Culture

The Faces Of The Amazon: Here Are Some Of The Tribes Threatened By Brazil’s Dangerous Policies

The recent fires in the Amazonian rainforest put this region under the spotlight. Most of the conversations revolved around the ecological damage that the catastrophic fires produced and the corruption that led to unscrupulous land clearings. However, there was a direct human cost as well. Various indigenous groups that have been decimated since their first encounter with European invaders are now facing the threat of illegal industries and governments, such as the Bolsonaro administration in Brazil. The destruction of natural resources is not the only threat they face. They are also at risk of losing their cultural and religious identity as they are forced to learn Spanish or Portuguese and evangelization efforts are stronger than ever from many denominations.

Here are some of the indigenous peoples that call the Amazon their home. Please do us un favorcito: if you visit the Amazon and encounter some of the original owners of the land, please approach them with the dignity and respect you would like to be treated with. Don’t go back home calling them “exotic” or “weird.” If you want to photograph them, please be respectful and ask for permission. 

The Amazon is home to indigenous communities that have survived traumatic processes of colonization by the Spanish and the Portuguese and then the mistreatment by governments that fail to protect their lands.

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The original owners of the land of what is now the Amazon in Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Guyana have a millenary relationship to the land and knowledge of the rhythms of nature from which we could all learn. However, they have historically been underestimated and controlled by governments and institutions that see them with a mestizo gaze.

Waorani peoples in Ecuador

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They are also known as Waos and they are an Amerindian group that has marked differences with other indigenous Ecuadorians like the Quechua. Their community is relatively small: about 4,000 individuals who live between the Curaray and Napo Rivers. They were a hunting and gathering society and now have to live in settlements due to the threats of oil exploitation and illegal logging, two practices that have decimated their lands. They speak Huaorani, which has no known relationship to any other language. 

The Waorani might be small in numbers, but they are combative and have recently filed court cases claiming the protection of their lands.

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The Waorani have stood up for their rights recently, as the Ecuadorian government attempts to take control of their lands. As reported by U-Wire: “The legal battle over the rainforest was filed by the Waorani people in February. through the Ecuadorian parliament. Ecuador had been auctioning off blocks of the forest for logging or mineral extraction to international companies. According to Reuters, the tribe had been battling an on-going court case concerning the selling of sacred Amazonian lands to oil companies”. 

Yanomami peoples in Venezuela and Brazil

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This group is made up of approximately 35,000 people who live in the border of Venezuela and Brazil. There are between 200 and 250 Yanomami villages today. They practice shamanism, just like many indigenous Amazonian tribes that hold a spiritual bond with the flora, fauna, and soil on which they live. 

By the way, the lives of the Yanomami are currently being threatened by illegal mining operations.

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According to the BBC, “ there are ‘thousands’ of prospectors operating in the Yanomami indigenous land in Roraima.” The Yanomami have historically survived numerous threats, but their current situation is close to catastrophic due to lack of government protection under the Bolsonaro presidency in Brazil.

Tucano peoples in Brazil and Colombia

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The Tucano people live in the northwestern Amazon, alongside the Vaupes River. They are made up of different tribes. They have a particular linguistic practice: no man can marry a woman who speaks his language. This practice creates a network of linguistic exchange that is quite unique in the world. Rather than an ethnic group with a distinct identity, the Tucano is a group of tribes put under an umbrella term for being geographically close. 

Ticuna peoples in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru

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They are the most numerous tribe in the Brazilian Amazon with a population of approximately 36,000 individuals. There are about 6,000 Ticuna in Colombia and 7,000 in Peru. They only marry and procreate within their ethnic group, which makes them quite distinct from other groups. They also practice shamanism. Most of them are fluent in Spanish or Portuguese and some of them have converted to Christianity as there are strong evangelization efforts in their region. 

The Ticuna have suffered a lot since colonial times when they came in contact with the Portuguese.

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During the 19th century they were used as slaves by the rubber cultivation industry. They have subsequently suffered violence from loggers, fishermen and other groups that try to exploit their lands. They are currently facing another threat that has decimated indigenous populations throughout Latin America: drug cartels. As EFE News Service reported in June 2017: “Near the triple border of Peru, Brazil, and Colombia, many members of the Ticuna Indian tribe are working as laborers for cocaine drug traffickers, a business that has transformed their lives and supplanted the activities and customs that some of them are now trying to salvage by returning to legal pursuits”. It has been hard for many Ticuna to go back to legal crops since the gains minuscule compared to coca crops. 

Secoya peoples in Ecuador and Peru

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They are also known as AngoteroEncabelladoHuajoyaPiojéSiekopai. They speak Pai Coca and could be considered part of the Tucanoan group. They are a very small group compared to the Ticuna. There are about 400 Secoyas in Ecuador and 700 in Peru. Their culture is being decimated (some have the nerve to call this “assimilation” as if it was a positive thing) by the presence of oil companies, missionaries who convert them to Christianity and mestizos who occupy their lands. 

Cubeo peoples in Colombia

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The name “Cubeo” is a Spanish name used to call a group that calls themselves “people” (pâmiwâ) or “my people” (jiwa). They live in the Northwestern Amazon, alongside the Vapues river. There are between 3,000 and 5,000 Cubeo individuals. The Cubeo people, despite their low numbers, are outspoken when it comes to environmental matters. As CE Noticias Financieras reported back in 2018, a Cubeo representative told an assembly of European authorities: “It is not fair that we are looking for solutions to climate change and we are not thinking about how to protect the true forest keepers, who are us, the indigenous people”. That is absolutely right: the original owners of the land are the true and most knowledgeable when it comes to understanding the rhythms of nature and the best ways to protect it. 

Long story short, we better start listening to indigenous communities. They know the earth and its resources better than we do.

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Amazonians are fighting for the planet, not just for themselves. The idea that their future is also our future is absolutely right: the original owners of the land are the true and most knowledgeable when it comes to understanding the rhythms of nature and the best ways to protect it.

READ: Brazil Finally Banned Burning In The Amazon Yet 4,000 New Fires Have Started In Last 48 Hours

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A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

Culture

A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

It is important to be a responsible tourist. This means following rules, acting responsibly, and not violating sacred places. That is something one tourist learned the hard way when she climbed the Pyramid of Kukulkán in Chichén Itzá.

Here’s the video of a tourist running down the steps of the Pyramid of Kukulkán.

The Pyramid of Kukulkán is one of the most iconic examples of Pre-Hispanic architecture and culture in Mesoamerica. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico. In 2017, more than 2 million visitors descended on the site.

Of course, #LadyKukulkan started to trend on Twitter.

You know that Twitter was ready to start calling out this woman for her actions. According to Yucatán Expat Life Magazine, the woman was there to honor her husband’s dying wish. The woman, identified as a tourist from Tijuana, wanted to spread her husband’s ashes on the top of the pyramid, which it seems that she did.

The video was a moment for Mexican Twitter.

Not only was she arrested by security when she descended, but the crowd was also clearly against her. Like, what was she even thinking? It isn’t like the pyramid is crawling with tourists all over it. She was the only person climbing the pyramid, which is federally owned and cared for.

The story is already sparking ideas for other people when they die.

“Me: (to my parents) Have you read about #ladykukulkan?
My Dad: Yes! (to my mom) When I die, I want you to scatter my ashes in the National Palace so they call you “Lady Palace,” sounds better, no?” wrote @hania_jh on Twitter.

READ: Mexico’s Version Of Burning Man Became A COVID-19 Super-Spreader Event Thanks To U.S. Tourists

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A Brazilian Photographer Is Documenting Indigenous Tribes In The Amazon

Culture

A Brazilian Photographer Is Documenting Indigenous Tribes In The Amazon

Indigenous tribes are the most important connection between man and nature. These tribes have lived off the land before modern society and many have never interacted with modern society. Ricardo Stuckert is going through and documenting the indigenous Amazonian tribes in Brazil.

Ricardo Stuckert is photographing indigenous tribespeople in the Brazilian Amazon.

The indigenous community is something sacred that most people agrees should be protected. They are more connected to the land than we are. Their customs and traditions are more ingrained in this world than ours are and it is so important to protect them.

The indigenous community of Brazil has been subjected to horrible attacks and conditions from the Brazilian government.

One of the most widespread attacks against the indigenous Brazilians living in the Amazon has been for the land. President Jair Bolsonaro has tried to take land away from the indigenous communities to allow for logging and mining. A bill he sent to the congress sought to exploit the land for commercial purposes, even legalizing some of the attacks we have seen on indigenous people since President Bolsonaro took power.

Stuckert wants to preserve the indigenous culture and customs through photos.

“I think it is important to disseminate Brazilian culture and show the way that native peoples live today,” Stuckert told DailyMail. “In 1997, I started to photograph the Amazon and had my first contact with the native people of Brazil. Since then, I have tried to show the diversity and plurality of indigenous culture, as well as emphasize the importance of the Indians as guardians of the forest. There are young people who are being born who have never seen or will see an Indian in their lives.”

The photographer believes that using photography is the best way to share culture.

“I think that photography has this power to transpose a culture like this to thousands of people,” Stuckert told DailyMail. “The importance of documentary photojournalism is to undo stigmas and propagate a culture that is being lost. We need to show the importance of indigenous people to the world, for the protection of our forests.”

You can see all of Stuckert’s photos on his Instagram.

Stuckert’s work to documented the indigenous community is giving people an insight into a life many never see. Brazil is home to about 210 million people with around 1 million having indigenous heritage. The diverse indigenous community of Brazil is something important to showcase and that’s what Stuckert is doing.

READ: Indigenous Photographer Diego Huerta’s Photos Of Oaxaca’s Indigenous People Celebrates Their Beauty

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