Raoni Metuktire is the current headman of the Kayapo tribe, son of Cacique Umoro, who was born in the province of Mato Grosso in a village called Krajmopyjakare (today called Kapot) around the year 1930. A big part of his childhood Raoni was traveling through the zones of the Xingu valley, influenced by the traditions of hunting of his culture. The identity of Raoni as a kayapo is significant for him to such a degree that at the age of 15 he started to use a disc for lips as a form to express the power and ferocity as a Kayapor warrior.
The Mebengokre or the Kayapo, as they are known by the western society is an indigenous nation which resides in the North Xingu basin of the Brasilian Amazones. The Kayapos have been exposed to western world for many years but they continue living in a voluntary isolation. Today they are considered as one of the most ferocious tribes and also as a rich indigenous nation with its 7 000 persons population, which resides in 21 villages, splitted in 180 000 km2 of the territory of the National Xingu Park.
Raoni has spent his life away from the western life up to the year of 1954, when he met with the brasilian indigenous brothers Villas Boas. There was doubt and tension during the first meetings, especially due to the constant threatens to the many indigenous tribes, which were facing the “development” of Brasil in their jungles. These meetings generally resulted in violent fights raising the number of indigenous dead and therefore reducing their population.
The Villas boas brothers first contact with the Ikpeng
The Villas Boas brothers played important role in the Raoni life. From them he learn to speak Portuguese and received a world vision outside of the Kapot. The Villas Boas brothers have understood that the indigenous nations should be preserved and understanding that the Kayapos desired this too as a form to guarantee their protection and cultural identity, Therefore the Xingu National Park reserve was formed in the year 1961 with a territory of 2,3 million hectares and more than 6000 habitants.
Because of the creation of the park, the Kayapos received territorial recognition but this did not protect them from the foreign economic powers, which was searching for exploiting their territory before the year 1973. The violence was frequent in the Kayapo lands, where gold mining was established.
Raoni Metuktire and Jean Pierre Dutilleux
Jean Pierre Dutilleux is a French film-maker and ethnographer, he met with Raoni in the year 1973 and the product of the connections of that friendship came the documentary called Raoni: The struggle for the Amazon` in the year 1977. The documentary has captured the international attention on the atrocities, which happened with the indigenous population of the Amazon and the product of this became that the British singer Sting have met with Raoni in the year 1989.
In the year 1989, Raoni left Brasil for first time in his life and travelled with Sting and Deutilleux on a tour around Europe and parts of Asia. On that tour Raoni has spread the message of protecting his rights and received funds from eight different nations to fight for the formal demarcation of his lands. In 1993 Raoni received the formal recognition of the lands, the expansion of The Xingu National Park of the 12000 km2 originally to 180000 km2.
Raoni Metuktire and Sting
After Raoni created the “Raoni Institute” with the mission to take care of the protection of the Mebengokre nations, their culture and environment. This institute received its independence in 2011 and is nowadays administered by the indigenous tribes and the help of the different seniors of the state among which find the ex-president of France Jacques Chirac.
No doubt the struggle continues for Raoni although when he does not travel he prefers to stay with his tribe, far from the Brasilian society. The repression of Belo Monte, which was proposed for the first time in the decade of the 70 s and which threatens the lands of Kayapo and the different forms of life in the region, oblige Raoni to continue with his struggle because the relation between them as Kayapos and their land is cruicial for the physical and cultural survival. The construction of the dam was suspended several times by the international pressure and by the crucial intervention of Raoni but even though today the construction of the dam continues.
Due to the age of Raoni he passed the most requiring responsibilities to his blood brother Megaron Txucarramãe and nowadays he resides in his birth town, Kapot, which is still threatened by the construction of the dam, the golden mining and the developing infrastructure.
In his advanced age Raoni is firm in his principles and gives his message to the young generations of the Kayapo against the threatenings they face and in favour of preserving the ethnic identity of the Kayapo.
As Raoni himself says… “Do not confuse the Kayapo ways with the Brazilian ways, do not long for money, there is no need to search the shining gold”.