Challenge #2: Hunting for supper

The Matsés hunted all kinds of rain forest creatures for food. They stalked pig-like peccaries; rabbit-size rodents called pacas; long-snouted tapirs; and wild turkeys. To kill them, they used bows and arrows.

Matsés bows and arrows are finely crafted, and they are precious. Kane’s group had one bow and one arrow, which belonged to the best hunter. He shared it with everyone.

Kane soon learned how much skill it took to hunt with this traditional weapon. The bow was as tall as he was, crafted from a rare type of wood. The arrow had two forks on the tip. Because it was the only one, it had to be retrieved after every shot. If it broke, the Matsés fixed the shaft and kept using it.

One night Kane went along on a wild turkey hunt. The group crept through the forest wearing headlamps. They needed the light to see, but had to put up with the swarms of insects the light attracted.

The rain forest is alive with strange calls such as caws and growls, day and night. Kane was amazed by the hunters’ skill at tracking animals by sound. They knew exactly which animal made which sound.

The Matsés could also mimic, or copy, an animal’s call to locate it. Then they moved along almost noiselessly. City dwellers Kane and his dad made so much noise that the Matsés asked them to stay still until they had found the animal or bird they were after.

Kane practices his hunting skills with a bow and arrow.

Kane crosses a fast-moving creek on a bridge he helped build from a fallen log.

Suddenly, the guide spotted a wild turkey. He handed Kane the bow and arrow. Kane aimed and shot the arrow. Whoosh! Kane just missed, and the bird took flight. The hunt ended well for the turkey, but the Matsés weren’t happy about missing a meal. Kane himself was conflicted. He was hungry but didn’t really want to harm the turkey.

Matsés Ways

One day, the group paddled a dugout canoe for nine hours. They wanted to go to a different settlement where the people still follow their ancient ways.

Women here pierce their noses with the thin ribs of palm leaves to create the effect of whiskers. They are sometimes referred to as thecat people,because thewhiskerssuggest the appearance of jaguars. The jaguar, a fierce rain forest predator, is admired for its strength. Men wear necklaces of jaguar teeth.

Before a hunt, the Matsés men sometimes hold ceremonies believed to make them better, stronger hunters. In the tobacco ceremony, an elder blows smoke from a mix of tobacco and cacao (cocoa bean) through a long pipe up the nostrils of another hunter. In the kambo or acate ceremony, men burn their skin and then rub sapo, poison from a tree frog, into the burned area. Those are two Matsés customs that Kane didn’t try!


This tribe of people revere the jaguar. They pierce their noses with pieces of palms to mimic a jaguar’s whiskers.