held it up to me and then again flipped it into the water. Poof! It too was gone in seconds, as it seemed hundreds of piranha came and tore it apart. He repeated this several times, making sure I was aware of the process. It wasn’t until later that day that I realized he was telling me not to go swimming in his play area.