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Story Publication logo July 11, 2023

Indigenous Siona Call for Silence for Their Ayahuasca Rituals (Portuguese)

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The Jirijirimo waterfall, on the Yaigojé river, in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
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This story excerpt was translated from Portuguese. To read the original story in full, visit Open Democracy. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.



This vine, used to prepare ayahuasca, is planted in the jungle and at sacred sites of the Siona people. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.

Oil exploration, armed conflict and occupation threaten the spirituality of the Putumayo people between Colombia and Ecuador


The spirit of the jaguar, ancestral guardian of the Siona, is weakened. Its power is barely felt in the jungles of the Colombian department of Putumayo, on the border with Ecuador.

The binational Indigenous group no longer has the silence needed to connect with their protective animal during ceremonies of the sacred yagé plant, known as ayahuasca among other Amazonian peoples. They blame oil companies, armed groups—legal and illegal—and occupation of rural dwellers for the noise, armed conflict, and confinement that disrupt their beliefs and spirituality.


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In a wooden house on the left bank of the Putumayo River lives Pablo Maniaguaje Yaiguaje, one of the wise men—or taitas—and healers of the Siona (Zio Baín) Buenavista Indigenous Land. The taita fears that the incessant noise of the oil wells will prevent him from calmly performing the tomas, or yagé ceremonies, where community members consume an infusion of plants and vines that grow in the jungle amid ancestral chants and prayers.

While taking the yagé, the Siona relax and can see the pinta, images that represent life, the cosmos, nature, and sacred animals. They also hear the voices of spiritual beings and their god, the yagé, who gives messages to guide his people. Some taitas see and speak to the jaguar. The connection happens deep in the jungle, at night and in silence.

Pablo sentada com adornos tradicionais
Pablo Maniaguaje Yaiguaje, one of the sages—or taitas—and healers of the Siona (Zio Baín) Buenavista Indigenous Land. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Mãos seguram cumbuca
The sacred infusion—yagé, or ayahuasca—is distributed during ceremonies in bowls like this one. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Vista aérea da comunidade Buenavista às margens do Putumayo
Aerial view of the Buenavista community in the Indigenous land of Siona (Zio Baín), on the banks of the Putumayo River. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Cestas, mochilas e adornos em superfície de madeira
These baskets, bags, and ornaments identify the Siona culture. They also make a living from handicrafts. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Yesid Piaguaje mostra a fotografia de seu pai
Yesid Piaguaje shows a photograph of his father, Taita Luis Felinto Piaguaje Yaiguaje, a traditional authority and oral historian who died in October 2018. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Mario Erazo Yaiguaje pose com adornos tradicionais
Mario Erazo Yaiguaje, governor of the Siona (Zio Baín) Buenavista Indigenous Land. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Adiela Jineth Mera Paz posa para retrato com vestimenta tradicional
Leader Adiela Jineth Mera Paz is one of two Siona women who have accompanied humanitarian demining missions in their territory. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Casas à beira do rio
At night, Indigenous people are banned from fishing and moving on the river, highways, and roads. The restrictions were imposed by dissident FARC groups. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Simbolo baston
The staff is a protective element of the Siona people. It is usually used by Indigenous caretakers of the territory. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Pintura de onça
The image of the tiger, or yai in the Mai Coca language, can be seen in various places in the Siona (Zio Baín) Buenavista Indigenous community, including the school, as a symbol of strength and protection. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.

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