Religion: The Gospel and the Gold Rush

An idyll ends for Indians caught between missionaries and miners

"If it weren't for the gold, all would be well. We would have time to prepare the Indians for the maliciousness of the white man." So says Father Norberto Hohenscherer, one of the many Salesian missionaries who have governed, educated and protected 20,000 Indians of the Tukano and other tribes over the past seven decades in remote northwestern Brazil. Time, however, is rapidly running out for both missionaries and Indians. The discovery of potentially vast lodes of gold and other minerals is transforming life in a wide region around Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira, a small town in the Amazon jungle.

Indeed,...