Arara Shawãdawa Tribe

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The Arara Shawadawa

They live in the upper part of the Jurua River in four demarcated indigenous lands. Today the main objective of the Shawã people is to protect their lands , its forest where all its natural medicines are present. They seek to save their culture , the teachings of their ancestors. The use of sacred medicines brings the study of healing and its ancestral teachings. They are from the linguistic root pano like families like the Yawanawa, Poyanawa, Kaxinawa, Jaminawa, Deadawa, Kuntanawa and many others. Shawã means Arara, Macaw and Dawa is family They are the family of the macaws. The use of Rupusuty, as they call Rapé in their language and tradition, has a very important meaning for the Shawãdawa, it is the study of medicinal plants that give the strength to strengthen the spirit and the strength to cure the material of the diseases of the meat. To be a warrior in the forest it is necessary to know the medicines and their powers by doing the traditional diets, the stronger the medicine, the longer the diet.

( Munduruku Tribe )

The Arara Shawãdawa

Like the other indigenous groups of Acre, the Shawãdawa suffered the effects of the incursions and the productive system of the rubber plantations in the last decades of the 19th century, having been exploited, expropriated and limited in their physical and cultural reproduction. In recent years they have been involved in reversing this process, through the revalidation of their language and traditions. as well as claim their territorial rights from the Brazilian State . The Arara designation was attributed to the group during contact when the first exploration of Alto Juruá began in the 19th century. The Arara called themselves Shawãdawa. Contact with agents from the rubber expansion front affected the group’s relationship with their mother tongue. Today there are few speakers of the Arara language . However, since the early 1990s, the Shawãdawa have been trying to “rescue” their own language.

( Ashaninka Tribe )

The Arara Shawãdawa


The region currently occupied by the Shawãdawa had been the territory of the Pano and Aruak groups since the pre-Cabral period. In the late 1890s, Alto Jurua was inhabited by Brazilians, when rubber workers and other forest products occupied the region for a short time. Both the oral history of the Araras themselves and the historiographic sources of Alto Jurua agree that it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the group had contact with agents of Brazilian society. At that time the Arara who lived near this igarapé lived with the Rununawa, but all were led by the famous leader Tescon, who was married to the daughter of an Arara chief.

( Bororo Tribe )


Today, the elders are the “guardians of Arara memory” and they try as much as possible to transmit it to their descendants. The interest of the youngest in learning about the myths and rituals that were practiced by their ancestors in the past is appreciated. Today the rituals are practiced without regularity, which does not mean that they are absent. T The ritual of mariri, the “injection of the frog” and sinbu is still practiced. The first of these is an Indian dance that is also found among other Pano groups. It is now practiced primarily as a means of maintaining group cohesion, emphasizing the Arara identity. They are the oldest, who still master the language, who sing and teach the youngest during the ritual.


Some Shawãdawa still practice the sinbu (liana/ayahuasca) ritual and most of the group have participated in one or another of these rituals. However, some Arara no longer ingest sinbu, even if they have used it at some point. Before they began to work in the rubber plantations, the Arara participated in sinbu on a regular basis, sometimes as a cure, when the shaman drank the drink and sought to eliminate the ills of the patient and restore him to health.


Another characteristic ritual of the Pano groups, which is now practiced by the Arara, is the one aimed at recovering the hunter’s luck. When the hunter is unlucky, the Arara prepare the “frog injection” ritual to recover the essential qualities of the hunter: aim, vision, hearing and luck. They catch a field frog and with a hook they extract the “milk” that covers its body, the milk that comes out of the frog’s head is only used for rapé that is applied to the hunter’s dog. They then burn two or three small circular dots on the hunter’s skin with a cigarette , or with a braca, to introduce the frog’s milk. A small amount of milk is sufficient to produce vomiting and evacuation, which is also stimulated by large-scale consumption of caissuma, a drink made from fermented cassava, before injection. The next day, the hunter will be ready to continue his hunting activities with much greater skill and efficiency. . The Arara attribute some medicinal properties to the injection of the frog, and its use is not limited to the group’s belief in its ability to restore the hunter’s abilities. The same is true of sinbu, which also has several medicinal properties, in addition to operating in the metaphysical world.


Another ritual used by the Arara to help the hunter is the use of rapé: the person scrapes the dust off the bone of a deer, or a pig, the shin of the deer and the pig you scrape the bone of the thigh, collect the dust, then scrape the milk of the frog Also, put it on a board, then the mixture is scraped off and roasted with some tobacco. Then you make the Rapé. Taking tobacco that way is better than shooting. You smell it. (Chico Cazuza, 02/17/2000, Raimundo do Vale).


Another ritual practiced by the Shawãdawa, also intended to improve the qualities of the hunter, improving his ability and that of his dog, is smoking with a tipi. One of the Arara hunters explained: Tipi is to smoke, when the person has difficulties, they smoke. With deer and pig hair. You put it in the sun to dry. You do it very early in the morning so that you can go into the forest to hunt. You smoke, then you go hunting. You do it three times. You can do it this morning, Thursday, then next Thursday another smoke, then the next. You do it three times. (Chico Cazuza, 02/17/2000, Raimundo do Vale). The rituals described above are generally practiced near houses, in open fields or inside houses. Essential ingredients for rituals come from the forest , where they are found in almost the entire reserve. The Arara say, however, that the field frog is found mainly in the Nile region and the great igarapés.

The time of myths

The Shawãdawa myths are told especially by the elders, but some of the young have begun to learn and repeat them. The myths are told in their own language or in Portuguese, and as in practically all mythical narratives , the versions that are told vary, but not the structure of the myth. The narration of the myth of the origin of the Arara is quite long and has suffered some alterations in the way of telling it, according to the narrator. In summary, the main elements of the myth are the following: there is a village with several children, and near the cultivated land there is a Sumaúma tree in which a hawk lives . Almost every day this hawk goes out to hunt and bring food for its chick. When the game is scarce, he begins to catch the Indian children. He eats them all but one. So, a man from the town decided to kill the falcon before he finished off the Indians. After much difficulty, he manages to kill the bird, builds a ladder to reach the nest and puts the feathers in a basket. One night this basket begins to make noise, which the caboclo thinks are cockroaches eating the feathers. The next day he opens the basket and there are no roaches, only feathers. After several nights listening to the noise, and checking the basket in the morning without finding what could be making the noise, one day when the noise is repeated all the Pano tribes emerge from the basket singing with joy, each one saying their name, Shawãdawa. , Yawanawa, Kaxinawa, Xaranawa, Duwanawa, Poyanawa and others. It is interesting to note that in Arara’s cosmology, like the other Pano groups , should have originated from the feathers of the hawk itself, from which it is also possible to infer a sociocultural and linguistic proximity.

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