Part of our history, Among the Tapirapé Indians

 Marcos with Claire and Genevieve Helen Marcos with Claire and Genevieve Helen

Marcos Xako’iapari, our great friend, the great spiritual leader of the Tapirapé Indians died in March 2006. His people paid him tribute with much ritual singing and dancing asking that his spirit may take the right path and that he may not be afraid in his new life there where he would be.

Who was Marcos?

One day somebody arrived at the ‘aldeia’(the village), someone who was hungry and  spoke of things we did not understand. We did not know where he came from and thought he was mentally disturbed.

Marcos took him to his home. He gave him a hammock to rest and the following day, when he was a bit quieter, and wanted to continue his journey, Marcos gave him his best shirt and trousers, that he kept to go to town.

He went with him to the river, to ‘La Barra’ and asked the captain to help him find his family again.

Several times Marcos had told the Little sisters that when someone was asking for something, they should never answer abruptly: ‘no, I cannot give you anything now, I have already given to somebody else.’ Rather they should answer gently, as if apologizing not to be able to meet the other’s need immediately.

He also told us to be respectful when somebody was telling us something we knew already. We should not interrupt them but listen to the end very attentively.

He told us too that when young boys, Xyre’i, although still children when going through the stage of adolescence, should not be treated as children. We should address than as adults, to encourage them to become adult, otherwise they will lose interest in growing up as adults.


The worst thing for a Tapirape is to humiliate somebody and I remembered this sentence from the Gospels:


‘Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.’


‘Good and faithful servant, you have been faithful in little things, I am going to entrust you with more. Come and share my joy.’  


For a whole year Marcos spent the day in his hammock in Wario’s house.  In 2003 he still danced at the feast of Iraxao, but lately he no longer went into the ‘Takara’, the men’s hut. He always greeted with a smile whoever visited him, and kept his smile right to the time when he left the hospital for the last time, four days before he died. He was conscious to the end. The Tapirpés gathered from all the ‘aldeias’. They cried, sang and danced for two whole days and two whole nights. I remember him saying: ‘I want to listen to the singing of the Tapirapé for a long time. Sometimes the Tapirapés sing very little when somebody is at the end of their life but I want to listen for a long time.’

The whole family came to say goodbye. His youngest son dug his tomb inside Wario’s house and when his other son arrived from Rio de Janeiro, Marcos lay in the open tomb, waiting for his arrival.

His hammock was attached in such a way as not to touch the ground. The whole community was present. The ‘aldeia’ was very silent, even the children were silent. There was no sound of transistors, no music. At sun set the mourning continued with weeping and chants. Everybody was there.

Marcos was a man of great kindness and deep wisdom of heart. He will certainly carry on guiding his people, showing them the way forward.

The best place for somebody to be remembered is within the heart of his people, within our hearts.