Guardians OF THE AMAZONIA
Actualmente en Brasil viven alrededor de 305 tribus que suman un total de unas 900.000 personas, lo que equivale al 0,4% de la población brasileña.
El Gobierno ha reconocido 690 territorios para sus habitantes indígenas, que abarcan aproximadamente el 13% de la superficie del país. Casi toda esta reserva territorial (el 98,5%) se ubica en la Amazonia.
Pese a siglos de contacto con la sociedad fronteriza en continua expansión, en la mayoría de los casos han conservado con determinación su lengua y sus costumbres, a pesar del continuo robo masivo e intrusión en sus tierras.
Brazil is currently home to some 305 tribes totalling some 900,000 people, equivalent to 0.4 per cent of the Brazilian population.
The government has recognised 690 territories for its indigenous inhabitants, covering approximately 13 per cent of the country’s land area. Almost all of this territorial reserve (98.5 per cent) is located in the Amazon.
Despite centuries of contact with the ever-expanding frontier society, in most cases they have steadfastly preserved their language and customs, despite continued massive theft and encroachment on their lands.
The Puyanawa suffered, as did many other peoples of the Acre, with the growth of rubber and rubber tapping activities in the region in the early 20th century. Since the first contacts with non-Indians, many have died in clashes or from diseases acquired in the process. The survivors were forced to work in rubber and quickly saw their way of life blighted as a result of the methods used by the “rubber colonels” to keep the Indians under their yoke. The Puyanawa were dispossessed of their land, catechised and educated in schools, which forbade the expression of any trace of their culture.
It was only with the beginning of the process of demarcation of their lands that the Puyanawa culture was once again valued by the Indians themselves, who have made efforts to recover their native language, a task that is being carried out with difficulty, given the small number of speakers.
“Shaman gives and takes life. To become a shaman, one goes alone into the forest and binds everything with envira [Daphnosis racemosa]. You lie at a crossroads with your arms and legs open. First come the night butterflies, the husu, which cover the whole body. Then come the juxin that eat the husu until they reach your head. Then you hug him tightly. It turns into murmuru [Astrocaryum murumuru], which has thorns. If you have strength and don’t let go, the murmuru will transform into a cobra that wraps itself around your body. You hold on, it transforms into a jaguar. You continue to hold on. And so you go on, until you hold on to nothingness. You beat the test and then you speak, then you explain that you want to receive muka and he gives you [Siã Osair Sales].”
The Ashaninka have a long history of struggle, repelling invaders from the time of the Inca Empire to the rubber tapping economy of the 19th century and, particularly among the inhabitants of the Brazilian side of the border, fighting timber exploitation from 1980 to the present day. A people proud of their culture, driven by a keen sense of freedom, willing to die to defend their territory, the Ashaninka are not simply objects of Western history. Their ability to reconcile traditional customs and values with the ideas and practices of the white world, such as those linked to socio-environmental sustainability, is admirable.
The Yaminawá are the inhabitants of the centre of the jungle and the miserable periphery of the cities: they represent the marginal ‘savage’ or the ‘acculturated’ Indian who begs in the streets. In this way, they embody in themselves the most dramatic contradictions of the Amazonian imaginary and history.
The Nukini are part of a group of Pano-speaking peoples that inhabit the Jurúa valley region and are characterised by a very similar way of life and worldview, and have in common the devastating historical experience of expropriation, violence and exploitation by the rubber company since the mid-19th century.
Defining who the Katukina are, guided solely by the name of the group, is not a simple task. Since the first half of the last century, historical records produced by missionaries, travellers and government agents about the indigenous populations of the Juruá River refer to indigenous groups known by the name Katukina. However, “Katukina” (or Catuquinha, Katokina, Katukena and Katukino) is a generic term that came to be attributed to five linguistically distinct but geographically close groups, according to anthropologist Paul Rivet (1920). Today, that number has been reduced to three: one belonging to the Katukina linguistic family in the region of the Jutaí River in the state of Amazonas, and two belonging to the Pano linguistic family in the state of Acre.