But how would this work in practice? Don't they already move across borders without being harassed?
It turns out that you have several different situations on both sides. If you know that you have Indians on this side, you protect this side. But on the unprotected side loggers may come in, so they get killed on the other side.
How did you get started in this business?
As a tick stuck to Orlando's neck. I'd even buy cigarettes for him and took pride in that. When I was a young man, the Villas Bôases were national heroes. I remember reading stories in O Cruzeiro magazine about their expeditions, and that was a permanent invitation to adventure. What took me to them at first was not any kind of historical awareness towards the indigenous peoples. It was merely the spirit of adventure that took over completely the mind of an 18-year-old.
When did you first go into the Amazon?
Orlando took me there. It was in 1959 or 1960. By then the air mail, the Correio Aéreo Nacional, had flights from São Paulo and Rio through Brasília to Manaus, and they used to land in the Xingu. I boarded one of those flights. And it was tragicomic. It was pouring with rain when we landed in the Capitão Vasconcelos outpost, now Leonardo Villas Bôas. The plane skidded off the airstrip and ended up with its nose in the mud. The load was unstrapped and fell all on my head.
Then I came out along with a fellow from the army, a sergeant, to try to tie a steel cable to the little wheel in the backside landing gear and have a tractor pull it, so that we'd be able to get the plane back into position. But the guy driving the tractor pulled right at the time when the sergeant was tying the cable to the wheel, so it tore his finger. Pow! Off the finger comes—it hits my chest and lands in the mud. So I ran to the outpost for help—there were Indians all around. But I stumbled and fell with my face in the mud. Then 100 Indians burst with laughter! I got up, wet and filthy, and thought: "Sons of a whore, I'd kill half a dozen of them!" But that didn't make me give up.
How do you think the Indians would feel about your noninterference policy?
Were I an Indian, I wouldn't want white people around. Not in my hut, not in my life. No sertanistas, no FUNAI. I would probably be dead, but I'd rather die with a bullet in my chest than live begging by the roadside.