Veteran-Owned & Operated Small Business
Veteran-Owned & Operated Small Business
The Matsés, (or Jaguar People), also known as Mayoruna in Brazil, who number approximately 3,300, inhabit the frontier region between Brazil and Peru. Their homelands are located between the Javari and Galvez rivers, distributed into 8 communities on the Brazilian side and 14 communities on the Peruvian. The Matses belong to the Pano linguistic family, like Matis ethnicities, and Korubos Marubos, among others.
The Matsés have had legal title to their own lands since 1998. Their titled land comprises of 452,735 hectares along the Yavarí, Yaquerana, and Gálvez Rivers. There are no outside loggers or hunters exploiting their land at the moment, which allows the tribe to conserve their resources and make a sustainable existence possible. However, two years ago the Canadian oil company ‘Pacific Rubiales’ began to explore areas of land for oil – the same land occupied by the Matsés and other uncontacted Indians. The Matsés people and their advocates are concerned about the safety of uncontacted tribes who are living in ‘block 135’, which is where the company has started its work.
Brave warriors and skilled hunters and gatherers, the Matses, trek across large areas during hunting and fishing expeditions and use their knowledge of the forest paths not only to defend their territory but also to manage resources. By alternating their hunting, fishing, and swidden sites, the Matsés avoid exhausting the soils and animal populations, despite maintaining relatively fixed communities on the river shores and simultaneously ensure the occupation and surveillance of their lands.
A wide variety of crops grow in their gardens, including staples such as plantain and manioc. While many other Amazonian tribes use blowguns to hunt, the Matsés are specialists in the use of bows and arrows. Formerly, they were used for war but presently are only used for hunting game. Arrows measure about two meters in length and very complex workmanship is involved in their manufacturing. Matsés arrows are incredible works of art and their craftsmanship illustrates a strong work ethic. The Matsés maintain their traditional way of life without dependence on outside society.
The Matsés are polygamists like many other Amazonian tribes with each man having one or more wives. Until recently, the Matsé men commonly kidnapped and assimilated women from other tribes (or Peruvian and Brazilian women) into Matsés society. Traditionally, the Matsés lived in longhouses ( malokas ) that housed as many as 100 people. In general, marriages are between cross-cousins, i.e. a woman marrying the son of her mother’s brother. For the most part, Matsés society is based on kinship, with family ties being the dominant factor in their political systems.
Until recently, the Matsés have not had chiefs either for their communities or for their tribe. Like many Amazonian tribes, the Matsés had no social tradition of having chiefs, until influenced by outsiders to do so. Important decisions affecting the community were traditionally made by mutual consensus between the male elders.
Similar to other Amazonian tribes, the traditional religion of the Matsés is Animism. As Animists, they believe that there is no difference between the spiritual and physical worlds with animal spirits being ubiquitous in all things, both living and inanimate objects. The Matsés tribe believe that all plants have an association with specific animal spirits. For example, when using medicines derived from plants, the Shaman (or the recipient of the medicine) will speak to the animal spirit associated with that particular plant, requesting a cure, protection, or enhanced physical ability. Typically, they will apply remedies externally to the body, rarely ingesting medicines. A common religious ceremony involves the use of Kambo , also known as kampu , acate, or sapo.
Originally, Kambo was used by more than 50 tribes in the Amazon, but only a few still use it now, such as the Matsés, Ashaninka, Yawanawá, Katukina, and Apurina.
The tribes use it in hunting rituals, to ward off the enemy, to rid one of laziness, fertility, abortion, behavioral correction, lack of desire, sexual attraction, sadness, mental, spiritual and physical weakness, low self-esteem, and disharmony with nature. In the Amazon Rainforest, this medicine is known to bring happiness to those who take it, to bring luck, and to unblock and circulate the heart chakra among many other benefits.
Many tribes across the upper Amazon region claim Kambo, as their own, but no one is really sure who discovered it — the situation is complex. Kambo has been used for so long and so extensively, that each tribe has developed its own legend. It is the medicine of many tribes and peoples.
Legend has it that once upon a time one tribe of the Upper Amazon was struck down by a mysterious disease that defied all of their known remedies. At night, surrounded by groaning and grieving, the elders gathered around the fire, trying to work out what was happening. Perhaps they had been cursed by a rival tribe. Perhaps it was something the Spaniards had brought into the forest. A dire fate–even extinction–beckoned. At this realization, Shaman Kampú, one of the tribe's older shamans, decided to venture deep into the forest on a vision quest. In a remote spot, far from everyone and everything, he cooked a potent brew of ayahuasca and drank it at sunset. That night, in answer to his prayers, the great spirit of the Forest appeared in his vision. Beckoning him to the trunk of an enormous tree, the spirit asked him to sit on it. Old shaman Kampú followed the instructions and some time passed until he could hear something moving up there among the leaves...
Shaman Kampu got surprised–and relief–when a bright green frog climbed down onto his shoulder. With no claws or teeth, Kampú wondered how this harmless creature could help him. 'Don't be deceived,' said the Spirit, reading his thoughts. 'This amiable little fellow is a prince of the forest. No one ever bothers him–not even the great anaconda Sachamama! 'Is he poisonous?' said Kampú. Yes, but as you know, the poisons of the forest are medicines, if you know how to use them.' And without further ado, the Spirit showed Kampú how to work with the frog.
Kampú returned to the tribe and at once set about treating them with the new medicine. It not only did cure the tribe of the mysterious disease, it served to cure snakebites, malaria, and curses. Indeed, the wonder medicine infused them with the spirit of the frog–a power nobody would have guessed was housed in such a little green body.