Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
account, shamans appear as knowledgeable entities about “a good place to live,” um
lugar bom pra morar . The shamanic mapping of the world appears initially tied to the
workings of human, plant and animal hybrids, such as in the “Origin of food” account,
when all of the provisions of the Suyá people were originally stored in the stomach of
an old lady. When preparing their gardens, the Suyá slashed and burned a plot of land,
and the elder fertilized the soil with her innards, giving rise to corn, manioc, sweet
potato, and squash (Ferreira 1994a:28). When all of this food was harvested, however,
it was done so in the waters of the local rivers. It was a common rat (
) that
showed the Suyá how to transform underwater nutrients into gardening resources. In
these narratives, other animals such as the humming bird ( Trochilidae ), the anaconda
( Eunectes murinus ), the tapir ( Tapirus terrestris ), and the jaguar ( Felis concolor ), are
also main protagonists of several instances of Suyá social life.
This hyper-relativistic vision of the world is also clearly expressed in the
cosmological knowledge portrayed by Suyá leaders to anthropologist Anthony Seeger
(1995), when he helped map the traditional occupation of the Wawi River Basin, on
the eastern border of the XIP. Sting rays, parrots and other animal pets; banana plants,
buriti palm trees ( Mauritia flexuosa ), and vegetable gardens; lakes, rivers, eddies,
and other geographic features; as well as encounters with other Indigenous Peoples,
were intricately interwoven when tracing ancestral occupancy of Suyá territory. The
organizing force that derived from all this information was successfully incorporated
into the judicial report elaborated by yet another anthropological expert, Monica
Pechincha (1996), which led to the successful reapropriation of the Wawi ancestral
territory by the Suyá in 1998 (Demarcation of the Wawi Indigenous Territory,
Presidential Decree of September 8, 1998).
In “Proofs of occupation of the Wawi River (Santo Antonio stream) by Suyá
Indians” (Seeger 1995), political and ceremonial leaders, including Romdó, Intoni
and Kuiussi Suyá, showed, among other things, that biocultural diversity is a product
of how humans and non-humans alike think about the world and act upon it, including
their embodied skills and taxonomies. The knowledge and power of Suyá shamans
were essential for the identification and demarcation of the Wawi Indigenous Land,
according to the coordinator of the National Indian Foundation's (Funai) Working
Group ( Grupo de Trabalho - GT number 526), anthropologist Monica Pechincha
(1996). Like Seeger and Franchetto, Pechincha also resorts extensively to the wisdom
of Suyá shamans in the process of delineating the limits of Suyá official grounds.
In evoking the powers and transformative energies of human and non-human
beings, Amerindian shamans attempt to (re)construct an original synthesis, a novel
way of ordering the beings that inhabit their versions of the world as they perceive it.
The work of shamans in court cases appears to be that of a
, a handyman of
sorts, who creates meaning out of a multiplicity of fragments - signs, symbols, codes
- by placing them together in a system of relations that makes sense to a certain
community or people, at a specific point in time and cosmological realm.
Indigenous standards of knowledge and perceptions in South America are
sustained by various worldviews that stem from a solid understanding of the fusion of
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