Matses

February 25th 2013

Posted by Krzysztof Maniocha

These pictures depict every day life of a tribe called Matses. The Indian Matses community lives in the Amazon Jungle near the rivers Yavari, Chobayacu and Galvez which flow through Peru and Brazil. The Matses’ dialect comes from the Pano languages, however many members of the tribe speak Spanish or Portuguese. The Matses people are self sufficient, their main food supply is fish and animal flesh which they hunt using bows or rifles, but they also farm plants such as yuka or platans.

In the 1960’s, the Matses were embroiled in a conflict with the Peruvian government which stemmed from the practice of kidnapping women from rival tribes and women from the Peruvian and Brazilian populace. This led to the aerial bombardment by government forces on Matses territory using incendiary ammunitions.

Nowadays the Indians wish to consolidate using democratic means to ensure their cultural survival. Whilst they have a president, the reality is that every village governs itself. Every man has the right to speak at tribal gatherings and decisions are made on that basis rather than the pronouncements of their president.

The modern way of living (mobile phones with no reception, toothbrushes, radio used for communication) is mixed with the traditional way of living. Even though the Matses have been Christianised, polygamy is still practiced especially amongst the older generation. There are however some aspects of their culture that are disappearing – nowadays every family lives in a separate house, in stark contrast to the communal living in the maloca where up to 100 people would reside. One way of returning to the past is during hunting, when they live in a traditional house. The Indian Matses use the modern medical treatments (vaccinations, medications to cure malaria, antibiotics), however they still gravitate towards natural medicine- they treat people by compressing plants and they use the poison of a frog to clean their bodies and spirits.

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