Foto: Marcos Mendes, 1995

Akuntsu

  • Other names
    Akunt'su
  • Where they are How many

    RO5 (Siasi/Sesai, 2012)
  • Linguistic family
    Tupari

Contact history

As mentioned in the section on the group’s name, only one mention of the designation Akuntsu (more specifically, wakontsón) exists prior to official contact, in a text by Frans Caspar on the Tupari, indians of the Branco river, an affluent of the left shore of the Guaporé, who live to the southwest of the present-day Akuntsu territory.

Official contact

1985 saw the official creation of the Funai attraction team that would be responsible for the first contact with the unknown Indians reportedly occupying the Corumbiara region. Although Funai had known of rumours of these Indians since the 1970s, reports from 1984 reiterated the presence of one or more isolated indigenous groups in the tract of forest made up of legal reserves on some farms that had been deforested to sell timber and implant cattle ranching. The indigenous presence was continually denied by the region's farmers since, if confirmed, it would jeopardize the availability of the lands that were being developed for economic purposes.
 

akuntsu_4

In December 1986 the area that had been interdicted in order to attempt contact with the Indians was released to the farmers following the allegation from Funai itself that if Indians had existed in the region, they had already left, since the area was criss-crossed by small roads used to remove timber felled in the forest.

Despite the lifting of the interdiction of the area, over the following years the Funai officer responsible for the attraction team, Marcelo dos Santos, continued his search for traces of the indigenous presence in the forest. He frequently faced death threats and all the obstacles that the loggers, land-grabbers and farmers could create. In 1993 dos Santos began to make use of satellite images and based on a small red dot spotted in one of these images, interpreted by the Funai officer as a possible swidden, left on an expedition to contact the Indians definitively.

In September 1995 they contacted the Kanoê indians, survivors of the Kanoê groups already mentioned by the Rondon commission that used to inhabit nearby regions. In conversations with members of the contact expedition, the Kanoê related that nearby there was another indigenous group who they called the Akuntsu. In October the same year another expedition, which included some of the Kanoê, located relatively nearby the small malocas of the unknown Akuntsu, who, extremely startled, nevertheless greeted the group. They number seven people: two adult men, three women (an elderly woman and two of child-bearing age), an adolescent girl and a girl of about seven.

The presence of fear

Fear had become a constant element in the day-to-day life of the Akuntsu. Kunibu, the group’s chief, never approached anyone else without blowing first, a form of ritual action typical to shamanic rites that have the power to repel malefic beings or cleanse the body or environment where danger or a negative entity is believed to exist. This is his custom wherever he goes, such as while crossing the fields that divide the territory, a short journey invariably undertaken in Funai’s truck.

As mentioned, the Akuntsu and Kanoê lands are located on private land interdicted by Funai in the 1980s, and arriving at the Kanoê village requires crossing an area of pasture that separates the two islands of forest, a trip that takes 4 or 5 minutes. Due to the Indians’ fear of the farm workers, the trip is made in a truck used by the Guaporé ethno-environmental team (Funai). Likewise, when they approach the Funai attraction post, they usually become alarmed even when meeting they see frequently, as though expecting some kind of attack. All of this fear seems justifiable when we recall the history of the massacre to which they were subject: the bullets of the invaders are still today lodged in the bodies of Kunibu, his daughter and the three other women of the group, as well as Popak (the other surviving man). Fear is stamped on each of them, a fear of something that they have already suffered and whose causal element is found close by, in the pasture.