Interview~ Individual dignity ~ Daniel Munduruku


Individual dignity

In an interview, writer Daniel Munduruku shows the problems of trying to unite all traditional communities in a same stereotype of Indian

Ronaldo Pelli


  • Foto: ©MoisésMoraes

    Photo: © MoisésMoraes

    “The Indians are very different from each other, in common they have their difference in relation to the non-indigenous.” So the anthropologist Clarice Cohn, in an article for the April issue of 2013 of Story magazine, shows the problem is trying to define within a single vague term and the various ethnic groups, by prejudice, ignorance, or simple lack of knowledge, called “Indians”. The writer Daniel Munduruku, which is the model for the cover of the number 91 of the RHBN, is a living example of this.


    Born in one of 120 villages of munduruku people on para, Daniel explains that the city still allows these men, women and children “to live as of old”. But, as he-or anyone else-fits easily into labels, stereotypes, Daniel went to the city to study distant. There, however, suffered a big identity problem: “you sit on the sidelines, excluded, powerless,” he said. “As like I was if all took me to believe that my life as a village was the proof that I was late, wild, primitive?”

    Was mixing these two environments almost contradictory, that Daniel Munduruku if created, inventing a third position, unique, individual, of peaceful coexistence. He graduated in Philosophy and a doctorate in education. Turned writer, focused on children. Won several awards. However, when you think on a grand master, remember the grandfather, that you spent the great teachings of life.

    Nowadays, in addition to the academic functions, is also President of the Brazilian Indigenous Intellectual Property Institute, which aims to combat biopiracy. In the first years of functioning of the Office, he and other directors promoted exchanges with other traditional communities to try and win the recognition, to be legitimate, as representatives of these groups. Because, as will be seen in the lengthy interview that follows, as much as there are elements of contact between the different tribes, perhaps the only fundamental trait that una is the fact that they are all humans. Or as Daniel explains: “I learned that there is no dignity to speak on behalf of another person or group.”


    History Magazine: You see some features that could unite the different ethnic groups, so in addition to the fact that they are different from non-indigenous?

    Daniel Munduruku:My difficulty is not so much with the indigenous term and the term Indian, this rather generic and concealer of diversity of indigenous peoples. I am aware that the use of certain terms can reinforce stereotypes and stigmas and we must move forward in appropriate conceptualization able to valorise the rich experience of being a munduruku, Kayapo, guarani or maraguá. These “brands” need to be valued as they carry with them all an experience that led to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years to come to be what they are in their entirety. In this sense, it is important to emphasize that are people who fought bravely to come up with a way of life which they consider ideal and no other people-or experience-can disqualify or minimize. Live the way you want to be a protected right tooth and nail.

    RH:And the inverse: you could see the main differences that you draw attention among ethnic groups that you know?

    DM: It is obvious that there are linguistic differences, food, geographical, rituals that can be listed to exhaustion. Unfortunately, our universalist or generalizante habit turns out to reduce them to a concept that has accompanied the Brazilian education. Say that the native is simply a be of nature is the historical error of disregard that this nature has name, landforms, flora and fauna features, among other things. This ends up classifying these people as close to nature, i.e. almost animals, almost wild, almost without technology, almost without wisdom, almost without culture. This is not true because there is an ideological bias that holds more. I think Brazilian society must strive to know different people and their diverse cultures.


    Foto: ©MoisésMoraes

    Photo: © MoisésMoraes

    RH: You’ve said that the Indian sees the environment as a relative “. Don’t you think that this can reinforce the stereotype of the Indian as the “natural man”, which lives only in the “forest”?


    DM: This is not stereotype, is real. The traditional peoples are the same. The Western tradition has at its root the nature. The problem statement is your narcissistic logic born along with the separation that the West made between beings. Here it is not a matter of thinking and acting differently. What’s behind it is the disrespect to the right of the other to be what he wants to be, what the culture of another found in response and solution to the riddle of life. So the question is the arrogance of the West that is considered superior because of its technological development and by his idea of progress that is based on evolutionary theory as if it were natural pass an internship to another on the human scale. And the worst: enforce this as a truth people and forcing people to believe it, live and die by that. Is not right. The traditional peoples must have the right, if you will, to live the way that their cultures are right for you. And then fit the ideas on the harmonic coexistence with the environment. Can until, in the background, the nature is not so our relative as well, but this was the solution found by the mother-culture to address the problems of coexistence, of food, of living among its members. What’s wrong with that?


    RH:You also have criticized the idea of “sustainability” exactly because it is based on a “fault”. This kind of attitude would not be exempt if the problem, saying that whoever is responsible for the problem, in this case, the disorderly exploitation of the environment, that take care of it?

    DM: The idea of sustainability is a scam in my opinion. As is that of democracy or citizenship. Are subterfuge to control people’s lives. I understand that in a complex society that we got is more than natural that control. What makes me furious is the hijacking that make this claiming the need of actions that prevent the “citizens” to create economic alternatives. We are slaves of a political system in which people cannot apply for a political office if they are not registered in a party; cannot educate their children indoors being forced to “internarem” in kindergartens or preschools; cannot be addressed by alternative methods of health because they are considered dangerous or illegal (because they are out of the medicine that is dominated by the pharmaceutical industry); Indians cannot have land they traditionally occupy because they hinder economic development, and so on. Who else destroys the environment is the least interested in looking after it, but are required by a policy of guilt, Yes. This gives the false impression that the Government takes care of the environment that is all. Fallacy. The examples could multiply by one thousand. It is clear, however, that I’m talking about a public idea of sustainability. I think the general public has another view about the environment and what you hear on the streets is just a speech more true and real understanding of the topic. I think there are speeches that are separated by a flurry of economic interests and will never be compatible.


    RH:You say at one point decided to integrate the Western philosophy to his philosophy, “personal”: what is this in practice?

    DM:I consider myself a free thinker. I have no intellectual engagement with indigenous thinking about to find me an Ambassador of this thought. I learned that there is no dignity to speak on behalf of another person or group. So, I am not representative of anyone. I was educated within the principles of the Munduruku people and they owe some allegiance while the consider important for my personal growth. On the other hand am “started” in the intellectual West, read but don’t feel committed to this kind of thinking alienador, coisificante, handler that I learned to handle. Looking for get in and another small cracks so you can create a peaceful coexistence.

    “Since I was growing up, the anguish increased and made me believe that I would not be” someone “in life, as my vocation for productive work was null. I didn’t know “do” nothing “useful” for the Brazilian society. “



  • RH:You also talks about how one can see parallels between their “personal” philosophy and the Oriental knowledge. What are they?

    DM: The model of Eastern thought has a small advantage when approaching Indian model. Are more committed to the holistic view of our people and can offer important clues to understanding our way to exist. The Orientals have a vision of nature very closer. Ancient rituals of worship developed natural elements like the Sun, water, Earth and wind. This has a lot to do with the indigenous way. my grandfather taught me how to read the signs of nature as an integral part of my being and I think it makes me a bit oriental and Eastern, a little of.

    RH:Have you talked about having suffered an identity crisis in adolescence by having to go to study in the city and live in a village. Could you explain what were the great questions that you perpassavam?

    DM:Imagine living in a world where people care for each other; where there is poor and rich; where childhood not abandoned or at-risk youth; where all have, food, fun …Imagine arriving in another place where it all falls apart and you sit on the sidelines, excluded, helpless … I think this would generate a major identity crisis, is not it? Child still, I was forced to live a life that was not mine, live in a House that I didn’t know, live with people who didn’t like me and learn things that don’t concern me. How I feel good in an environment like that? As like I was if all took me to believe that my life as a village was the proof that I was late, wild, primitive? Now, all this generated in me many mixed feelings that led me to deny my origin and want to be another. As I was growing up, the anguish increased and made me believe that I would not be “someone” in life, as my vocation for productive work was null. I didn’t know “do” nothing “useful” for the Brazilian society. All the knowledge that was carrying with me had to do with the care of home, with the knowledge of nature, with the swim in the river. And the school said that this was “Indian thing” and that I should leave it if you wanted to be “someone”. Frankly I think that children and young people in the cities are living the same crisis these days. The schools remain uncommitted with the knowledge that children bring from home creating a barrier. The school is boring, dull and follows a model of power that is already exceeded in youth culture. The impression I have is that the school wants to continue to be a place of creativity and revolution.

    “The general public has another view about the environment and what you hear on the streets is just a speech more true and real understanding of the topic”.


  • RH:You are President of the Brazilian Indigenous Intellectual Property Institute. Why do you see the need for an institution of this type?

    DM: it all started in 2001 when there was the first meeting of shamans in São Luis do Maranhão. I and other “intellectuals” Indians were invited as observers of the debates promoted by the National Institute of Intellectual Property – Inpi. In the end, the shamans in called and delegated the task of studying the subject and propose something new. Dali left the Indigenous Intellectual Property Commission – Cipi-which met for two years and studied the topic of IP. Other meetings took place until, in 2003, was created the Indigenous Institute, Inbrapi to Intellectual Property with the very clear objective to protect this knowledge of misuses that the pharmaceutical and food industry were doing the same. It was the time of the call biopiracy.

    When we set the name for the institution there was a great buzz around it. There were people who said that we had been unhappy at the choice of the name because we were yielding capitalism especially because indigenous peoples have no notion of property. Stand the criticism and seek to justify the choice by degree of competence of its management that was composed of lawyers specialized in the subject and educators that proposed form and inform communities to the subject of intellectual property. This in fact happened. During the first five years of operation of the institution we have come most of the national territory taking information through courses, seminars, workshops, debates and publications. The Inbrapi had become an institution with endorsement of the communities to be able to assert his role with the Government agencies that were heading the debates.


    Foto: ©MoisésMoraes

    Photo: © MoisésMoraes

    Part of the legislation in force in Brazil today has our institutional interference and we are still a reference organization in the country and abroad. We are currently working in some indigenous communities in the quest to find the best options for the registration of indigenous brands. We do this thinking in professionalize the access to ancestral knowledge so that it can be a financial gain, also, for our communities.


    RH:You’re just one of the indigenous authors have been highlighting lately. What other names you would indicate – and why?

    DM:It is true. I am just a wire in Web of indigenous literature. This is how I feel and that’s how I think it should be. like to think in this movement as a collective, a circle where all are equally able to perform great feats. Our group as a whole is very creative, but I quote some names that have stood out in the creative process.

    Yaguarê Yamã-Maraguá-AM. Has produced beautiful and awarded several houses editorial texts. Writes with ease and lightness. Has published 17 titles.

    Roni Wasiry-Maraguá-AM. Is an excellent storyteller. His writings have magic and narrative strength. It combines well with the expression written orality. Has five published books.

    Olívio Jekupé-Guarani-SP. one of the earliest indigenous writers, Olivio is from Paraná where he began his course of philosophy. In the 1990 migrated to São Paulo where he continued his course at USP. Writes the stories of the Guarani people and has motivated other authors to write in your community as well. Already has twelve titles published.

    Grace Graúna– Potiguara-RN. A University Professor with a doctoral candidate in education. It is also a poet and author of poetry and children’s books. Militant social movement is very new. His poetry is very well prepared and thorough. Has a children’s book published and four for the adult audience.


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