He Spent Years Forging Ties With the Amazon's Most Isolated Tribes. Then He Realized His Mistake

While living among the native tribes of the Brazilian Amazon, Sydney Possuelo discovered a human society that has no awareness of the modern world. He learned that the best way to protect it is to stay away

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Sydney Possuelo with members of the Korubo tribe.Credit: Nicolas Reynold
Ayelet Vardi
Ayelet Vardi
Possuelo with members of the Zo’é tribe.Credit: Para

They wanted to see if we were the same thing. They asked me to open my mouth, to see what was inside. Women asked me to open my zipper and looked at my penis, and then called their husbands to see.

One of Possuelo’s team members leaves gifts for the Korubo tribe. Not long afterward, he was murdered by members of the tribe. Credit: Erling Sandstrom
Possuelo with the Korubo tribe. Some children in indigenous communities breastfeed up to the age of 7. Credit: Nicolas Reynold

Their whole approach to time is different from ours. We live in a society where you always have to stick to a timetable. Their life is not dictated by time.

One of Possuelo’s team members after he was attacked by the Arara people. “I remember that suddenly a river of arrows landed on us from deep inside the forest.”
Possuelo and colleagues in the Amazon jungle.Credit: Nicolas Reynold

I came to understand that for the indigenous peoples there is no gain in the work we were doing. Establishing contact with them meant loss of autonomy, land, tradition of independence and identity.

Possuelo with a woman from the Zo’é tribe, with a traditional bottom-lip piercing.Credit: Para
The first encounter with the Maia tribe.Credit: Nicolas Reynold

They are our ties to the past, which they are living in the present. The naked person, the person without the concepts and the prejudice of modern society.