WHO WE ARE
Cosmology and History
By Jairo Saw
“Munduruku” is the name given to our people by the Parintintin, and means “fire ants,” since, just like the ants, our ancestors always went out together on their warfare expeditions.
The warfare expeditions could last several years and aimed to conquer enemies and bring “trophy heads” back home – these were decapitated and embalmed heads of our enemies that produced a magical effect, guaranteeing agricultural fertility and bountiful hunting, as well as abundance of resources and protection. They also served as a badge of honour for our warriors, by showing their skill in battle.
The art of Munduruku warfare is strongly inspired by the figure of the tortoise. Their myths tell of its cleverness and its collective spirit made it overcome the most feared of enemies.
Nowadays, to overcome threats to our people’s existence, we must use our wisdom. The enemies of indigenous peoples, just like the big snake, encircle them and try to break their bones and asphyxiate them. But the tortoise has taught us how to defeat these enemies.
One of the main things the Munduruku need to use is their knowledge of the art of war. If today we fight against the snake, it does not mean we will cut off its head, but we will deploy means to weaken this enemy.
The tortoise is a quiet animal, that has a special kind of wisdom. It uses a silent strategy so that the enemy cannot realise what it is planning. Even when this enemy is strong and big, the tortoise can win using its wisdom. It is good at the art of perception, and at investigating its rival’s weaknesses.
If the pariwat (whites) use their laws, we must also use our laws, and our knowledge. These tell us that just as the tortoises, joined together, the Munduruku have never lost a battle. The tortoise is a symbol of resistance that we base ourselves on today to fight for our rights.
Teachings from the forest
To the Munduruku people, animals always teach something. Each type of animal possesses different knowledge, abilities and virtues. Their behaviour, singing and habits offer a true education.
A bird considered to be very wise is the thrush (koropsare). It teaches us to understand and interpret speech and dreams. The beauty of its song impresses other birds, and its speech draws admiration and respect from other people (species).
In its turn, the hummingbird is the bird of speed. It brings speed of thought and also of movement in the forest. Its skills are passed on to the good and fast hunters.
Munduruku knowledge comes from the forest and animals. The messages we receive, telling of good or bad news, arrive to us through them. But not everyone can understand their speech, because they live in a different world.
All animals are in a different world. We see them as animals, but among themselves, they see one another as people. Because they were people who were taken to the animal world by the creator of all things, Karosakaybu.
Men transform themselves into animals just as women decided to live in the kingdom of waters.
Women transformed themselves into fish and children became birds.
These were the world’s first inhabitants. From this time, the first inhabitants of the world transformed themselves into animals.
The animals can see our world and the world they are in. That is why dogs bark at almost invisible presences. All animals are shamans.
The animals can only be seen by us as humans when we dream. In dreams, they appear as people and warn about the consequences we will suffer if we mistreat the forest.
Because of this, we know that animals always want to tell us something. But only those who can interpret their speech can understand.
PARIRI Indigenous Association
Based in Aldeia Praia do Mangue (Itaituba), the Pariri association was created on November the 8th, 1998, with the main objective of fighting for the physical and cultural survival of the Munduruku people of the middle Tapajós River. It legally represents the Praia do Indio and Praia do Mangue reserves and Sawre Bapim and Sawre Muybu Indigenous Lands.
The Association is composed of a Board of Directors, which serves a two-year term, a Fiscal Council and the General Assembly, wherein activities are developed and future projects are discussed with village leaders.
The activities of the Association have the support of Brazilian and foreign non-governmental organizations, researchers, journalists and other professionals
The Association aims to articulate the demands and problems of the communities (especially those arising from contact with national society) in order to represent them more strongly with federal agencies such as FUNAI, SESAI, and the Federal Public Prosecutor (MPF). Its work requires coordinators and members to understand the functioning and institutions of the surrounding society, as well as the Munduruku culture and language, since the main mission of the representative association is to fight for indigenous rights and the improvement of the quality of life in the villages, through the strengthening of traditional cultural values and sustainability projects.
Over the past fifteen years, Pariri has developed projects for teaching the Munduruku language in urban villages and near the city of Itaituba, organized annual and itinerant meetings to promote the integration of the communities of the middle Tapajós and to reaffirm Munduruku values and discuss threats to their rights. In addition, it has partnered with FUNAI to implement the Integrated High School project “Ibaorebu.”
Pariri works with other Munduruku associations on the Alto Tapajós, and with the Movement Ipereğ Ayũ in the defense of indigenous rights. Violations of these rights are intensifying every day with development projects planned and underway in the the region (hydroelectric dams, waterways, agribusiness, timber extraction) and by the invasion and illegal exploitation of Mundurku lands by outsiders.
In addition to having organized autodemarcation activities at Sawre Muybu Indigenous Land between 2014 and 2019, Pariri has recently focused on:
- Territorial management (plan for surveillance and occupation of the territory) and the continuation of autodemarcation at TI Sawre Muybu;
- Sawre Bapim Indigenous Land demarcation;
- Working with other indigenous peoples and riverine communities, including the participation in the autdodemarcations of these allies;
- Indigenous education and community communication (discussions and actions to build an education appropriate for the Mundurku, the promotion of courses with holders of traditional knowledge on the Middle and Upper Tapajós in Munduruku culture, medicinal plants, traditional horitculture, and the weaving of nets and baskets.)
Wakoborun Women's Association
The Munduruku Wakoborun Women's Association was created in 2018 to strengthen the group of women warriors and to support the Ipereğ Ayũ movement’s fights against the great development projects that threaten our territory.
We are involved in discussions about our rights, communication, agroecology and the articulation of women's participation in our people's movements and actions. The Women’s mission is to protect and defend our lives and territories, to guarantee our voice and to guarantee women's autonomy in the Munduruku struggle. We want women to have greater participation in the meetings and actions of Munduruku organizations. We know that women guard the strength and culture of our people. That is why we are strengthening the organization of women, valuing the work and wisdom of our warriors. Our strategy is to value our crafts, our farms, our autodemarcation expeditions and to bring more women to participate in meetings, hearings, debates and meetings, because only us women can talk about our pain.
Movement Ipereğ Ayũ
Ipereğ Ayũ is the Munduruku people's resistance movement in the struggle against big development projects that threaten our territory. It was created in 2012 in the context of the intense struggle against the construction of the Belo Monte Megadam and against the Tapajós and Teles Pires River power plants. Visit the movement's website.