On a Three-Day Tour Break, Sting Goes Native—Very Native—to Meet a Chief Amazon Indian
Dutilleux, whose 1979 film about the chief, Raoni, was nominated for an Oscar, works with a Boston-based group, Cultural Survival, to preserve the rights of indigenous peoples. Sting's journey would bring welcome publicity. For Sting and company, the three-day trip provided a glimpse of a way of life seldom seen this side of National Geographic. Before it was over, the singer had seen a panther; shot a bow and arrow; sung his composition, Fragile, a cappella for an audience of 90 mostly-naked Indians; watched Dutilleux capture a tarantula in a Maxwell House coffee jar; been daubed with body paint, and been awakened by screams when Trudie found a poisonous Surucucu snake in their sleeping hut (some Kayapó warriors clubbed it to death). "It didn't take long for the varnish of civilization to leave us," Sting observed. "After 48 hours, we were naked, covered with paint and fighting snakes." The highlight of the trip? "Meeting Tacuma," says Sting, referring to a shaman who was recovering from being struck by lightning. "Talking to him was like going back in a time machine 4,000 years."
Toward the adventure's end, Raoni spoke of the Indians' struggle to fend off civilization. "I have never seen such happy people," Sting replied through Dutilleux. "I speak to a lot of people, and I will tell them what you said. And I am grateful to be here with you."
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