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The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

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Brazilian Indigenous activist Tapi Yawalapiti talks life in Xingu Indigenous Park at NU

Francesco Thorik-Saboia/The Daily Northwestern
Chief Tapi Yawalapiti paints Medill sophomore Jacob Morlock’s face with a red Indigenous marking.

After traveling more than 35 hours by land, air and sea from Mato Grosso, Brazil’s Xingu Indigenous Park, Brazilian Indigenous activist and Chief Tapi Yawalapiti arrived on Northwestern’s Evanston campus to speak with Illinois college students at an event in the 11th Illinois Portuguese Language Connection Saturday.

Portuguese Prof. Ana Clotilde Thome Williams, who helped organize the event, said she was excited to host Chief Yawalapiti at the event.

“I’ve always wanted to speak about Indigenous cultures,” Williams said in Portuguese. “I wanted to bring (Chief Yawalapiti) so we could observe the importance of Indigenous culture in Brazil and the rest of the world.”

The event started with introductory speeches from each university’s organizers — including NU, the University of Chicago and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign — and Chief Yawalapiti, followed by group activities which involved Brazilian Indigenous traditions.

Chief Yawalapiti painted Medill sophomore Jacob Morlock’s face with a distinct red marking.

“Cacique Yawalapiti painted my face,” Morlock said. “I never had something quite like that before, but I’m really glad that he did it.”

Chief Yawalapiti later demonstrated a traditional fighting form that Yawalapiti men practice from the age of seven or eight.

Weinberg sophomore Jhonatan Ojeda Garcia laughed and cheered as Chief Yawalapiti flipped a volunteer onto a mat during the demonstration.

“(The painting) is part of the tradition that they have where they paint their bodies and they fight each other to prove who is the most fit.” Ojeda said. “They demonstrated it on their arms, on their faces, the different colors, and (I liked) the wrestling too.”

Throughout the event, attendees spoke with one another in Portuguese.

After the group activities, students and faculty covered in Indigenous markings laughed and ate sandwiches together.

“Brazilians are so warm, nice and inviting, and I feel like that carried through the event,” Weinberg sophomore Barak Tucker said. “It’s really important that we highlight Indigenous cultures, and I think that no attempt is perfect, but this was pretty good.”

Chief Yawalapiti also presented several photographs displaying people in his tribe and their lifestyle in the Amazon.

He discussed the importance of Brazilian Indigenous culture and left the room with one last message.

“Unity for all,” Chief Yawalapiti said in Portuguese. “We are all together.”

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X: @FrancescoThorik

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