Last week Terence Turner passed away. He was emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, and visiting professor at Cornell University. He defended his PhD thesis at Harvard in 1965, with the title Social Structure and Political Organization among the Northern Kayapo. His is one of those rare names that are very relevant both to the anthropological and linguistic sides of research on native Amazonian communities.
A few years ago, when I was getting into Amazonian languages, one of the first texts that fell into my hands was a Mẽbêngôkre speech translated by Turner. I later scrutinized it with more detail, with other texts, in an attempt to learn some of the language before my first trip to Brazil to visit the Mẽbêngôkre-speaking Xikrín in the state of Pará.
Turner wasn’t just an epic-level researcher, with an astonishing academic output. He was also deeply engaged in the social struggles of the Mẽbêngôkre and other native peoples. He collaborated a lot with Ropni “Raoni”, the Mẽtyktire Kayapo leader, another Amazonian legend of our days.
If I may resort to the cliché, Terry Turner will no doubt live on through his enormous legacy and in the memory of many people and many peoples.