Image: Indigenous Waiapi Tribe

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Amazon Tribe Clings to Traditional Way of Life

The tiny Waiapi tribe is struggling to maintain its traditional way of life as mining companies edge ever closer in Brazil's Amazon.

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Image: Indigenous Waiapi Tribe

Jawaruwa Waiapi and his family walk through early morning fog at the Manilha village in the Waiapi indigenous reserve in Brazil's Amapa state on Oct. 13, 2017.

Tribal chieftain Tzako Waiapi perfectly remembers the day almost half a century ago when his hunting party stumbled across a group of white adventurers in the Amazon rainforest. Within months, nearly everyone in his entire tribe had died from disease.

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Waiapi men dance and play flutes during a tradition known as the “Anaconda’s party.” The men leave all the flutes on the river as an offering for the Anaconda snake to protect their village. 

The Waiapi are one of the most traditional tribes in Brazil's Amazon, but modern life is getting closer and the forest dwellers are learning how to navigate between two worlds.

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Men cut down trees to make a manioc field.

When Waiapis walk into the Amazon forest surrounding their village, they do not see trees, but a kind of shopping mall providing medicine, food, shelter, tools and weapons all under the eye of multiple spirits.

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Waiapi men enjoy the Feliz River.

The tiny Waiapi tribe is resisting moves by the Brazilian government to open a national reserve twice the size of New Jersey to mining.

In August, a Brazilian court suspended plans to abolish the protected status of the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca), which is split between the Northern Brazilian states of Amapa and Para.

The government has said it will appeal the decision.

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Villagers pose for a portrait. 

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A man poses with his wooden Borduna during the "Anaconda's party."

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Waiapi men stand in the Tucunapi River.

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A girl is carried by her mother in a manioc field, while harvesting to prepare Caxiri, a craft beer made with manioc, which is imbibed daily by men, women and children.

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A Waiapi man aims his bow. 

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Chieftain Japarupi holds a roasted monkey, part of the Waiapi diet.

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Meri cares for local children.

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Tribal chieftain Tzako plays the flute. 

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A woman mixes water and manioc to prepare Caxiri.

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A man runs after cutting down a tree to make a manioc field.

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Chieftain Tzako walks in the fog.

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Waiapi youths pose for a picture.

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Meri bathes with her cousin at the Feliz River.

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A Waiapi family poses for a picture.

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A boy looks for firewood. 

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Waiapi children pose for a picture.

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A Waiapi man walks on the road.

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Waiapi men relax in the jungle.

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Chieftain Akaupotyr tends a bonfire.

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A Waiapi boy stands behind adults in Pinoty village.

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