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Uncivilized

By:Sawyer Bennett

e, calling out a greeting to an old Caraican man that was lying in his hammock. An old woman, presumably his wife, tended a fire, where she was spreading the manioc flour over a clay plate.

Father Gaul spoke in quiet Portuguese to the man, while patting him on his shoulder. The man gave a semi-toothless smile amidst a heavily wrinkled face, and it was clear that they were exchanging greetings. Father Gaul then pointed at me and fired off a flurry of words I didn’t understand, but clearly, I was being introduced.

The old man beckoned me forward with his hand, and I stepped nearer to him.

“Moira… this is Paraila… Zach’s adoptive father.”

Father Gaul then turned to Paraila and spoke more Portuguese. It was the language many tribes adopted in the last century, born of a necessity to communicate with the world creeping in on the Amazon wild. Paraila looked at me and gave me a tender, welcoming smile as his hand reached out. I took it, and he spoke to me. When he was finished, he squeezed my hand and Father Gaul said, “He bids you welcome and is happy to have you in his village. He hopes you will rest for a while. When the hunting party comes back, there will be a big feast to welcome us. He also says that he hopes you will take good care of his adopted son, but by looking at you, he can sense you are a good and strong woman, and will have no problem handling Zach.”

I smiled wide at Paraila and said, “Father Gaul… tell him thank you, I’m honored to be here, and that I will take very good care of Zach when we leave.”

Paraila smiled at me one more time, and then he and Father Gaul talked again while I turned to check out the village some more. There were a few skinny dogs running around and oddly, in the next longhouse over, I saw a tiny, black monkey with a leash around its neck made of palm rope, which was tied to a log on the ground. One of the children was feeding it plantains and apparently, it was some type of pet, which was very interesting, because I knew one of their meat staples was, in fact, monkey.

Resting a hand on my shoulder, Father Gaul said, “Come. Let’s set up your hammock, and I’ll show you where the water is so you can freshen up. Then you can get a nap. The feast won’t be for a few hours, and it will go late into the night.”

I nodded and followed Father Gaul out of Paraila’s home, eager to get my first glance at Zach when he came back to the village.

The feast was underway, and Zach had not returned. Father Gaul had told me when I woke from my nap that Paraila was concerned about him. He was not taking the news of our arrival well and had been adamantly opposed to leaving with us. Apparently, he and Paraila fought for days over the issue, and it still wasn’t clear whether Zach had agreed to return to the States with me.

A large fire had been started in an open area just a few yards from the huts, and varieties of meats were roasted. The hunting party had come back about an hour ago—by my count twenty-two men strong. But Zach was not among them. When I asked Paraila, through Father Gaul translating, he said, “Zacharias is tracking a tapir and stayed behind. He’ll be back soon with more meat.”

I picked at the food I’d been handed, which was cradled in an oversized banana leaf. The hunting party was successful in killing a caiman and several spider monkeys, and they were greeted with cheers from the women as they came back into the village with their spoils.

The men were just as naked as the women were except for a tulip-shaped sheath over their penises made of woven palm. It nestled their uncircumcised penises in a thick nest of black hair, with their testicles hanging heavy beneath. Again, I had expected this, and it wasn’t shocking at all. As an anthropologist, I found those societal differences between our culture and theirs to be beyond fascinating.

The men made short work of cleaning their kills at the edge of the jungle, and then the meat was roasted over the open coals of the fire. When it was done, the food was pulled off by the women, who served the men first. Only after every man had started eating did the women take for themselves, which included me. There was also boiled sweet potatoes, cassava bread, and sliced papaya.

Father Gaul regaled me with stories of his time among the Caraicans, comparing them to some of the other tribes he ministered to. He’d been coming to this particular village for eleven years now, forsaking the modern world to live in the jungle with the Indians and teach them the word of Christ. It was a fortuitous turn of events when, five months ago, Father Gaul broke his leg and landed in a hospital in Sao Paolo. While there, another missionary priest came to visit him, who brought word of a wealthy businessman in the United States looking for his missionary friends, Jacob and Kristen Easton. They had mysteriously disappeared in the Amazon eighteen years ago, along with their son, Zacharias.

By the time the missionary had described these people, including a little boy of seven years old, Father Gaul knew without a doubt that the wealthy American was indeed looking for Zacharias of the Caraican Tribe. He immediately made contact with Randall Cannon, Zach’s godfather, and the wheels were set in motion to bring him home. As an anthropologist who studied native Amazonian Indians who chose to move into the modern world, Mr. Cannon had hired me to bring Zach—which was the nickname he went by as a child—home and also to help him to acclimate to a new life there.

I sat at the edge of the fire, listening to the priest and watching as some of the women sang and danced. I was told it was a song of thanks for the bounty provided, but I was betting the men wouldn’t sing and dance in tribute to the women who did their cooking for them. Women were still treated very much as second class in these tribal societies.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement as someone walked into the glow of the light ca

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