Mark J. Plotkin, Tales Of A Shaman’s Apprentice
New York: 1993 ISBN 0670831379
Pages 275, 276

My hammock was still swathed in mosquito netting, so I couldn’t see who was speaking. “Ai, jako, kude wae!” I replied. “Yes. brother, I am well.”

Suddenly the voice shifted into English. “Good morning, my friend, how are you?” Koita! I rolled out of bed to embrace him. If I hadn’t heard his voice, I might not have recognized my old friend right away. No red breech cloth, no beaded belt, no wristbands of sho-ro-sho-ro seeds. In their place Koita wore a green and blue Hawaiian shirt, blue denim jeans, and black high-top sneakers.

“Where did you get all this?” I asked. “You look like a pananakiri.” Koita’s broad smile faded. “You mean you don’t like them?” I realized I had hurt his feelings and tried to recover. “Well,” I stammered, “it’s just that .... just that you look very different, that’s all. I hardly saw anyone wearing breechcloths yesterday, either. What happened while I was gone?” “There have been some changes,” he said. “The missionaries were here and they brought the clothes with them. Also, the wildlife trader who used to give us flashlights and fishhooks for the animals we caught now gives us clothes.” “What else?” I asked, at the same time dreading to hear the answer. “Well, our friend Yaloefuh isn’t here anymore. He was caught in the hammock of another man’s wife and the missionaries and the chief had him whipped in front of the whole village. Then he was expelled and he went to live in the village in Brazil that you visited with Kamainja.” “He can never come back?” I asked incredulously. “Chief says no,” Koita replied. “What about his wife and children?” “Oh, they are still here.”

Astonished by this piece of news, I wondered whether the beating given my friend was initiated by the missionaries or by the Indians themselves. When some of the missionaries first came to Suriname, they insisted that each man could have only one wife. This caused a great deal of heartache among the tribes that practiced polygamy because several old women were cut adrift without husband to care for them. “Any other changes?” I asked. “Yes,” said Koita. “The chief told us no more singing the old songs and dancing the old dances. They are part of the old ways.”