Suya chief appeals for aid

May 6, 2005

Linguists at Manchester University have persuaded an Amazonian chief and two members of his community to make a rare journey outside their homeland.

The three representatives of the Brazilian Suya people met academics from Manchester and London's School of Oriental and African Studies this week during a visit aimed at raising funds to help them preserve their language and culture.

It was only the second time in more than a century that anyone from the Suya community, famous among anthropologists for its music, has left their home in the Xingu National Park.

Chief Kuissi Suma, who says he hates travelling, said: "We accepted the invitation to come here because of the many issues facing our people. Our land is being squeezed by large farms on all sides, and they are polluting our rivers. The Government tries to help, but it does not have enough resources. We hope that people in Britain can help."

Dan Everett, professor of phonetics and phonology at Manchester, suggested the trip to Suya leaders while researching their language as part of a project backed by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

He said: "When we started to work with the Suya people, they said they wanted their community to benefit and asked whether we could help them protect their language and culture."

Professor Everett, who is aiming to establish a grammar of the Suya language and write a dictionary, hopes that the visit will bring donations to help the community set up local initiatives to sustain their way of life.

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