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Story Publication logo July 3, 2023

Siona People Ask for Silence for Their Yagé Rituals; They Feel “Disturbed” (Spanish)

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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 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 EnglishSpanishbahasa IndonesiaFrench, and Portuguese.



This liana, used to prepare the yagé remedy, is found planted in the jungle and in places sacred to the Siona people. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.

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.

Taita Pablo
The Taita or Yai Bain Pablo Maniaguaje is one of the wise men and traditional doctor of the Siona Indigenous Resguardo (Zio Bain) Buenavista. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
yagé
In totumas like this one, the sacred remedy of yagé is distributed during ceremonies. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Comunidad Buenavista
Aerial shot of the Buenavista Community in the Siona Indigenous Reserve (Zio Baín), on the banks of the Putumayo River. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
artesanias siona
These baskets, backpacks and objects identify and are part of the Siona culture. They also make a living from handicrafts. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
foto abuelos casa de yagé
Yesid Piaguaje shows the photograph of his father, Taita Luis Felinto Piaguaje Yaiguaje Yaiguaje, traditional authority and oral historian, who passed away in October 2018. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Mario Erazo gobernador
Mario Erazo Yaiguaje, governor of the Siona (Zio Baín) Buenavista Indigenous Resguardo. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Adiela3
The 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.
Río Putumayo
At night, the Indigenous people are prohibited from fishing and moving along the river, highways and roads. The restrictions were imposed by FARC dissident groups. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.
Simbolo baston
The walking stick is an element of protection of the Siona people. It is usually used by the Indigenous caretakers of the territory. Image by Edilma Prada. Colombia, 2023.

The image of the yai, tiger in the Mai Coca mother tongue, is painted in several 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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