MARCOS MAYORUNA found Jesus 15 years ago. The son of a cacique (chief) from the Vale do Javari, an indigenous territory in the Brazilian Amazon larg
MARCOS MAYORUNA found Jesus 15 years ago. The son of a cacique (chief) from the Vale do Javari, an indigenous territory in the Brazilian Amazon larger than Austria, he was converted by a missionary from another ethnic group and became a pastor himself. After seminary in Rio de Janeiro he went home to spread the word of God to the Mayoruna and other tribes.
He sometimes worked with Brazilian and American missionaries, swapping his local knowledge for donations to his humble seminary in Atalaia do Norte, a dusty town in the northern part of the valley. But, he says, the missionaries seemed more interested in reaching isolated peoples, indigenous groups that, unlike the Mayoruna, have little or no contact with the societies that surround them. Worldwide, 100 probably exist today, says Survival International, an NGO. The largest concentration, of perhaps 16, is in the Javari valley.
They owe their survival to a decision by Brazil’s government in 1988. It discourages contact with isolated tribes, except to prevent medical emergencies, warfare between tribes or other catastrophes. The policy’s father is Sydney Possuelo, a revered sertanista, or Amazon explorer, who led contact missions for Brazil’s military government in the 1970s and 1980s. Development projects like the construction of the Trans-Amazonian highway cleaved through forest inhabited by scores of indigenous groups (see…