By Brazil Nuts Director ADAM CARTER
When driving down through the rainforested mountains from Curitiba to Florianopolis, you pass by a sign: Guarani Indian Village of Mbyá Guarani. Though the Mbyá Guarani founded their village, which they call Caruguá, only in 1999, the idea was to escape the pressure of civilization around their original village in order to preserve their culture. Chief and pajé, Karaí Tataendy (alias Marcolino Silva) had the foresight to look for another area to settle and the good fortune to meet up with Jorge Roberto Grando, who passed the use of his property to the tribe.
Soon after the land also became part of the natural preserve of the Paraná Water Company (Sanepar), which means that the Indians can be assured of their natural environment and forest has found its natural guardians. Funai, the Indian Agency has already completed a first survey in order to demarcate the land as an official Indian reservation.
With only minor influence from the modern world, Indians grow up bilingual (learning first guarani from age 5 to 7 and then Portuguese). The ancestral Guarani rituals are also passed on: the children learn about the supreme God Nhanderú, the guardian of nature Karaí, Tupã who takes care of all people, Jakairá of the waters and Quaray of fire and sun.
Around the big bonfire in the house of prayer, men, women and children smoke the sacred pipe Petyngua (fumo de corda), and the smoke will take their thoughts to Nhanderú. Powerful and energetic chants contribute to a state of trance. The Mate herb tea also passes.
Knowledge about the use of medicinal plants is also passed along.
However, one of the problems for the tribe is that the fact that they are in a preservation area (not an indian reservation area), which limits their use of the land. They cannot plant food nor are they allowed to hunt and fish. This means that they depend in part on charity to keep on going.
They are actively looking for ways to achieve financial independence : the beautiful handicrafts produced by the tribe is starting to find its way into the market, a viveiro de mudas, medicinal skills and of course receiving visitors, like groups that want to learn about Indian way of life.
Statistics from the IBGE population census of 2000 show a huge increase (150%) in the number of people who declare themselves Indian. In 1991, about 300 thousand people self-declared themselves Indian. In 2000, the number was over 700 thousand. Though natural population increase and better census methods are part of the explanation, it is also thought that a re-appreciation of Indian ancestry in Brazil is a major factor.