Games: Holistic Alternative To the World Cup And Olympics
Condensed by Native Village
A Bororo Indian attends the Indigenous Games in Cuiaba, Brazil
Brazil: Body paint in place of uniforms. Bare feet instead of
shoes. And a competition that
assigns little value to winning.
The 12th Indigenous Games were held in Cuiaba in Brazil’s
Amazon region. Many call the cultural and athletic event a
“holistic” alternative to Brazil's upcoming extravaganzas :
the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
“We’re not looking to crown champions or find great
athletes,” said Carlos Terena, organizer of the games.
Terena, like many indigenous Brazilians, uses his tribe’s name as his
surname. “This isn’t about competition, it’s about
celebration. Competition is more a thing for the Western
More than 1,500 participants came from 48 Brazilian tribes,
as well as a dozen other nations. All participants earned “medals”
carved from wood, seeds and other natural items.
The more traditional tribal sports were carried out as
exhibitions rather than competitions.
A crowd favorite was a wild tree-trunk relay race. Nine or
more runners sprint 550 yards
around a red-dirt arena, taking turns carrying a 220-pound
chunk of tree over their shoulders. Just getting to the
finish line is considered
Another sport, “xikunahity,” resembles soccer except the
players must crawl along the ground and can only use
their heads to push the ball forward.
exhibited their own traditional forms of fighting. Most
resembled wrestling or judo.
Other events such as archery tested the real-life skills of
indigenous peoples. Participants carrying simple long bows
put their toes
along a line of palm leaves laying on the earth.
About 40 yards away was their target: a large
figure of a smiling fish leaping from the water. The most
points are scored for drilling the arrow right into its eye.
“This is the fourth time I’m participating in these games
and for me they represent a cultural revival more than
anything,” said Yakari Kuikuro from the Xingu river
in the Amazon. Kuikuro is part of his tribe’s tug-of-war team.
of my family members stopped painting their bodies, they no
longer dance in the villages. When I come here, I
see pure Indians, with body paint,
dancing together. It’s important for others to see this and
take it back to their villages.”
Chief Willie Littlechild of the Cree Nation is a former member
of Canada’s Parliament. Attending the games was
a blessing, to see that such a rich culture exists with
indigenous peoples around the world,” he said. He
also hoped the games allowed non-indigenous spectators
“to join us in a
celebration of life, to join us in our holistic approach to
wellness, to the physical, the mental, cultural and
spiritual well-being of humans.”
were held on a 17-acre chunk of park. Tents dotted the land, each holding tables
of traditional crafts such as pottery,
wooden bowls, woven cloth and delicately carved musical
instruments that mimic the songs of jungle birds.
Other tables held seeds from dozens of types of edible
plants. Food security was a main theme of this
year’s event. Tribes from across Brazil were encouraged to trade seeds and take unknown varieties back to
Amelia Reina Montero from Mexico's Nahua tribe said the
gathering offered a rare
chance for tribes from the Americas, often with limited
contact to the outside world, to interact and learn from one
“Despite that fact that our languages are different, that
are skin varies, we’re uniting here with one heart,” she
said. “That’s the Indian way.”
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