Claudio Villas-Boas lived in a chicken coop in the Amazon Jungle. He suffered through over 250 bouts with Malaria. He was often cited as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1973 was nominated, along with his two brothers Orlando and Leonardo. They didn't win. He was the first outsider to contact several of the Amazon Indian tribes, including the fierce Kreen-Akarore, also known as the Giant Indians and live.
Claudio was born in 1916 in Botucatu, in the interior of the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. At the age of 26 he signed on with two of his brothers to go on the Roncador-Xingu expedition, a government sponsored project designed to establish contact with hostile Indian tribes who were hindering non-Indian settlers and gold miners. The effort was successful from the government's point of view, with over 30 airfields being built, 34 cities being established in former Indian territory, thousands of miles of trails being opened, and vast tracts of land becoming accessible to developers. The Indians who had lived in the remote jungles, however, were devastated. Their best land was often taken over by white settlers, who had little hesitancy to use force. The rivers were polluted by Mercury from the gold miners moving into the areas. Diseases, such as small pox and measles, which the Indians had no resistance to were introduced and killed huge numbers of people.
The Villas-Boas brothers saw the destruction of the Indian way of life, and became devoted to protecting the Indian tribes and the Amazonian environment. During the initial trip into the jungle, the brothers discovered that (in Orlando's words)"the Indians had an organized, stable, and peaceful society where everybody lived well." Claudio helped convince the people and the Brazilian government that the Indians should NOT be accultured and civilized, but should be isolated from the rest of the Brazilian people, and let alone to live as they always had. Largely because of his efforts, a reserve was created for the Indians in 1961. This was (and is) the Parque Nacional do Xingu-reservation, a large block of land on the Xingu River where tribes could be relocated and allowed to live undisturbed. The reservation occupies 2.3 million hectares in the northern area of Mato Grosso state, an area 30% larger than that of the state of Israel. There are now over 6,000 Indians from 18 different tribes living there.
Claudio loved the Amazonian Indians, and lived among them. The story is often told of how he was building a chicken coop on the Xingu reserve, to protect the chickens from the bats in the area. When the shelter was finished, he liked it so much that he moved in himself, and lived and wrote there until his retirement. While Claudio was reserved and taciturn among white people, he loved talking, dancing and singing with his Indian friends, and would spend hours and hours with them. He became so loved that he was known as "The Indian's Old Dad". Indeed, upon his death in 1998, chief Raoni, from the Kayapo tribe reacted: "Now our father is gone. The Indians father is dead. He used to tell us that everybody in the city was crazy. He also taught us that the white man's life is not good for us."
Claudio and his brother Orlando wrote 13 books together, along with documenting all their fieldwork. When he died, Claudio left unfinished A Arte dos Pajis (The Shamans' Art). There have also been several books written about the Villas-Boas brothers, as well as at least two documentaries about their adventures and work in the Amazon jungle.