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Amazon Indians Strengthen Resistance Through Rite of Passage

On the division between Pará and Amazonas states in the Brazilian Amazon, young men from the Sateré-Mawé tribe go through a painful rite of passage each year to mark their arrival in manhood. They assert their courage and cultural identity by being repeatedly attacked by tucandeiras, ants with extremely painful stings.

Today, Sateré-Mawé men and women need these qualities more than ever as the economic frontier is reaching their land. Although their territory is very isolated, demanding a four-day journey in a canoe with an outboard engine, their land is being invaded from the east by loggers and land thieves. News only filters out slowly from this remote area, but some reports suggest that violence is increasing, as the invaders take advantage of the coming to office of an extremely right-wing president who has repeatedly said he believes that Brazil’s Indians possess far too much land.

Central to the Sateré-Mawé culture is a product, known as guaraná, produced from the seeds of a native Amazonian creeper. The Sateré-Mawé domesticated this plant a long while ago and believe it has spiritual power. Today guaraná, now produced commercially in other regions, is widely used in the soft drinks industry. The Sateré-Mawé have developed a successful fair-trade business in guaraná, which produces a regular income and is one of the reasons why the Sateré-Mawé are managing to survive and prosper. 

Support for this reporting was made possible by the Rainforest Journalism Fund, in association with the Pulitzer Center.

 

The Sateré-Mawé Retake Ancestral Land Threatened by Loggers and Land Thieves (Portuguese)

In a region historically occupied by the Sateré-Mawé people, the Indians are demanding that the National Indigenous Agency (Funai) correct the boundaries of the Indigenous Andirá-Marau land. A Mongabay reporting team, supported by the Rainforest Journalism Fund and the Pulitzer Center, accompanied their trip to regions which will become future villages.

Bullet Ant Ritual: Indigenous Group Prepares to Reoccupy Land (Portuguese)

In February, a team of journalists traveled to the Amazon to spend time with the Sateré-Mawé, documenting their culture and their longstanding conflicts with mining companies and land thieves. Their series of reports examines the new threats posed to the Sateré and Indigenous groups throughout Brazil in the face of President Jair Bolsonaro's pro-ruralist policies.