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Rare Amazonian Tribe Spoke Language of Their Own, Doctor Declares
Naval Filer Made Perilous Flight Over 75-Mile Jungle---Party Met Many Hardships
Dr. Alexander Hamilton Rice, who returned yesterday on the Cunarder Mauretania from his seventh expedition into the heart of South America, looked bronzed and well in spite of the hardships he had encountered in the forests and navigating unexplored rivers in Brazil. He was accompanied by Mrs. Rice who came from Rio de Janeiro to New York a few weeks ago and rejoined her husband at Lisbon when he arrived there from Mannhaus on the Amazon.

Dr. Rice told of the discovery of a tribe of white Indians at the headwaters of the Parima River who spoke a language entirely their own and ate cocaine as a relish for their diet of wild plantains. Owing to the difficulty in conversing with the Indians, which was chiefly by signs, he had been unable to discover where they obtained the drug.

Dr. Rice also discovered that the rivers Orinoco and Parima did not have the same source, but were seventy-five miles apart through an impenetrable country.

Dr. Rice said they left Cherbourg in May, 1924, and traveled by the Booth Line steamship to Manaos on the Amazon.

Because of the revolution in that section of Brazil last Summer the party was delayed and did not get away until August, Dr. Rice said. The expedition, comprised twelve white men and 100 Indians. They traversed the Rio Negro as far as the Rio Bronco and from there the party went up the Urari Cuaro to the Parima, which they followed to its source in the Sierra Parimas. He spoke in high praise of the valuable services rendered by Lieutenant Walter Hinton, the naval flier who accompanied the expedition.

Dr. Rice said that he sent the lieutenant to fly across the seventy-five miles which separated the headwaters of the Parima from those of the Orinoco to see if he could discover the trails traversed by the Indians in going from one big river to the other. Lieutenant Hinton made the flight and reported that the land journey would be impossible to man or beast, as it was covered with dark forests, mountains rising sheer from the valleys, dense jungles with no sign of a path.

One important result of the flight, Dr. Rice continued, was the discovery of the white Indians by Lieutenant Hinton.

When this was reported to him by Lieutenant Hinton, the doctor said he decided to go up the river in canoes next day and find out where the White Indians came from. The party found their hut, and after landing they were startled by weird yells. The Indians with the party became scared, and four of the twelve got back into the canoe to paddle away. The remaining eight had more nerve and made ready for battle, but finally one of the number understood the yells and answered in the Maku language.

Then two Indians whho [sic] were bleached white by the sun, but of pure Indian blood, came out from the forest to greet the party.

Dr. Rice described them as being undersized and undernourished. Their faces were streaked with pigments so that it was difficult to discern the features, but they were undeniably white. They wore no clothing, and carried bows and arrows which were tipped with poison, so the Indians in the expedition said. When the two received presents of beads and handkerchiefs they yelled to their companions and others soon emerged and joined the group, making in all twenty men and two women.

"When the White Indians were offered meat," Dr. Rice continued, "they declined it. I was informed that they live on wild plantains or bananas.

“They move in and out between the trees like jaguars without making a sound or causing a rustle of the leaves. These White Indians, who are called Shiritanas on the upper Amazon, did not evince any curiosity at the hydroplane, at our clothing or anything we had on the expedition."

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) EXPLORER RICE BACK; SAW WHITE INDIANS (New York Times, Saturday 11th July 1925, ref: #3226, published 20 July 2004, generated 27th October 2021 06:17:12 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/explorer-rice-back-saw-white-indians.html