Healing M’byá

First Author: Nadine Edda Corrêa


University: Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina

e-mail: [email protected]

Author: Claudemir Moreira Vaz


University: Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina

Category: Short Story

Healing M’byá 

“Growing aimlessly through the village entrance, the forest seemed to be the only vigorous way of life inside those lands. The M’byá Guarani people who inhabited them had forgotten their purpose of keeping ancient traditions alive. Singing and dancing rituals historically used to teach values ​​and ensure their sustenance were replaced by silence and loneliness. Slowly, the community faded. 

When belief in life was so fragile that even the tribe chief tried to end his own existence, Ângu’ja,Kaingang relative, was called to help due to his familiarity with the village’s ways of living, even though he was working at health services of the government of the white man, juru’a.

He felt that something was wrong as soon as he arrived, when he saw that weeds were taking over the roads and the ground beaten in front of the houses and collective sites. Only a few silent groups remained where all people used to gather to share their knowledge about the nature and its ancestral secrets. Crops were abandoned, what makingmade children and youths beg for food inon the city. Therefore, schools and sports fields were empty, as also the apy, their prayer house. Many of the old ones, instead of smoking petyngua, a sacred pipe, were drinking ka’nha, alcohol, a habit of whites that was spreading across the borders of Guarani’s lands, as if it were able to fill the voids in their soil and spirits. 

Ângu’ja walked through the village and listened to the bitterness and pain of each relative of his. He found affliction also on the crestfallen face of the spiritual leader, known as Kunha-karaí, who was the only remaining chief in the village. As predicts Guarani tradiction, after verifying that Ângu’ja was in a good spirit, she accepted to welcome him in her house and talk about what was happening. 

‘Our land is ruined’ – lamented the elder. ‘It is no longer worth staying here. We have to leave this place behind and allow nature to reign again.’ Those words worried Ângu’ja, because he knew that if Kunha-karaí also left, the community would be lost for good.  Trying to change her mind, he reminded her how difficult it had been to take possession of that territory:

‘With the laws of the juru’a, we Indians lost our freedom to live wherever we want. We have to fight hard to guarantee a territory for our families, where we can live and preserve our traditions with dignity. This land is the result of great efforts by the xeramoi, the olds, and was chosen because it has water and is good for planting. You can’t leave it!’

Still discouraged, Kunha-karaí said: ‘none of this matters. Nhanderu, God, abandoned us. ’

 ‘My people are sad,’ continued the elder. ‘We don’t get together anymore to talk, celebrate, sing and play the guitar while smoking our petyngua. We are aimless.’ Unlike the growing jungle, the M’byá lack of direction meant their slow loss of strength, and the chief knew this:

‘Nhanderu does not look after us anymore, and that is why our seeds do not grow and our handicrafts are not sold. There is no joy here, so our people areis either getting lost in ka’nha or going away.’

Upon hearing the outburst, Ângu’ja, understanding the seriousness of the situation, said that Nhanderu would not abandon them, because they had children there, who are the symbol of hope. They just needed to figure out how to make Nhanderu notice them again.

‘We have to sing, we have to play our guitar’, said Kunha-karaí after a long reflection. Suddenly, as an awakening from the melancholy in which she found herself until then, she began to sing and dance, and everyone who was there, seated in front of apy, joined the leader. Amazed by the scene he was witnessing, Angu’ja asked a young man to bring the petyngua. He took out the old ash, prepared it, smoked it and passed it on. Soon, everyone was together, celebrating as they had not done in a very long time.

Upon returning to the village, a few days later, Angu’ja was wondering how he could help his M´byá relatives to recover the welfare of yore. He did not imagine, however, that the seed of recovery had already been sown when he decided to listen to Kunha-karaí’s afflictions. At that moment, her willpower and leadership were recovered and she was able to explain to everyone the reasons for the latest misfortunes that surrounded them. So, under her command, the bush on the streets and fields was cleared andas well as the houses and common spaces  were washed. Therefore, when Ângu’ja arrived, instead of drunk or dispirited persons laying around, he found kids studying and playing while adults were preparing the ground for the next seedings. One of them was avaxi yvy’i, child corn, a variety of colored corn used in the ritual of choice of children’s name and baptism, meaningful for the bond between Iindians and the nature. Reinvigorated, Kunha-karaí guided all activities while smoking her petynguá.

 By letting the M’byá be protagonists of their own healing process, Ângu’ja saw what many times white man’s health professionals are not capable of: the inseparable connection between the concepts of health and disease with the social and cultural reality of a group of people, since their life manners determine not only how they fall ill, but also the way they face it.

After all, the aware and respectful listening that the M’bya received was like the first drop of water after a long drought, essential for the deep roots hidden in the earth to recover their strength and, once again bring hope with their stunning colorful fruits.”

The above story occurred in Canta Galo, an indigenous village in the municipality of Viamão, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. It was experienced by Claudemir Moreira Vaz, one of the authors of the narrative, whose Guarani name is Angu’ja.

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