What is the meaning of the forest for the Awá?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

 

Death and the death of the Awá-Guaja

  foto google

When a tree falls in the Amazon, the impact reaches maranhense doubly to the indigenous Awa-Guaja. Hunters and gatherers, these people depends entirely on the forest during the life. But also after it. “The world for the Awa does not end on Earth. Have another spirit world where all Awa will live after they die, “explains anthropologist at Unicamp, Fran Garcia. “These beings come to Earth to get three things that only the forest can give: hunting, honey and water”. With deforestation, says, the Awa die twice. In an interview with Greenpeace, granted in Caru indigenous land -a forest island in Maranhão, where the Awa live surrounded by deforestation- Uirá account because the forest is critical to these people.

The interview is published by Greenpeace Brazil, 4/23/2013.

Here’s the interview.

What is the meaning of the forest for the Awá?

The Awá are a people that radicalized: chose to live entirely in the forest. Everything always produced came from the forest: Historically, all of them are subsistence hunting and gathering. And Moreover, it has the symbolic and cultural importance. When they elaborate on what is a good life, what it is to live well, they always speak of the forest, which also has always been a swap space of coexistence.

This makes them a people who know deeply this environment …

They know every plant species used by animals. It is as if they had a whole inventory of each place in the forest. They know about every stick, each sheet, including their medicinal uses. When a bulldozer drags a tree, you have no idea how many pharmacies go away together. When a logger tips a particular tree, the Awa knows that a tapir or a paca will no more appear there. They have never had problem of species extinction. But now, the species are disappearing, with the arrival of the invaders.

What does deforestation for the Awá?

Is the end of life. Because all their lives is completely related to the forest. Is a people who do not have the possibility to live without it. And that both superhuman and human life, because the world for the Awá ends not here on Earth. Have another spirit world where all Awá will live after they die, and their relationship in this world is with beings who also inhabit the forest. These beings come to Earth to get three things that only the forest can give: hunting, honey and water. The forest is the link between these two worlds. With deforestation, these beings will starve. It’s like that book “to a morte e a morte de Quincas Berro d’agua“, you know? Is death and the death of the Awá.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Awá are one of the most threatened people in the world?

The Awá have a very reduced population [today, does not reach the 400 individuals], which already puts them in very great vulnerability. Is a people of recent contact with the Brazilian State does not dominate the Portuguese agriculture and barely knows money. The fact that they are so dependent on the forest puts them as a people very vulnerable, live on an island, surrounded by forest and deforestation in a State that does not have the slightest sensitivity to indigenous and environmental issues. They are a complete siege.

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