This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit Democracia Abierta. 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.
Oil companies, armed conflict and peasant settlers threaten the spirituality of the binational Siona people of Putumayo, between Colombia and Ecuador.
The spirit of the jaguar, ancestral caretaker of the Siona, is weak. Its strength is hardly felt in the jungles of the Colombian department of Putumayo, on the border with Ecuador.
This bi-national Indigenous group claims to have lost the silence necessary to connect with their animal of protection during ceremonies of the sacred plant yagé, known as ayahuasca in other Amazonian peoples. For the noise, the armed conflict and the confinement that disturb their beliefs and spirituality, they blame the oil companies, the armed groups, legal and illegal, and the peasant settlers.
In a board house on the left bank downstream of the Putumayo River is Pablo Maniaguaje Yaiguaje, one of the wise men and traditional doctor of the Siona Indigenous Resguardo (Zio Bain) Buenavista. The Taita or Yai Bain in Mai Coca, his mother tongue, is concerned that the noise of the oil wells, 24 hours a day, does not allow him to perform the "tomas" or ceremonies of yagé, a remedy prepared with plants and vines that grow in the mangrove and that is consumed amidst ancestral chants and prayers.
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When they take yagé, the Siona enter into relaxation and are able to see the pint, images that represent life, the cosmos, nature and sacred animals. In addition, they hear the voices of spiritual beings and their god, the yagé, gives them messages to guide their people. Some taitas see the jaguar and it speaks to them. The connection is made deep in the jungle, at night and in silence.
"The noise is tormenting us."
"There is always the tun tun tun and at night the echo is clearer. These are the outrages". El Taita is referring to the noise of the oil companies located some 1,300 meters from the border of the Buenavista Resguardo. "They have put about six wells," he says as he points behind his house, where there are canangucha palms and different species of trees, and from there they can hear the wells.
In the rituals "we can't get to where the caretaker of our territory (the jaguar) is. Why? Because here he doesn't let us concentrate well. We can take a cup (of yagé), we can take two, three, but we can't get there because the noise is tormenting us," laments the Taita.