Linguistics in the Amazon
August 1, 2014 4:10 PM Subscribe
Unlike other hunter-gatherer tribes of the Amazon, the Pirahã have resisted efforts by missionaries and government agencies to teach them farming. They maintain tiny, weed-infested patches of ground a few steps into the forest, where they cultivate scraggly manioc plants. “The stuff that’s growing in this village was either planted by somebody else or it’s what grows when you spit the seed out,” Everett said to me one morning as we walked through the village. Subsisting almost entirely on fish and game, which they catch and hunt daily, the Pirahã have ignored lessons in preserving meats by salting or smoking, and they produce only enough manioc flour to last a few days. (The Kawahiv, another Amazonian tribe that Everett has studied, make enough to last for months.) One of their few concessions to modernity is their dress: the adult men wear T-shirts and shorts that they get from traders; the women wear plain cotton dresses that they sew themselves.
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