Kulutxia (far left) and Pexkën, of the Korubu tribe, stand on the banks of the Ituí River, where a settlement of about 90 Korubu live in one of Brazil’s 690 protected indigenous reserves. Many Korubu have never encountered modern civilization.
Two hunters – Pinu Vakwë, with a cujubim bird on his shoulder, and Xuxu – stand behind their prey, two woolly monkeys. “I don’t know what they don’t eat,” says Salgado. “They eat fish. They eat monkeys. They eat pork. They grow cassava and maize. They live from the collected products of the forest.”
Members of the Pinu family (from left): Naylo, Vali, Wanka Vakwë, Pinu and Kanikiti. Salgado was quarantined for a week before being allowed into the Javari reserve, so as not to introduce diseases the Korubu have no immunity for. “You must have perfect health,” he says. “With just a cold, you can kill a lot of them.”
Tsamavo, a traditional medicine practitioner, treats a woman for pain. There are thousands of medicinal plants in the Amazon. “They have anti-inflammatories, they have antibiotics,” says Salgado. “Everything that we have in a pharmacy, they have down there.”
Ayax Punu relaxes with a brown titi monkey. “When you come out of your hammock, you must look around for snakes, scorpions, spiders,” says Salgado. And “you must always have a small fire when you are sleeping,” he adds, to keep jaguars away.
The Korubu hunt monkeys by shooting poisonous blow darts into the trees. Only the men hunt, but women often join them on expeditions and help carry the meat. Both men and women keep their hair short using a razor-sharp reed called a nëpa.
Korubu on their way back from a hunt. The Javari Valley is seamed with many tributaries of the Amazon. Virtually the only way into the region is by boat. “Very few planes can land there,” says Salgado. “If they land, they can’t take off. The soil is not stabilized.”
Tananeloanpikit (left) and Tsamavo Vakwë. With less government vigilance, there’s been an uptick in violence from outsiders. Last year, reports emerged that as many as 10 members of another Javari tribe may have been slaughtered by gold miners.
Xikxuvo Vakwë with one of the weapons that earned the Korubu the nickname “club men.” “They are big warriors,” says Salgado, but “when they accept you in the group, they become very friendly.”