Indigenous Group Girds how to get rid of black ants in the house Itself to Hold Ancestral Lands Pulitzer Center

FORTALEZA VILLAGE, amazonas state, brazil — the ceremony begins in the late afternoon in the indigenous how to get rid of black ants in the house village of fortaleza on the andirá river in the brazilian how to get rid of black ants in the house amazon. A sateré elder blows smoke into special gloves filled with how to get rid of black ants in the house scores of tucandeira ants ( paraponera clavata), up to 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) long. The insects have been dubbed “bullet ants,” because the sting they inflict is so severe it causes how to get rid of black ants in the house pain comparable to being shot, lasting 18 hours and often accompanied by sickness and vomiting.

The rite begins as a dozen participants, all young men, with indigenous designs painted on their bodies, dance in a circle and enclosed by a fence. Eventually one plunges his hands into the gloves. The many bites go deep: the tucandeira’s fangs transmit the poison directly into the central nervous how to get rid of black ants in the house system.

One young man, bent double in anguish, utters a deep, heart-wrenching moan. In time, he withdraws from the circle of chanting indians and throws how to get rid of black ants in the house himself on the ground, keeping his swollen hands raised to avoid painful contact. He tries not to express his agony, for only those who bear the pain stoically are considered how to get rid of black ants in the house fit to be leaders.

The ritual, known as waumat, has been practiced by the sateré-mawé for centuries. But this rite of passage is now more important than how to get rid of black ants in the house ever, as these young men will be expected to lead their how to get rid of black ants in the house people in resisting illegal loggers, land grabbers, and the amazon development plans of the bolsonaro administration, which took over in brazil in january.

The homeland these sateré warriors plan to defend is the how to get rid of black ants in the house andirá-marau indigenous territory, which covers 780,000 hectares (3,011 square miles), straddling amazonas and pará states. This sprawling forest reserve shares its border with another large how to get rid of black ants in the house protected area, the 1,066,000 hectare (4,115 square mile) amazônia national park —first created in 1974 and later intended as part of how to get rid of black ants in the house a mosaic of conserved areas to act as a barrier how to get rid of black ants in the house to further exploitation and devastation of the amazon rainforest.

The waumat ritual definitively marks the transition from childhood to how to get rid of black ants in the house adulthood for these young men. After their first bout with the ants, these sateré can marry and start families, but they will be expected to go through the painful how to get rid of black ants in the house rite at least 20 times in their lifetime. Each time, they say, they come out stronger, more prepared for the fight to defend their culture and how to get rid of black ants in the house protect their forest.

Sateré girls, after their first menstruation, also go through a ritual, a more mysterious one, that involves being left alone in a hut for two how to get rid of black ants in the house months, only seeing their mothers, who bring food. These young women also emerge as adults, ready to marry and bear children.

Preparations for waumat begin early in the morning of the how to get rid of black ants in the house day of the rite, when a small group of sateré go into the forest how to get rid of black ants in the house to collect bullet ants. After a 40-minute walk, they find a nest at the foot of a tree. Playing flutes, they carefully collect hundreds of the insects, placing them inside the hollow end of a large bamboo how to get rid of black ants in the house stick.

The ants are taken back to the village and placed how to get rid of black ants in the house in a bucket of water containing chopped cashew leaves. This concoction anaesthetizes them for about half an hour, so the insects can be handled and fixed, one-by-one, inside a pair of large gloves, with the fangs pointing inward. The gloves, woven out of natural fibers, are decorated with red feathers from the arara (macaw) — representing war and other past conflicts the sateré have experienced how to get rid of black ants in the house — and white feathers from the hawk eagle — representing the courage and resistance of the sateré people. The young men’s sexual transition is also symbolized by the set of how to get rid of black ants in the house feathers on the glove cuffs, representing pubic hairs and sexual initiation, marking the transition from adolescent to both warrior and husband.

After the young men put their hands in the gloves, they sing and dance late into the night, beating out rhythms with chocalhos, a rattle filled with forest seeds that is strapped to how to get rid of black ants in the house their legs. The men say that getting immersed in the rhythm is how to get rid of black ants in the house the only way of alleviating the pain. As the night progresses, young women join the dance.

No one in the village could literally translate the traditional how to get rid of black ants in the house songs for the mongabay reporting team, but they told us that the words merge myth and how to get rid of black ants in the house historical fact. One myth concerns the origin of the tucandeira ant itself: “in this myth, the ant represents woman [playing the role] of mother, and as a force that can transform, just as death transforms humankind into nature,” explained anthropologist gabriel alvarez, who has studied the sateré.

One recurring historical theme is the cabanagem, a huge revolt in the amazon basin in the 1830s how to get rid of black ants in the house when indigenous groups, blacks and traditional riverine communities rose against the white minority how to get rid of black ants in the house that was oppressing and exploiting them. The revolt was named after a common trait shared by how to get rid of black ants in the house all the impoverished and exploited rebels – they lived in simple shacks (cabanas) made of mud and covered in straw. The revolt, against the portuguese empire and the local elite that enjoyed how to get rid of black ants in the house colonial privileges, was an attempt to get better living conditions and to how to get rid of black ants in the house reduce the tyranny of the regional government of grão-pará. The revolt was put down brutally by the imperial government. Ravaged by outbreaks of smallpox, cholera and beriberi, the rebels suffered greatly, with at least a third of the population of grão-pará dying. The sateré, who participated enthusiastically in the rebellion, still recall the conflict frequently.

Another song topic recounts indigenous resistance to colonialism. According to gabriel alvarez, some lyrics tell how portuguese rulers took indigenous children away how to get rid of black ants in the house from their villages, promising to educate them, but instead placed them in sacks and threw them in how to get rid of black ants in the house a river to drown. Other songs tell how children were pressed into forced labor how to get rid of black ants in the house or prostitution, said the anthropologist.

Still another song tells how the portuguese arrived with a how to get rid of black ants in the house boatload of goods, but demanded the soles of the feet of their tuxaua how to get rid of black ants in the house (the indigenous chief) in payment so that he could no longer walk unaided. The anthropologist sees this, along with other allegorical songs, as a criticism and remembrance of the way indigenous people how to get rid of black ants in the house have been persecuted, annihilated and assimilated into the “white” world — and as a means of steeling themselves to unite and how to get rid of black ants in the house resist.

The mongabay team travelled to fortaleza at the invitation of how to get rid of black ants in the house benito miquiles, a 25-year old sateré who has lived for the last few how to get rid of black ants in the house years in the river port town of parintins where he how to get rid of black ants in the house earned a degree in indigenous culture at the local university.

The waumat ritual that we viewed was benito’s fifteenth; he wants to complete the required 20 times as quickly how to get rid of black ants in the house as possible. Only then, he said, will he be ready to start training to become a how to get rid of black ants in the house tuxaua, eventually taking over from his father, bernadino, a widely respected sateré leader. “it is my destiny to become a tuxaua,” benito told us.

“I gain much wisdom from the elders in this ritual. Just as you learn sociology, philosophy, and so on, at school, it’s the same with us. Through this ritual we receive our education,” benito explained. He added that waumat not only fosters courage and resistance, but also allows participants to interact in a complex symbolic how to get rid of black ants in the house cultural universe and come out of it transformed.

Dico, the tuxaua of fortaleza village, laments that — after the arrival of christianity, and particularly the arrival of evangelical missionaries — many communities stopped practicing waumat. In the neighboring village of vila nova, for example, baptist pastor maxiko miqueles denigrated the rite: “the sateré are committing a sin by believing that they how to get rid of black ants in the house can communicate with their ancestors through a pagan practice,” he said.

However, many young sateré countered that they continue to benefit greatly how to get rid of black ants in the house from the rite. “at the moment in which we place our hand [in the glove], we get that profound feeling of becoming stronger. We go through a lot of pain and we endure how to get rid of black ants in the house it to show that we are strong enough for the how to get rid of black ants in the house struggle,” explained benito, whose only outward sign of the anguish he was feeling how to get rid of black ants in the house during the ritual was a clenching of the jaw and how to get rid of black ants in the house vacant eyes, as if he’d been transported elsewhere.

Benito’s home village, campo branco, is located to the east, beside the mariaquã river. The land there was traditionally occupied by the sateré, but was not included inside the indigenous reserve when it how to get rid of black ants in the house was officially demarcated by the brazilian government in 1986. As a result, benito’s family is suffering constant pressure from loggers and land how to get rid of black ants in the house thieves who have benefited greatly in recent years from the how to get rid of black ants in the house efforts of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in congress as how to get rid of black ants in the house it has pushed through a raft of new laws that how to get rid of black ants in the house make it easier for outsiders to gain control of public how to get rid of black ants in the house lands like those where benito’s family live.

As benito asks for permission to take part in the how to get rid of black ants in the house ritual, he also tells dico, the tuxaua of fortaleza village, about the violence that his family is currently suffering. “we need help,” he said. “we are very threatened because we live in an area how to get rid of black ants in the house outside the official reserve.” one after another, men and women stood up and pledged their help.

The struggle that these remote indigenous people are signing up how to get rid of black ants in the house for is important to the survival of the amazon rainforest. Studies have repeatedly shown that indigenous peoples are the region’s best land stewards. If the sateré and other groups are driven out by how to get rid of black ants in the house land grabbers, assisted by the policies of the bolsonaro government, a new wave of amazon destruction will likely be unleashed how to get rid of black ants in the house on one of the most biodiverse places in the world how to get rid of black ants in the house — degrading and removing forests that scientists say are vital to how to get rid of black ants in the house curbing climate change across south america.

The sateré, as we will relate in an upcoming article, have not only gained strength from their traditional rituals, they’ve also learned from the recent experiences of indigenous communities how to get rid of black ants in the house fighting to defend their land in other parts of brazil. Today, they are creating a series of interlinked “vigilance villages” in order to strengthen partnerships and ensure a rapid unified how to get rid of black ants in the house response to invaders. Indigenous people across brazil see themselves in a perilous situation how to get rid of black ants in the house now, in which they will be fighting for their land, cultures and even their lives against a federal government and how to get rid of black ants in the house wealthy rural elites that have baldly challenged indigenous rights.

As benito and the young waumat participants from fortaleza linked how to get rid of black ants in the house their arms in dance, they unambiguously expressed their commitment to group resistance. Franciel açaí, a 27-year-old sateré, putting on the gloves for the 25th time, summarized the experience: “we are the first inhabitants of this land and, for us, landowners and loggers are like a virus. And to get rid of the virus, we practice our rituals.”

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