PEOPLE OF THE RAINFOREST, by John Hemming (2020)

People of the RainforestPeople of the Rainforest: The Villas Boas brothers, Explorers and Humanitarians of the Amazon

By John Hemming

Oxford University Press, 2020

People of the Rainforest recounts the Villas Boas brothers’ four thrilling and dangerous ‘first contacts’ with isolated indigenous people, and their lifelong mission to learn about their societies and, above all, help them adapt to modern Brazil without losing their cultural heritage, identity and pride.
In 1945, three young brothers joined and eventually led Brazil’s first government-sponsored expedition into its Amazonian rainforests. After more expeditions into unknown terrain, they became South America’s most famous explorers, spending the rest of their lives with the resilient tribal communities they found there.
The glamorous and eccentric Paulista brothers became Brazil’s most famous explorers, and spent the second half of the 20th century helping Xingu peoples.  The Villas Boas changed public opinion about indios, got the Xingú Indigenous Park into law – the first in the world to protect an expanse of forest just for its indigenous peoples – made five first contacts, developed a new method of helping indigenous people handle change without losing pride in their society, and provided perfect working conditions for some fifty anthropologists.  All Amazonian anthropologists of Brazil, US, France (e.g. Lévi-Strauss), and Britain twice supported their nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Author and explorer John Hemming vividly traces the unique adventures of these extraordinary brothers, who used their fame to change attitudes to native peoples and to help protect the world’s surviving tropical rainforests, under threat again today.

Table of Contents

1. The Expedition
2. Kalapalo
3. Onward Exploration
4. The Media Jungle
5. The 1950s
6. The Xingu Park
7. Posto Leonardo
8. Health
9. Two Societies
10. Change
11. Contacts and Rescues
12. Panará
13. Retirement
14. Legacy

Appendix 1: Timeline of the Villas Boas
Appendix 2: Early expeditions to the Upper Xingu
Appendix 3: Anthropologists and Researchers, 1946-88
Appendix 4: Populations of indigenous peoples

Notes and References

About the Author

John Hemming is a former director of the Royal Geographical Society and the author of many books, including The Conquest of the Incas. He is a renowned explorer of Amazonia and the leading authority on the history of Brazil’s indigenous peoples.

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