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Airdate: May 05, 1998
Scientist: Claudia Baran

Korubo: Communication

Korubo: Communication
Two Brazilian Indians tribes take the first steps towards learning each other’s language.

In 1996, an expedition was launched to a remote region of the Brazilian Amazon, to establish peaceful contact with the Korubo Indians. One of the greatest challenges to the expedition was opening a line of communication, when no one could speak the Korubo's language. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Among the 26 members of the expedition were a group of Matis Indians who live nearby the Korubo. In addition to their own language, the Matis spoke some Portuguese and it was hoped that they might serve as translators for the Korubo. The first part of this process was establishing some common ground - and for the Korubo and the Matis, this was hunting. Photographer Nicholas Reynard witnessed one of their first encounters.

"So when these two groups met, the first thing, the first words that they wanted to learn from each other was how do you call this animal that we hunt. What they did is they imitate each sound of the animal; so the Matis would imitate the sound of the tapir, for instance. And said 'We call, in Matis, this animal, like this, how do you call it?' And the Korubo would say 'oh, you mean this animal?' and he would imitate his version of the tapir. 'Oh, we call it this.' And they would do the same thing for almost all the animals that they knew how to hunt."

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Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.