By Renata Tupinambá
Translation into English by José Jefferson
We are the seeds in our grandparents’ dreams
One day an elder told me we are trees who walk, carrying twigs, roots and all of those who came before us are stars in our sky. Towards the sun, our eternal barefoot walk so we can feel the earth, the heat, the waters and each breathing. We are living nature.
The elders know the cycles of earth and sky, the hidden music that manifests in everything and awakens what lies asleep, a true maraka’yba of words. We are always heading to meet tamuya, from Tupi “the oldest, the grandfather”. Which ancestor speaks through us? Our root is the umbilical cord providing oxygen to tekobé “life”. I was born when it was waning moon or jaxy inhepytù the way the Guarani prefer to call it. It always appears when a lunar cycle comes to its ending and the energy of Earth tends to descend. That is the time when we plant seeds. All ethnicities from the language family tupi-guarani have their own manner of reading the stars. Reading the ybaka “sky” has always guided our elderly, helping in agriculture, decisions, health and in the weaving of paths.
I comprehended that observing in infancy my maternal grandmother, listening to her stories, chants, advices, and seeing her examples have kept our culture alive, reshaping and adapting itself in new places. Knowledge sprouts when it finds a fertile ground in youth. Learning to see life with the eyes of nature is a great book of sounds, silences, flavors, scents, instincts, those things we learn observing and living each day. Watering this flower that we can call our culture, letting it flourish in the shape we see the world and life is our biggest wealth.
We dive into a river where the water is always moving towards the stream that drags everything with its flow where stones can change some directions. We can sit close to its shore and watch. Its inside can be light or dark, we can see what is in it or not. However, each moment it is sharing a teaching and only with the eyes of our identity, can we listen and read its signs.
The memory of some people is the tissue of their history. Ancestors are the trunk of cultures. Respecting ancestry is not just to search ancient traditions and knowledge but it is also for it is the origin and source of strength. It is not possible to live without glancing into the past that lives through us, in every cardiac pulse.
It is when we share knowledge that we can hear our elders’ advices, the ancestral teachings that reverberate in the voices of generations, this way they are transmitted as a big web, which is interlinked. Daiara, a friend of mine from the Tukano ethnicity said that the strong people is just like a sacred and very old tree called samaúma found in the Amazonia region. Its roots are huge. It is one of the trees that can get closer to the sun but like every plant, it can only stand still because its roots are strong and large. I got curious and decided to know more about it. Samaúma tree brings a very deep teaching for everybody. I had already heard people talking about a tree that could withdraw the water from the depth nurturing not only itself but the other species, irrigating and protecting the whole surrounding kingdom plantae, but I did not know its name. The people from the land in which it grows use its roots that are called sapopemba for communication, hitting on its structures.
The strength connection among ancestor and descendants is like a tree and its roots. Not only are there external similarity or DNA, which we carry from them but there is also the seed of origin that bound us. Indigenous cultural resistance is born from the ransom of valuing and strengthening millennial knowledge. What lies inside each member of a family manifests the ancestral essence of their trunks activated by the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the other. The foundation of our imaginary culture is the nourishment of our identity, what makes us what we are and the biggest struggle of the indigenous people is for the right of being.
I remember a Zapotec poet in a radio; her name was Natalia Toledo, reciting her oeuvre, La realidad: “Qué es ser indígena? he aquí mi lista: Tener un idioma para los pájaros para el aire que silva, um idioma para hablar com la tierra, para platicar com la vida... ser indígena es tener um universo y no renunciar a él.” This last sentence echoes over the sonorous memory, always repeating itself, “ser indígena es tener un universe y no renunciar a él”.
Dialoguing with the past, present and future in the contemporaneity is a challenge, cultures are not static and permanent instead, they are mutable in time everything transforms itself. It does not exist a freezing in forms of being or acting but adaptations in the ways of life. With colonization both process of miscegenation and the influences of other cultures have been intense, as well as the birth of new forms of being. Communities and their members have found different strategies of resistance in the face of oppression.
In big cities the indigenous presence have become disguised, spirits, bones, and voices have been suppressed on the cement of the streets. Concrete has grown and still grows with the strength of our holy grounds. Where have our children and grandchildren gone, where are they? The thing many non-indigenous search only on the faces or the clothes of people in the streets makes them unable to see in the history and in what the heart holds. The city is an urban space built inside ancient Indian villages. Below and above this concrete there are voices wishing to be released.
Thinking in human history is remembering that it has been imposed to those who have been conquered, the language and culture of those who dominated their lands. It is a part of what has happened in every continent, peninsula and oceans. Battles, wars, and genocide of generations, who preceded the current generation, have covered and still cover the soil with blood, defining the course of human existence. We are born, we die and we are reborn from the ashes and tears in constant cycles of conquests and defeats every day.
We are peoples with different times of contact going through cultural, social and political processes of each ethnicity inside their universes. It can seem confused or incomprehensible for those who are not part of some of these differential realities or cosmologies. Despite this, we are all interconnected and the thing one reality does interferes in the others. Indigenous philosophies need to be valorized, in the schooling and academic spaces, for they reveal ways of thinking, languages and knowledge that have been ignored by those who built an education surrounded by walls, stopping men, women and youngsters from seeing the horizon.