Panarás, 'Giant Indians', Grow Again 50 Years after Contact

Reinstalled in their original land from 25 years ago, the group sees its population increase, but suffers pressure from invaders

When they returned to their region of origin, in the Peixoto de Azevedo river basin, 25 years ago, the Panarás put an end to a tragedy that had lasted another 25 years: even before they found the contact front led by the Villas-Bôas brothers, in February 1973, "everybody" was already dying, as the chief Akë (pronounced Akã) tells us.

In the beginning, they were called "krenhakarore", always associated with the description "giant Indians". The fame of their supposedly beyond-average height, faded a little after contact, traveled the world between the late 1960s and early 1970s, provoking a global interest like few things in Brazil, apart from football, could reach at that time.

Panarás, 'giant Indians', grow again after almost disappearing. Credit: Fred Mauro

The Panará indigenous people managed to return to their homeland after decades of forced exile. Today they have reached a larger population than the one they had before being almost decimated by the diseases and mistreatment resulting from the contact determined by the military dictatorship, to tear up a road in the territory they occupied in the early 1970s.

Exactly 50 years after the meeting with Brazilian State officials, they are now going through a happy phase, of food comfort and population growth.

Even so, they are scared and have to permanently protect themselves against the risk of invasions, arson and the influence of agribusiness on their territory —in the form of a drying environment, water pollution and contamination of animals by pesticides.

Translated by Cassy Dias