Man Got into an Amazon Tribe to Find His Mother
In 1975, Kenneth Good traveled to the depths of the Amazon to further his research on the Hasupuweteri village people of Yanomami. They were people of the community with life centered around the "shapono," an oval area made from wood where the village lives under.
During his study, Kenneth felt intensely close to the people, even learning their language and living their ways. He would hunt and trek with the natives until the Hasupuweteri referred to him as "shori," which meant brother-in-law.
What was supposedly a 15-month fieldwork trip turned into a beautiful 12-year stay. Of course, getting proper documents to stay that long wasn't easy, but Kenneth did it for love more than the people. Kenneth shared what the tribe headman told him:
"Shori, you come here all the time to visit us and live with us. I've been thinking that you should have a wife. It isn't good for you to live alone."
MARRYING A NATIVE
Initially, Kenneth refused, but over time he began to think of marrying as something possible. The headman offered his daughter, Yarima, who was older than 12 at that time. Kenneth was 36, but the concept of counting or numbers did not exist within their tribe.
They had a system of child betrothal for the benefit of families. Yarima stayed by her mother's side most times but would also go to Kenneth to bring food. Their short encounters drew them closer until a natural bond formed.
In time, the researcher developed romantic feelings for Yarima. While in the eyes of others, their relationship was only for a study, Kenneth actually loved his wife deeply and honestly.
After his trip, David became proud of his heritage as a Yanomami-American.
LIFE WITH YARIMA
However, living in the Amazon forever was not a possibility as documents need to be secured repeatedly. During one of his trips downriver for a study that took several months, Yarima fell victim to the male-dominated ways of the tribe.
She was kidnapped, gang-raped, and assaulted. As a result, her ear was torn apart, and Kenneth needed to take her to a town to be treated – this would be the native's first time outside her comfort zone and in touch with the modern world.
Everything was new to Yarima, leaving her overwhelmed with several modern-day machines such as a car. She saw her reflection for the first time as they checked in a hotel and saw a mirror. It scared her to the point that Kenneth had to cover the mirrors.
Eventually, Yarima learned to love a few things and adapt. Still, life in the Amazon was preferred. Everything was well as they lived in the tribal village until the day Kenneth was no longer granted permits to stay.
MOVING TO AMERICA
In 1986, the couple flew to New York and officially tied the knot at Delaware County Courthouse. Days later, their son David was born, followed by a sister, Vanessa. Their daughter was born in the Amazon when they visited the year after.
Three years later, another son, Daniel, came. Although she adapted to many things in America, Yarima did not call it home and missed the place that brought her comfort. In a National Geographic-made film, she shared what it was like living in America. Yarima said:
"I live in a place where I do not gather wood, and no one hunts. The women do not call me to kill fish [...] It isn't like in the jungle. People are separate and alone."
Eventually, Yarima moved back to the Amazon with her youngest son while her family stayed in America. David recalled his father going back to the jungle to get his wife and son, but only came back with Daniel.
GROWING UP DIFFERENT
As time passed, Kenneth realized his wife was not coming back to America while raising their three kids in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. David was relatively famous because of his parents' story, such that people would treat him differently.
He grew up in the US, where his father was from, and as such, he became accustomed to what typical American kids liked. However, people were impressed each time he showed signs of a typical American child.
Slowly, David hated his family background and excessively tried to be as normal and excel in his studies. He also hated his mother for leaving but later realized why Yarima would not survive in the US. She had no one to talk to but Kenneth due to language barriers and was confined to her home most days.
"I started having an understanding as to why she left and what she'd dealt with up here. I realized that. I don't think she could've made it up here, you know?" David later revealed.
VISITING THE AMAZON
As time passed, David wanted to meet his mother all the more, even if it meant journeying to the Amazon. Meanwhile, his siblings showed no interest in finding Yarima in a foreign land to them.
To reach his mother, David spent three days on the Orinoco River, leaving him tired, thirsty, and ultimately exhausted. Unlike his father, David was not a man of regular excursions; hence, his trip to the Amazon was a big step.
Meeting his mother was unlike any other experience. She was in her 40s and showed strength in many ways. Despite not having seen each other for 20 years, he quickly recognized Yarima. David shared:
"Everything in me just wanted to hold her, to hug her, but that's not the Yanomami way of greeting people […] I put my hand on her shoulder and she started trembling and crying."
The village people, especially kids, were all fond of David as he was famous in their village, known as the son of Yarima, who grew up in America. Furthermore, they knew who Kenneth was and how he lived as a native.
Yarima wanted his son to stay for good and even consummate marriages with girls in the Amazon. Through his visit, David was able to bond with his mom and experience what Kenneth did years ago.
Months passed in his time in the Amazon, and came a day where he opened a box of crackers and jam. It was supposedly for emergencies in case he got sick from eating exotic things.
Since it was new to the natives, they held a small cracker and jam festival and shared the delicious snack. David would go back and forth to his mom while trying to research on his own. During one visit, he managed to get a connection for his parents to Skype.
Despite years of no communication, the pair still talked like they were never separated. After his trip, David became proud of his heritage as a Yanomami-American and had several videos documented about his mom.
Although deep in the Amazon, the Yanomami people were still affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They faced several fatal epidemics in the past, but like many others, COVID-19 is unlike any other.
Now that there are vaccines, it is only a matter of time before they too receive a shot, if possible. Several brands are already being distributed, including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna, with a 94.5% effectivity.