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Patrick Wolff


An ordinary day of hunting with the MATIS in the 21st century : Men – Jaguars

The journey up the Amazon, from Manaus, towards the triple border of Brazil, Colombia, Peru, in this case the town of Tabatinga, represents an exceptional adventure in more than one way:

°both on a practical and logistical level with a navigation of almost 1800 km on a turbulent river, sometimes difficult, always dangerous, but wonderful with exceptional fauna (pink dolphin for example)

°on a human level with surprising encounters in the middle of the primary forest, a veritable cathedral of greenery where the pillars are not made of stone but phenomenal trunks whose height reaches and even exceeds 40, even 50 meters high and supports a rich and living canopy.

During this 14-day journey in July 2019 we had the immense privilege of meeting the MATIS, indigenous people of this Brazilian Amazon who live in the Javari valley, on the Rio Itui.

Today, there are only a few hundred individuals left after they were decimated in the 1970s by the first epidemic contacts (mainly influenza) which killed more than half of the population. In 2020, they also paid a heavy price for covid 19.

It was the white people who named them “MATIS”, but their real name is:

Men – Jaguars

because of their reverence for this flexible and powerful feline, king of the Amazon rainforest.

Moreover, they tattoo their faces with dark stripes, imitating the coat of their totem animal. Added to this are various attributes: acacia thorns, ivory and other materials making the mimicry even more convincing.

The Matis still live like their ancestors. Women take care of household chores and collect wild vegetables and fruits. They are mainly responsible for the cassava, taro and banana plantations while the men go hunting.

The Matis are a people of hunters.

Game is killed when the opportunity presents itself, or when the pantry is empty, with bows, arrows and blowguns.

The blowguns are immense, 4 meters long, the interior of which is perfectly cut, to the nearest millimeter, smoothed and polished with a mixture of resin and beeswax, thus creating a particularly well-machined barrel for shooting arrows coated with curare, poison which quickly leads to death by asphyxiation.

The targets are mainly monkeys, hit with centimeter precision, as they frolic in the canopy more than 30 meters high.

It should be noted that the meat of these prey, killed with curare, is edible without special treatment, as curare is not toxic by ingestion.


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