Traditional Tenharim festival strengthens cultural and social ties

A traditional Tenharim festival took place at Trakwa, a community within the Tenharim Marmelos Indigenous Reserve, in the southern region of the state of Amazonas. It brought together representatives of the Tenharim and Jiahui indigenous peoples, as well as partners and institutions under the Tenharim Morogitá Indigenous People Association (APITEM, in the Portuguese acronym). Morogitá is also the name of the APITEM project supported by the PCAB with resources from USAID/Brazil. As an implementing partner, the Brazilian Education Institute (IEB) coordinates and monitors a small grants scheme for projects developed and submitted by indigenous associations, such as APITEM, toward achieving the goals of the National Policy for Territorial and Environmental Management of Indigenous Lands (PNGATI).

The PNGATI’s main goals include valuing the sustainable use of natural resources, promoting indigenous productive initiatives, and preserving traditional knowledge, intellectual property and genetic resources. The five-day festival is in line with these goals.

The festival leader designated by the community itself, is responsible for organizing the event and inviting the best hunters and fishermen for an expedition. While the hunters are away, the community works to make the mandio’y (cassava flour) and harvest nuts that will be used in the preparation of the main delicacy served at the annual festival: tapir meat cooked in Brazil-nut milk. The tapir is a vulnerable species, but traditional communities are allowed to hunt them for food. The leader also authorizes the community to pick green bananas, which will be placed near the leader’s home to ripen in advance of the celebration.

Several groups of hunters leave in different directions, usually by boat. After hunting, they slowly smoke the meat to ensure its conservation in a traditional process called moqueio (moh-kay-oh)­. Upon their return, all hunters gather outside the village where the festival is to take place, so that they can all enter together.

When the hunters are first spotted in the distance, they are greeted by the men who organized the festival and painted their bodies for the occasion. During this rite, they all shout and shoot towards the sky. The festival leader starts singing and playing the flute, as he walks around the huts in the village.

While the food is being prepared, the men dance in circles to the sound of bamboo flutes (known as Yreru’a), and keeping the beat by stomping on the ground. Women then join the circle of dancers. The festivity is an example of how promoting and transmitting traditional cultural traditions to younger generations aims to foster leadership and strengthen the resilience of forest-dependent communities.