The famous French magazine Paris Match published an article about Raoni Metuktyre on December 11, 2021, following an interview with AFV's honorary president, Jean-Pierre Dutilleux.
To lead his fight, he traded his spear for a pilgrim's staff. In 1989, led by the singer Sting and the movie director Jean-Pierre Dutilleux, the Indigenous chief of the Kayapos of Xingu left to remind the modern world that the cause of Indigenous peoples was also the world's. Paris Match followed him, accompanying this warrior who never gave up. Earlier this year, Raoni filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court against President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of crimes against humanity.
"Beptuk, one of Raoni's many grandsons, contacted me last September: "Grandpa asks to see you, here in Metuktire... quickly!" Metuktire is this newly built Kayapo village in the heart of the Xingu Reserve. It is located in the territory that the great chief Raoni managed to reconquer after having seen part of the Kayapo people decimated by the terrible smallpox and measles epidemics of the 1960s. In 1989, for sixty days, the emblematic chief of the Kayapo Indigenous people traveled the world to warn about the emergency. The survival of his people was at stake.
A few days after talking to Beptuk, I find myself in a battered air cab, a twin-engine plane whirring over the emerald forest. The cuckoo clock zigzags between the cumulus formed by the thick mists emanating from the immense trees. The golden yellow or blood red crests of the ipés and jacarandas stand out from the canopy. I am accompanied by Robert Dardanne, president of the Rainforest Organization (AFV), Alexandre Bouchet, movie director, and Marco Altberg, Brazilian producer of our new film, "Raoni II", currently being edited in Rio. In what physical, mental and intellectual state will I find my old friend? My documentary "Raoni" made him famous, first in Brazil and then, thanks to its nomination at the Oscars and the participation of Marlon Brando in the English version, all over the world. Since all these years, we have come so far together... Raoni is a miracle worker from Covid, he suffered two successive infections and was hospitalized several times in Sinop, 300 kilometers from his village. The anxiety gnaws at me. I oscillate between hope and despair.
For forty-five minutes, we have been flying over the majestic meanders of the Rio Xingu, one of the great tributaries of the Amazon. This territory is victim of the most serious deforestation of its history. Our plane pitches dangerously. We skim the tops of the trees. The landing strip looks like a bloody scar in the heart of the jungle. I get out of the plane and I see Pekan, an old cacique that I have known since my first visit to the Kayapos in 1973. We walk behind him to the village, a large circle of huts, 200 meters from the runway. Pekan leads me to one of them, Raoni's. The floor is made of dirt, covered with a platform made of badly squared boards. No furniture or household appliances, radio or television, just the broken mattress that serves as a bed, some clothes and handicrafts: necklaces, arrows, feather ornaments, that Raoni still makes tirelessly. A big bow and a club made of iron wood are placed in a corner, the paraphernalia of the war chief.
This is how the king of the forest lives... in the greatest destitution. Raoni, Gandhi of the woods, is waiting for me in his old rattan armchair. He hugs me without getting up, as if absent, and then finally looks at me. I cannot hold back my tears. Neither can he. The custom, among the Kayapos, is to cry when we return, never when we leave. We stare at each other like two old men, after a long absence. His lower lip, although cracked and chapped, still holds the labret, the balsa wood tray of 13 centimeters in diameter, emblem of the Kayapo warrior ready to die for his land. Slowly, Raoni grabs his pipe, then lights it. He blows the smoke on my face. It slides on his labret, flies in white volutes like a diaphanous mist, before spreading around me. Raoni the shaman is at work. His strength is returning. Now he is even alert and addresses me in Kayapo, for the sake of the Indigenous people around us, who do not speak Portuguese. The young Beptuk and I put on our masks to protect ourselves from the Covid, he sits discreetly behind Raoni's left ear, the one that hears best, and translates from Kayapo to Portuguese and back, after my questions. I suspect that Raoni sometimes pretends not to understand me. This gives him time to weigh his answers! That day, it is indeed a wise man who speaks to me. In the twilight of his life, he also wishes to address the whole world."
-"I suffered a lot when Bekwika, my lifelong wife and the mother of my six children, died. I mourned for over a year. As is the custom, I remained silent, I did not leave my hut, I did not participate in any ceremony. I was also attacked for a long time by the new disease that came from your world. I went to heaven where I found Imprere, our God. Since I became a paje [shaman], I have seen God many times. I even ate a fruit with God! I told the two popes I met [John Paul II in 1989 and Francis in 2019]. I told them, "This is the same God as yours under a different name, he has many other names..." These two wise men understood that. When I arrived at Imprere, I saw things from up there. I wanted to stay, because my ancestors, my friends who are in heaven, invited me to stay. But he didn't want to keep me. I came back, but I stayed for a long time between the two worlds. I suffered a lot from illness, I was very weak, always tired. Now I am strong again, I am better."
- What do you think of the current situation?
-"Today there is a new generation and our intention is that they can continue to fish, hunt, live in peace on this land, in this forest. When we prepared the first campaign [with the Rainforest Organization (AFV), in 1989], the other Kayapo tribes of Para, the Kubens as well, and all those who heard about it, were happy, satisfied. They gave us the strength to go around the world to find ways to demarcate these lands."
- What memories do you have of our seven joint campaigns between 1989 and 2019?
-"What was the name of the first president I met?"
- François Mitterrand.
-"Mitterrand! Is he dead? He helped us a lot by receiving us in his tribe."
- He is dead. A long time ago.
-"And Chirac, is he dead too? I loved him very much, I met him three times, he was a true friend, the first to help us to create the Raoni Institute. He was very tall, taller than me!"
- What do you think of Emmanuel Macron, whom you met in 2019?
-"I remember Macron well. When we first met him, he had a good relationship with me, I actually called him my father and son, haha! He helped us a lot and continues to do so, because he is very concerned about the disappearance of our forests. He knows that the earth is in danger. I have a very good friendship with him. I met with you all the presidents since Mitterrand, France has always supported us!"
Link to the official articles:
https://www.parismatch.com/Actu/Environnement/Raoni-le-seigneur-de-l-Amazonie-1775348 and https://www.parismatch.com/Actu/Environnement/Raoni-Mitterrand-nous-a-beaucoup-aides-Chirac-etait-un-vrai-ami-Macron-aussi-1775350#