Interview with Ubiranan, the son of the pajé [1] of the indigenous people Pataxó in Coroa Vermelha, Bahia, Brazil

 

 

"Pataxó is rainwater that hits the earth and rocks and continues to flow to the sea" [2][3]

 

Thank you for taking the time to do an interview with me. My name is Inga and I'm from Germany. Can you tell me a little bit about the tradition of your people and what medicines you use for healing?

Ubiranan: It's my pleasure. My name is Ubiranan. I come from the tribe Pataxó. I am the son of a pajé. I too am called pajé. And about our medicines: The pajés are the key piece in the indigenous communities. The forest is very valuable to us. The forest is the place where we listen and seek our resources for our alternative medicines coming from the forest. The forest is home to an immense variety of raw materials.

We also have medicines that we use to create an atmosphere between us and to connect with our God, our Creator God, who created heaven and earth, and who is the protector of the forest.

And we indigenous people have the mission of caring for and preserving the environment. The pajés are a key piece because they have special spiritual gifts. They have special visions and a connection to our God. They have a special understanding of healing and through them we maintain the continuity of our medicines. The pajés must have a good spirit and a connection with our god.

How can you describe your god?

Ubiranan: Our god is called Ciratan. Each ethnicity uses different names. In our language he is called Ciratan. The god who created everything. He created us, the whites, the blacks... Only his name changes in different languages.

 

Is your God a great spirit, a great energy?

Ubiranan: When we focus on our God, we can feel a great higher power. There is no explanation. Only those who seek him can get to know him.

 

And this great higher power is naturally recognized as the power of God?

Ubiranan: Yes, and that power comes with a spirit, the Holy Spirit of Heaven, who descends to the earth, who enters the forest, enters the animals, the Indios, the whites and the blacks. But besides the presence of our God, there is the presence of the enemy. There are some who seek the enemy and then call something bad. But if we say thank you and strengthen ourselves with good spirit and good energy and looking for good things, then something good will be strengthened. If we do not go to our protector, our God, then we will not get an answer.

 

So there is this polarity between good and bad energies?

Ubiranan: Exactly. For in the world in which we live there are legions of demons, of bad things that we can only fight through prayer. So we only strengthen ourselves through the God we seek. And the Indio, the white and the black are the same. Our God can use them all to do good and the enemy can do it for the worse.

 

Is God perhaps also a form of consciousness?

Ubiranan: Well, it always depends on the type of individual. God can use his power through whom he wants, where he wants and in all cultures. Only he has this power. And the pajés have this connection to the spiritual world and sometimes some are not properly prepared. The pajé does not just become a pajé. They are born with certain gifts. A cacique [4] is a leader who has command of the entire tribe. He is a very strong leader. Today you can become a pajé by election in the community, and if you fulfill your role well in the community then you can stay. 

The pajé has knowledge of the plants, the herbs and has a gift to pray and through his prayer he has the connection to our God. God can perform healings for others through him.

And it is important to have faith. If you are a person who has little faith and belief, you will not see many things, you will not understand much. We have to create what we want for ourselves. I believe in a God who can do everything. When I pray, I feel that he is talking to me. That's why I live in peace and I feel good about transferring our peace to other people who sometimes have no peace. We transfer our peace to many.

I know there are people who believe in many different gods, but the god I believe in is the one who created everything.

 

I understand. But don`t you also believe that God is in you, that you are God?

Ubiranan: No, I don`t believe that I am a God, because if we were all God, we would believe in many Gods. And that does not make sense to me because the moment you seek God, you will feel something supernatural, something different that is not ordinary and you can not feel everywhere. So it's something else.

 

What do you think about the destruction of the forest? Do you have a vision for the future? What do you think will happen to this planet?

Ubiranan: Humanity will disappear with the destruction of the forest. And there is already a proposal from our God. We appreciate our God, we thank our God. Because many do it all just for a motivation of greed and forget that we have a protector whom we should thank. And then more and more time passes and at some point there is nothing left that we could find. And here there is the side of the bad and the side of the good and the light and this side is our God and the bad side is the destruction. This is a way of thinking, a way my father taught me, and that's what I feel and what he feels.

 

I think if everything is destroyed now, nature will eventually return. Not people. I think there will be a higher form of existence...

Ubiranan: And it may be that our God transforms our lives into another, so that people understand what he can do. He can take the world, the universe into his hands. He can see everything. He already knows you in the abdomen of your mother.

We believe in eternity. We believe in a place where we will be born and our God will not let us die and that everything will not end. We believe in a life in which we go and that brings us peace. Another place because the world as we know it destroys itself. But we will not die. Every sunshine will become a new sunshine.

That's what I believe. This is my spiritual education with God. I know that he works in everything. But there are people who are not related to it and who are destroying the good things that God has given us, and those who have not sought the right way will pay.

 

What is the role of women in shamanism? Can women be shamans too?

Ubiranan: Yes, they can. There are many indigenous peoples who also have female shamans. They also have the ability. But the shaman or female shaman is always a person who has the ability to pray, a person who concentrates. But there are also people who use these skills in other ways, such as charlatans. They fool the people. They can pray and take money, it can be an Indio, a white man, a black man, a pastor, a priest...

But to be a shaman or a female shaman, one must have a spiritual connection to our God to connect to Heaven here on earth.

 

So the most important thing for shamanism is the connection with the spiritual world and the ability to get into that dimension?

Ubiranan: Exactly. In the dimension where you know that there is something that protects you and that is supernatural. I admire our God, he does not lie. He can be admired equally by everyone in the world.

There are many different indigenous peoples in Brazil.

 

Does your people have contact with other peoples?

Ubiranan: Today there are more than 240 indigenous peoples in Brazil. [5] And most of these peoples are in the Amazon. And in our Pataxó tribe we are just over 20,000. I have contact with some other ethnic groups. I meet them at regional or national indigenous games. And there are already indigenous games that take place worldwide. We make an exchange, talk and exchange our culture and artifacts with each other. [6]

 

But in the past there were also wars between indigenous peoples?

Ubiranan: There were many wars in the past because no one knew and understood each other's language. No one spoke the same language and the tribes were very warlike and violent. Today we are calmer, also because we meet. It used to be harder to meet because nobody spoke the other's language. We also can learn with technology today. And the spirit of our God also connects us because we have a very great mission in humanity. We protect the forest for all humanity and the whites, the city dwellers do not regard this with respect. They think we indigenous people are like stones in their shoes.

 

But not all whites think like that...

Ubiranan: No, not all. We identify with whites who are good and have the same thoughts as us. Here I am talking about the greedy people who are destroying the forest to build many things. Things that will not help them. Things that bring good moments, but do not lead on the way to eternity, a way into a world without violence, death and suffering.

 

Could it be that the religion of the whites is a problem?

Ubiranan: It depends. It depends on each individual person. What we can not have are prejudices. You persecute your religion, pursue what you want to be, but who will shape, change and strengthen you is the holy spirit of God. So you need to know if it's a holy spirit or if it's a bad spirit too. You need to know that there are people who sometimes give you things that you believe are the truth but that are not the truth. That's why, before you look for something, you have to be able to pray at home. And our God will tell you many things that you do not know. But religion exists since the beginning of the world. As well as the politics since the emergence of Christianity exists. You can make a good policy of bringing people together, but now inciting people against people is a policy that hurts and destroys people.

 

What do you think about this Bolsonaro?

Ubiranan: Many Indios do not like him. But I say that we are not afraid. Because before he was in government, we already existed. So he can do a lot of bad things, but we have the prayer through which we seek our God. Our God gives and our God takes away, everything has its moment. So many people are worried, but I'm not worried, because if there is a scripture, all this will happen, good and bad things will happen, and we will thank our God in good and bad times. Because he will support us.

 

I am worried that the Amazon rainforest will be destroyed ...

Ubiranan: Well, I think they will not have the power to do that. They will try anyway, but our God will not allow it, because his will will happen and because he protects the environment. I really believe that there will be changes. They hurt us very much, the Indios, the blacks, but God always speaks, he will judge those who hurt the humble. So I'm not worried.

 

Can whites also have an "indigenous spirit"?

Ubiranan: Yes. For example, there are also many Indians who have a bad side. Some try to sell themselves for money. And there are also many whites that are similar to the Indians. And what I have already told you, the most important thing is the spiritual connection. You have to have your other and special moment. You have to be different. You can not be the same and do what everyone else does. Your path must deviate from the path of the bad.

 

What do you think about Europe?

Ubiranan: I Ubiranan of the Pataxó people embrace all the people of Europe who want to get to know our Brazil, who help us in our interests and defend our country and who want to get to know our people. Because the support of our country, our nature and fauna also supports other countries. Through our God, I will pray for them to feel the protection that is our mission. You can not destroy what our God has already written.

 

You do not use Ayahuasca. Which medications or herbs do you use?

Ubiranan: Well, there are medicines used by the Indians of the North, and there are others used by the Indians here in Bahia. I use the medicine as I learned from my dad. Various oils, essences for drinking, massage, bathing. They are good essences that do me good and make me feel good. And they are used along with our songs, our prayers, our language and we always thank our God who created everything.

 

Would you like to ask me something too?

Ubiranan: What do you think about our tribe, what do you think about our interview?

 

I found it very nice and interesting. On many points I agree with you, for example when it comes to the protection of the environment. And I already felt that great supernatural power too. I can identify with your people and I feel very close to the spirit of the natives.

 

Ubiranan: Thank you for your visit. Welcome to our Pataxó tribe and that our God protects you. Because when I look at you I see that you have a spirit of peace, a spirit of light. I see where he will lead you and that you will help us in the future. You will fight for a tribe of which you do not know anything yet. You have something, peace, mediate peace, and you will understand in the future something that our God will tell you. You will help many people in Brazil or in your country and help people to feel better.

 

Thank you very much. It makes me very happy to hear this.

 

 


The Pataxó

The Pataxó live in several villages in the extreme south of the state of Bahia and in the north of the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. In Bahia, the Pataxó live in 36 villages spread over six indigenous areas: Águas Belas, Aldeia Velha, Barra Velha, Imbiriba, Coroa Vermelha and Mata Medonha. They are located in the municipalities of Santa Cruz Cabrália, Porto Seguro, Itamaraju and Prado. The community Coroa Vermelha, represents the youngest of these formations and is stimulated by the activity of the artisanship, which is animated by tourist flows. Coroa Vermelha is located on the shore of the highway that connects Porto Seguro with Santa Cruz de Cabrália and is close to these two cities.

The habitat of the Pataxó includes an area with mangrove and sandland along the coast as well as field and forest strips in the interior. According to a census conducted in 2010, the total number of Pataxó amounted to 13,588 inhabitants.

Since the 16th century, the Pataxó have been in contact with non-Indians, which was reached by the agricultural expansion of Brazilian society and often violent. Overall, the Pataxó today is characterized by a certain emotional instability resulting from a series of events that have occurred throughout history - confrontation with police forces (1951), shipwreck with a large number of victims (1969), friction with the guard of the Monte Pascoal National Park [7] since its inception and much more. More recently, FUNAI's [8] misdirection of land issues has continued to weaken its social organization, making its internal relations and relations with the wider society extremely uncertain.

Today, the entire Pataxó people speak fluent regional Portuguese, with some individuals using individual words (nouns and adjectives) from a language borrowed from Maxacalí, an indigenous people in a nearby region already located in the state of Minas Gerais. The importance of this loan for Pataxó is so great that it tends to recognize Maxacalí as their own language. The Pataxó, who in the past were often forced to conceal their customs, are now trying to revive their language - the Patxohã language ("the language of warriors") - as well as their culture and rituals.

The basic economic activities of the people of Pataxó include agriculture, plant and animal collection, fishing, piassava and timber harvesting, artisanal production, commercial activities (industrialized products) and hunting. Artisanal production has developed well both in terms of the market and in terms of technical development and is considered to be the most important means for the relationship between Pataxó and the national market.

Pataxó's ethnopharmacological knowledge has come under pressure from community emigration and threats to biodiversity from deforestation, mining and tourism. However, according to a study conducted in 2012, 48 medicinal plants used by the Indians of Pataxó in southern Bahia were identified and classified. [9]

Further information can be found under the following sources (in Portuguese):

https://pib.socioambiental.org/pt/Povo:Pataxó

http://web.archive.org/web/20160616204718/http://portal.mj.gov.br/data/Pages/MJA63EBC0EITEMID97E40658299248708ABD93B127495C90PTBRNN.htm

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1516-05722012000100012&script=sci_abstract&tlng=pt

http://www.funai.gov.br/arquivos/conteudo/cogedi/pdf/Series/Aragwaksa_Pataxo/Aragwaksa_PlanoGestao_Pataxo.pdf

[1] The term "pajé" denotes the spiritual leader, counselor and healer of an indigenous tribe. The word comes from the Tupi Guarani peoples. The pajé (shaman) is considered the most important figure of the indigenous tribes of Brazil. See: https://www.meusdicionarios.com.br/paje

[2] Translation of the original quote: "Pataxó é água da chuva batendo na terra, nas pedras, e indo embora para o rio eo mar." Kanátyo Pataxó, Txopai e Itôhâ, 1997. Found in: https://pib.socioambiental.org/pt / Povo: Pataxó

[3] Pataxó is the self-designation used by this people. See: https://pib.socioambiental.org/pt/Povo:Pataxó

[4] Cacique is the political leader of an indigenous people.

[5] There are about 305 tribes living in Brazil today, which is equivalent to about 900,000 people or 0.4% of the Brazilian population. The government has recognized 690 areas for its indigenous population, accounting for about 13% of Brazil's land mass. Almost the entire reserved land (98.5%) is located in the Amazon. See: https://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/brazilian

[6] The "Indigenous Games" are sporting and cultural events that take place annually. Several teams participate in various sporting events, celebrating a common theme. The "Pataxó Indigenous Games", for example, is a sporting and cultural event held annually in April in the municipality of Coroa Vermelha. The first edition of these games took place in the year 2000 and was based on the "National Indigenous Games", in which also the Pataxó participate. In the first editions of the games, the teams were formed only by members of the Coroa Vermelha community, today, in addition to other villages of the Pataxó the entire indigenous community are mobilized. About fifteen days before the games, the elaboration of body jewels and the preparation of the people who take part begin. The sports include wood and maraca races, football and archery. The games are a moment of strengthening the cultural identity of the participating groups. See: https://pib.socioambiental.org/pt/Povo:Pataxó

[7] The National Park Monte Pascoal (Portuguese: Parque Nacional e Histórico do Monte Pascoal) is a national park in the Brazilian state of Bahia. It is located in the Atlantic Forest and covers an area of 22,332 hectares, of which 8,627 hectares overlap with the indigenous land of the Barra Velha. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Pascoal_National_Park

[8] FUNAI (A Fundação Nacional do Índio) is the official indigenous organization of the Brazilian state. It was created by Act No. 5.371 of December 5, 1967 in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice and is the coordinator and principal executor of the indigenous policy of the Federal Government. Its institutional mission is to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil. See: http://www.funai.gov.br/index.php/quemo-somos

[9] More about the herbs and medicines used by Pataxó: http://www.abhorticultura.com.br/EventosX2/EventosX/Trabalhos/EV_1/A680_T934_Comp.pdf

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