The Suruwaha people live in the western Amazon region of Brazil. Over the past 100 years, this tiny group of around 120 people has had sporadic contact with the outside world. While some of these encounters have been positive, most often they have been devastating.
Several generations ago, outsiders massacred most of the Suruwaha's witchdoctors. The only one who survived left a terrible legacy to his tribe. He said that a people without spiritual guidance had no hope except suicide. As soon as he said this, he ate a poisonous root and died a swift and painful death. From then on, suicide became the Suruwaha's most common method of dealing with anger and pain. Today, it is the leading cause of death within the tribe.
Despite such a brutal past, beauty and strength are two of the most important aspects of Suruwaha life. These values are best demonstrated in the tribe's puberty ceremony, through which young men learn the honor and respect they will receive if they can endure pain and lead their people. Such customs provide hope that one day the Suruwaha will regain the optimism and self-respect that were taken from them so many years ago.