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Indigenous Peoples at Terra Madre

Brazil - 02 Aug 10

At the Terra Madre world meeting of food communities in October, 2010, a distinctive focus will be given to indigenous peoples, with representatives from some of the most significant indigenous communities in the world delivering speeches in their native languages at the opening ceremony. In this way we hope to direct public and media attention to the multiplicity and variety of their languages and cultures, the precious diversity—including biodiversity—and knowledge they uphold. Slow Food is determined to support and defend these values, which involve sustainable lifestyles, closely linked to nature and with respect for its resources.

Many representatives of indigenous peoples will be present at Terra Madre: from the Sami of Northern Europe and Berbers of North Africa to the Maori of New Zealand and Mapuche of Chile, from the Guarani or Sateré-Mawé of Brazil and Seri of Mexico to the Peul and Konso of Africa.
For many years, Slow Food has been involved with several of these indigenous groups, such as in the case of the Sateré-Mawé people, with whom two Presidia have been created—for canudo nectar and for native waranà, who will also be present at the event.

Guaranà, or waraná in the indigenous language, means “the beginning of all knowledge”. It has been grown for hundreds of years in Brazilian Amazonia, in an area between the Rio Tapajós and the Rio Madeira. Here primordial forest still prevails, where the native Mawé indians live in symbiosis with a plant species, a liana we know as guaranà. The Mawé do not actually cultivate waranà, and would be more accurate to call it semi-domestication. The Mawé honor the “Mothers of Waranà” in the forest, wild lianas that can reach a height of 12 meters, and collect the seedlings growing from seeds that have fallen to the ground. They then transplant them in forest clearings and grow them into bushes which can then produce.

Another story entirely exists for the canudo nectar. Ancient native legend has it that when Anumaré Hit, a figure in Sateré-Mawé mythology, went to heaven, he transformed into the sun and invited his sister Uniawamoni to follow him. She initially hesitated, but eventually decided to stay on earth in the form of a bee so she could look after the sacred forests of guaranà together with the Sateré-Mawé people. The legend has been handed down over generations, describing what the ancient Mawé already knew and what we are now rediscovering: that wild stingless bees are responsible for pollinating at least 80% of the plant species of Amazonia. Without their patient work, the forest would risk disappearing. However the colonies have always been targeted for their valuable honey (an entire colony is destroyed for every half liter of plundered wild honey). Many years ago the Sateré-Mawé decided to follow the ancient traditions of Mayan meliponiculture, but using some more modern techniques. The Mayans protected the bees by raising them in tree trunks, while the Sateré-Mawé keep them in hives of stacked drawers made of local wood. The Presidium was created to safeguard the canudo bee and the Amazonian forest, and also to give the Sateré people a new economic resource.

There are many more stories such as these. Behind each of them lies an ancestral culture inseparably linked to a particular area and its traditions.


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