Spirit of the Amazon, Indigenous Peoples of the Xingu

Sue is a photojournalist and Patrick is a writer. They have been documenting environmental and social issues in Brazil since 1985, with a focus on indigenous issues.

It all started one day in the 1980s when Sue met Cacique Raoni Metuktire and her life changed; he anchored her soul to the forest. Since then Sue and Patrick have produced many features for magazines and books, based on frequent visits, mostly to the Xingu River basin.

The Kayapo warriors, men and women, and all of the 18 different Indigenous peoples of the Xingu taught them so much about the forest and how to live. For them it was a re-birth. Witnessing the rapacious destruction they felt they had to do something!

They became more and more involved – and invested – in the Amazon and the people who live there. They gained a greater understanding of the social and environmental importance of the forest and neighbouring cerrado, for Brazil and the rest of the World.

In 2007 they spent six months travelling through the states of Mato Grosso and Pará, navigating the 2,500 kms of the Xingu River. They listened to their indigenous hosts as they told of their struggles and hopes. They shared dreams, they made lifelong friends. Each of the 48 villages they visited asked them to take their message to the world, to tell the kuben (non-indigenous people) about the strong indigenous cultures and the threats they are facing, from farmers, from illegal fires, from mining and from climate change.

That voyage is documented in their award-winning book “Spirit of the Amazon”. This illustrated talk brings that message from the heart of Brasil to Oxford!

“Our incredible friends from Xingu fed us, body and soul,” said Sue. “They showed us that they are one entity with the forest, the river, the rocks and the sky. They want non-Indigenous people to understand that Indigenous people are people, women and men, with aspirations and dreams. They are proud to fight with hope for a better future for their children and grandchildren, in fact for all of us wherever we are.”

Through their charity Tribes Alive they have been supporting Indigenous Peoples who are adapting to change. As their understanding of non-indigenous cultures has grown they have become bridges of knowledge. For Sue and Patrick they are very much part of their daily lives. When Cacique Raoni Metuktire comes to the UK he always insist on staying with Sue and Patrick because he is at home in their house, especially in their suburban garden!

Now more than ever it is important to give prominence to these resilient original peoples of the Amazon, to the indigenous guardians who protect and defend the forest in Brazil, who elevate the spirit of Amazon for the benefit of humanity!

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network are interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery/Biodiversity Network, or its researchers.