Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
and arrows thrown toward it. In the court case here discussed, the effigy was a tree
bark dummy erected in the central plaza, representing the farmer, Mr. Russo. The
Javari ritual traditionally originated from the Trumai, who now inhabit the southern
portion of the Xingu Park (Fig. 2.6) .
The Javari ceremony kicked off the initial phase of the investigative works of
the court case in which I was designated as the anthropological expert in 1999. My
job was to assert whether the farmers' claims for compensation for having invested
in farmlands that were already proven to be Indigenous territories, in 1997, had
any validity. In doing so, I was to define, once again, whether the disputed land,
adjacent to the Xingu Park, was or was not “traditionally occupied by the Suyá since
time immemorial.” Should the farmers who held property titles to these lands be
financially compensated by the State for the material benefits they erected on these
lands (farm houses, fences, plantations, etc.) between 1962, when they illegally
bought the allotment of Indigenous land directly from the state of Mato Grosso, and
1997, when the land was finally considered Indigenous territory again by the Federal
government? No, I testified, but they were compensated anyway.
Twelve Underwater Creatures of the Suyá Cosmos
During the opening of the Javari ceremony, which always takes place during the dry
season, May through October, Suyá men decorated in warrior attire represented the
confrontation between the Suyá community and Mr. Russo. A full-size doll, made
of tree bark fibers, stood in the central plaza of the Suyá village. Male children,
teenagers and adults took turns voicing their narratives of land exploitation, and
cursing Mr. Russo for having stolen Suyá ancestral land. The warriors shot arrows at
his effigy from a close distance (15 to 20 feet), and whenever the arrow hit the target,
an uproar of satisfaction filled the air.
The political leader Kuiussi, and ceremonial leaders Romdó and Intoni, in full
jaguar attire, watched from inside the men's house in the central plaza. They provided
the young men and myself, during breaks between arrow shootings, with information
about how Suyá land was usurped by greedy farmers in the 1960s. We examined in
detail various documents and publications, including history topics and cartographic
maps that I had brought along with me from São Paulo and Brasília, as well as those
produced in the Xingu Park in the 1980s and 1990s at the Diauarum School, and by
NGOs, such as the Instituto Socioambiental - ISA. Most striking were the Indigenous
narratives about antigamente (“first time” or “good old times” in Portuguese), which
emphasized shamans evolving from animals to sentient human beings capable
of bestowing on other humans the knowledge first conferred to them while in
animal form. In the presence of the shamans themselves, shamanic knowledge and
map-making skills empowered the warriors to produce highly political speeches
against land usurpation, providing additional energy for the Javari ceremony.
Like a curing chant or
sangere in the Suyá language, whose knowledge is a type
of power Suyá shamans hold, Romdó evoked the desired attributes of the spotted
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