Bertico is his name. He has been chief for the last 15 years, but is suffering from chronic bronchitis due to his excessive smoking. We used to provide him with guafatussin, and I worry about his coughing now. Who is giving him medicine for his terrible coughing??? No one.
Bertico and Yekwanaman were having a conversation in the village round house on the day this photo was snapped. Just talking about 'men stuff' which is genetic in all males, no matter the culture. Some things are universal.
Bertico is a friend but never became a Christian. I still pray for him and even though he was never interested in the gospel, he is a true friend. He has stood up for us against the false accusations made by military investigators, he has stood up for us when other Indigenous Advocate groups tried to force the removal of all missionaries from the tribes.
Bertico as chief is greatly respected. One does not belittle the chief or take undue privileges while speaking to him, or about him. He is the chief until he dies. Then another will be appointed but not necessarily a son of his.
Something you can not see in this photo is that much of his power comes through his practice as witch doctor. He is a shaman. His father was such a powerful witch doctor that upon his death, his head was saved. The head was cleaned down to the bones and wrapped in cloth for safe keeping. Bertico has his father's skull in his hut. Whenever he feels the need for wisdom, he will snort a local grown hallucinogenic ( having much the same effect as LSD) which will allow him to have visions. In these visions he will often see and converse with his' father', thus the need for the skull to be kept close by him for such times.
My children were never afraid of Bertico, but were often skittish when walking by his hut, just knowing the skull was in there made them nervous!
My husband once asked Bertico how old he was. His answer, after a long thoughtful pause, was, "I am very old."