Tania Nomura was the daughter of Japanese parents who lived in São Paulo. She was very beautiful and resourceful, and was my girlfriend and secretary for several years. We shared in many adventures together. She was known locally as Tambitin, or "Tambi" for short.

In October 1980, when I was away in São Paulo, farmworkers invaded the Indians' land to cut down the valuable trees, some of which were worth thousands of dollars. Raoni's tribe and another tribe called the Suia joined forces to expel the invaders. During the confrontation an Indian recognised an invader as the man who had killed his parents during a raid on his village when he was young. He hit the man with his borduna (club). On seeing this, the other farmworkers started to fight back in earnest, but the Indians prevailed, overrunning the farm and killing about 16.

During the battle children and a pregnant woman in the farm were badly injured, and the Indians killed them, assuming they would die anyway, slowly and painfully. The other farmers called on the government to send in the military, which they did, with orders to surround and then occupy Raoni's village, and to shoot to kill if there was any resistance.

On the television news I saw the perilous situation my friends were in. As I was pondering on what to do, there was a knock on my door, and there was Tambi. In her hand was a letter. Despite being in great danger from both sides in the looming conflict, she had crossed the Amazon, taken off her clothes and painted herself like an Indian.

She had made it to the village, and persuaded Chief Raoni and his educated nephew Megaron to write the letter, explaining the attack, and in particular that the woman and children were only killed because they were wounded and in pain.

I caught the next plane to London, and immediately got the letter and and the events surrounding it published in the Guardian and the Telegraph, and I read the letter at a peak viewing hour on BBC TV. Copies of the TV program and the newspaper articles were urgently sent to the President of Brazil, with a letter asking him to intervene. Knowing the true situation, and that the world was watching, the shoot to kill order was rescinded and the village was spared.

Tania Nomura has without doubt saved a whole tribe, and she is a true world hero.
Tambi with Chief Raoni

See Clive Kelly Historical for a short video tribute to Tambi.
Tambi and I were the first non-Indians to travel up into the mountains of the Darien jungle. We were totally accepted by the Moon Children, and lived with them. No other human beings from an outside culture had ever been allowed into their mountains.

[Only a small percentage of the tribe are true albino "moon-chidren", the rest being varying shades up to dark brown. They originally occupied a much larger area, but were treated to unspeakable cruelty by the early Spanish settlers, and the survivors fled to the mountains. See Land of the Moon-Children by Clyde E. Keeler.]