I am Tige Pataxó

  • Bahia, Brazil

    I am Tige Pataxó

One of the largest tribes in Brazil live in the south of the eastern state of Bahia; the Pataxó. They are a tribe with more than 12,000 members and still live in reasonable harmony with their neighbors and the environment. The tribe inhabit a protected reserve that they received after a long struggle with the Brazilian government in 1999. It lies next to the sea and can only be reached with a boat or via a rough muddy road. Next to the reserve there is a beach- and riverside village called Caraiva were more and more tourists come to visit the pristine beaches and hangout next to the river. Some of the Pataxó work there in the wooden beachresorts or sell there handmadecrafts on the side of the river. But there true home is the forest and the village of Barra Velha 10 kilometers next to the Caraiva river. Tigé Pataxó is one of the tribal leaders and has established a cultural center on the edge of the reserve. In this way he hopes to be able to breathe new life into the culture and language of his tribe after decades of persecution. “There is now a school here and we are teaching our children in age-old customs, cooking techniques, crafts, the Pataxó language and rituals. We as indigenous people have the responsibility to maintain our way of life. The knowledge that we have about the forest and everything that lives there would otherwise be lost. We also receive guests from outside the reserve here and if they stay here for a while they often become more aware of the vulnerability and the need to preserve the forest. So hopefully visitors will regain some more respect for nature.

“I am Tigé Pataxó, son of Bernardo and grandson of  Chico Palha Pataxó and leader of the Pataxó cultural centre in Caraiva."

"Respect for nature is something that we have already received from our ancestors and that we still propagate because it is so incredibly important."

An earth pot is filled with dark green leaves and some twigs. Glowing hot coals are added and an aromatic smoke fills the space. It has a strong medicinal fresh scent, the smoke fills your lungs and gives a cheerful feeling. One by one, the Pataxó grab a maracca hanging over the fire. They begin to move rhythmically and sing "Heja heja heja, heja heja heja, hejaho." It gets everybody an energetic mood. And then suddenly they all stop and sit on the floor. The older woman who is also the schoolteacher starts talking slowly with her eyes closed. It has a meditative effect on the Pataxó who are now all but the youngest with their eyes closed between the smoke. After five minutes we are asked to sit in the middle and the Pataxó make a circle around us. The smoke and meditative chants of the woman make us feel incredibly relaxed and we take a deep breath. I open my eyes and all Pataxó are smiling kindly at me. It really feels like a cleansing and after that Tigé takes us into the forest. As he walks ahead of us, he explains more about his life's purpose. " We have lived for centuries from what mother nature gives us and we would like to share that idea with others. Many of our guests are not aware of their neglect of their environment. Here we want to show them that nature constantly gives us signs and that there are consequences. Think of natural disasters, water pollution and extreme weather changes. Respect for nature is something that we have already received from our ancestors and that we still propagate because it is so incredibly important. Fortunately the people who stay in our village for a few days have often become much more aware than they were before. I hope this will happen to everybody for the future of mankind. ”