Not in the Amazon Basin, there aren't, so let's call them dolphins.
Things got even better. Two canoes came hurtling around a river bend, furiously paddled by local men who were chasing the dolphins, trying to tag them with the canoe paddles. The dolphins could easily evade the canoes, but kept popping up almost within reach so the men would chase them some more. People in the village gathered to watch, laughing uproariously.
The men chased the dolphins until it got too dark to continue. “In all my years watching this contest between mammals, no porpoise has ever been 'tagged,'” Everett writes.
Everett and his family lived among the Pirahã for years. He learned, and wrote a thesis on, their difficult language, and failed to convert a single person. He lost his religious belief and diverged from the teachings of famous linguist Noam Chomsky in making the controversial argument that the Pirahã language doesn't have features of Chomskian “universal grammar,” notably recursion. He also says it doesn't have names for colors or numbers, and that the Pirahã don't have “motherese” (baby talk). They don't have a creation story. My favorite part is the idea that the language has many suffixes indicating the source of information, so that one distinguishes instantly between, say, “Dan caught a fish (I saw him),” “Dan caught a fish (Keren says she saw it)” and “Dan caught a fish (I assume on circumstantial evidence).”
(A related problem with missionary efforts to the Pirahã seems to be a cultural impatience with extended hearsay. If you were Jesus Christ, they would be happy to talk to you. If you had seen Jesus Christ perform a miracle, they'd be willing to hear that. But if your pastor told you that he read in Bible that Timothy heard that Jesus Christ performed miracles, the Pirahã can't be bothered.)
Everett's claims have created great ongoing controversy, and more non-theological interest in studying the Pirahã language. He's been called a charlatan, or simply wrong about one point or another.
About the porpoises – the only freshwater porpoises were in the Yangtze (probably now extinct). I can't figure out if Everett was seeing the freshwater dolphin called Inia geoffrensis or boto, or the one called Sotalia fluviatilis or tucuxi. He had missionary training and linguistic training, not natural history training, so I don't think imprecise cetacean nomenclature reflects on Everett-as-observer.
Here's a picture of a boto in the Duisberg Zoo.
Here's a picture of what I take to be a tucuxi.
If only I were blogging in Pirahã! This entry would be much shorter, since with simple prefixes I could indicate things like “Everett said this,” “Everett said this, but I think he meant something else,” “Wikimedia Commons didn't exactly say this, but this is a picture the search term sent me to,” and “the boto caught a fish (unless that's Photoshop work).”