A man ventured into the heart of the rainforest after 20 years of separation and disconnect to be reunited with his mother.
On Oct 29th East Stroudsburg University Graduate and Yanomamo-America author, David Good, appeared at NCC to tell the story of his journey back “home.”
In 2011, he felt compelled to return to his native land to reconcile internal issues of abandonment created when his mother, Yarima, gave him up at 5 years old.
“I needed to prove I was Yanomamo enough for her,” said Good.
The Yanomami live in “200-250 villages in an area of 60,000 square miles of jungle,” according to a BBC article on Good from 2013, straddling the Brazil-Venezuela border region.
He detailed parts of his father’s life, Anthropologist Kenneth Good, who was sent—back in the 1970’s—for 15 months to perform research on the indigenous Yanomamo people by measuring protein levels to see if it had any correlation with their “fierce” nature.
The perception was proven to be a misconception. However, 5 months turned into 12 years, as his father said, “You cannot measure behavior with empirical evidence.”
As time passed the headman of the tribe insisted Good be given a wife for his effort at assimilation as well as the trust he had built with them. That relationship, between Good and Yarima, sprouted into a romance over time, and a formal ritual was initiated, solidify the marriage.
They had 3 children, David being the oldest, and decided to experience life as a family in the United States. Also, Kenneth Good needed to finish his dissertation to become a doctor.
Good said his mother “adapted rather readily” while in America, as she loved shopping, french fries and getting an ‘80’s-era perm. However, she became isolated and felt ostracized by people who did not agree with their union. Seeing no other option, she went back home to her tribe, not knowing she wouldn’t see her family for 20 more years.
Over Good’s youth and adolescence, he developed a resentment towards his mother and heritage. When he looked into a mirror he saw his mother and internalized a self-hatred. As an adult he change came over time, as Good first watched video of his mother, then read his father’s book, and grew to forgive his mother after gaining a new-founded understanding.
Before long, Good was in a boat on the Orinoco River in pursuit of his mother. Vivid memories—flashbacks of his childhood—began to flood Good’s brain.
“The sultry air, the temperature of the water, foliage and food all came back to me,” he said.
Eventually mother and son were unified once again. Good says he knew then and there his purpose and realized he had a calling to be re-connected with his people.
He explained the Yanomamo practiced a system called reciprocity. Essentially a man won’t eat any of the food he hunts for the woman, children and other men of the tribe. Yet those other men will hunt for him, as it creates a circle of peaceful exchanges within the community.
“The rainforest is your grocery store,” Good said.
He described how the Amazon is an abundance of food and resources. One could be walking and stumble upon mushrooms or climb up a tree, smoke out a beehive and pull out the honey. They would hunt with bows and arrows or use a spear to capture fish in the river.
Good explained there is no translation for the English word “suicide” in his native tongue, and people there do not suffer from depression or other common mental disorders found here in America.
“Everything they needed to live and survive was extracted straight from the rainforest and they had each other,” Good said.
He plans on returning this February to further his quest to grow as in individual by being a link between Americans and the Yanomamo people.