By Michael "Skitch" Maillaro
“There isn’t much we want to say yet about Ya’wara. She is a member of the Tapirape, an indigenous tribe of Brazil living in deep in the Amazon rainforest, she has a jaguar, she has a unique power and she has a connection with Aquaman that isn’t going to make Mera very happy.”
Skitch Commentary: I imagine the arguement “she’s from the jungle” is not going to tame the backlash on this one. I can’t help but think that certain parties in DC either don’t care about controversy or they are actively pursuing it.
The real Tapirapé
Curiously, the Tapirapé are a real tribe:
A few facts about the tribe as it was when Europeans first contacted it:
The Tapirapé didn't use any clothing whatsoever in their daily life; but men were ashamed of their penis glans, which they covered with a small cone attached to the prepuce. Women squatted and sat with their legs together. Both women and men painted their bodies with diverse designs according to age and gender. On special ceremonies and dances they would also use skirts, anklets and wrist bands.
Their religion was based on shamanism. There were all sorts of spirits, some good and some unfriendly, that the shamans could communicate with. Spirits came to live in the Takana on a cyclic basis; each “belonged” to a particular Bird Society. When one of the spirits was present, two members of the corresponding Bird Society impersonated and attached himself to the spirit by wearing a special mask and other pieces of clothing until their whole body was covered; they then went dancing around the village and received good kawi (a manioc drink) from every loghouse.
What about the fact that they went naked? Doesn't that justify Ya'Wara's sexy outfit?
Well, no. The culture changed as it increased contact with the outside world:
Fiction vs. reality
Compare with a real Tapirapé woman:
She's not tall and flowing. She doesn't have voluptuous curves or a wild mane of hair. Her tattoos cover her face and body in unattractive ways by Western standards.
So a typical Native woman is transformed into an otherworldly huntress/priestess type. And the stereotyping of Natives continues. This is why people think Indians don't exist anymore--because an Indian like Ya'Wara never existed except in mists of legend.
For more on stereotypical Amazon Indian women in DC comics, see Hidalgo in FIRST WAVE #4 and Rima the "Native" White Girl.