A grammar of Kwaza by Hein van der Voort

By Hein van der Voort

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Dequech is still healthy in his eighties and at the present he is writing up his memoirs in Belo Horizonte. During the last decades, Dr. Dequech has visited the Aikanã on various occasions to show photos of olden times, and he has published a popularised partial account of the first year of the expedition with photographs in a Porto Velho daily (1988a, 1988b, 1993a, 1993b). When I interviewed him in 1996, he said that one can hardly begin to imagine how much of the indigenous past of Rondônia has disappeared and has been destroyed and forgotten, and he lamented how little of it was properly documented, if at all.

Introduction The cultures of most of the Southern Rondônian groups are nearly as undocumented as their languages and their fate at the present moment is worse than that of the languages. Most of the aboriginal cultural traits have disappeared along with the Indian peoples during the last 90 years through genocide and especially by introduced diseases. Besides conscious attempts by missionaries and other “civilisers” to eradicate the indigenous material, intellectual and spiritual traditions, these fundamental components of culture were especially affected by the fact that introduced diseases usually killed the adults and were mainly survived by children.

The expedition had already been planned in 1914 when Rondon thought that his assistants had discovered the approximate region where the gold deposits should exist. However, the first world war had prevented the realisation of these plans, until 1938, when president Getúlio Vargas launched the idea of colonisation of the western parts of Brazil. This campaign, which was named ‘Marcha para o Oeste’ (march to the West), resulted in governmental funds for the colonisation of Mato Grosso, Goiânia and Rondônia, and for related projects.

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