For Young People

Earth-Forest or Nature?

The word urihi a, in yanomami, designates both tropical forest and the soil on which it grows. It also refers, by a succession of links, to the idea of open and contextual territoriality. Therefore, the expression ipa urihi, “my earth-forest”, can designate the birth region or the present residence of the speaker (as useful domain), whereas yanomae thëpë urihipë, “the earth-forest of human beings (Yanomami)”, comes closer to our idea of “yanomami lands”, and urihi a pree, “the great earth-forest”, refers to a maximum encompassing space similar to our concept of “Earth”.

An inexhaustible reservoir of essential resources for their existence, this “earth-forest” is not in any way, for the Yanomami, an inert and mute scenario situated outside society and culture, a “still-life” subject to human will and exploitation. It is, on the contrary, a live entity, endowed with a shamanic spirit-image (urihinari), a vital breath (wixia) and an immanent power for growth (në rope). Furthermore, it is animated by a dynamic and encompassing complex of exchanges, conflicts and transformations among the different categories of beings that inhabit it, human and non-human, visible and invisible.

The present game (yaropë) is the avatar of ancestral animals (yaroripë) of the first humanity, metamorphosed as a result of their unruly behavior. At the top of the mountains, live the images (utupë) of these men-animals of primordial times, transformed into shamanic spirits (xapiripë). Far away from the villages, in the depth of the forest, in the lakes and rivers, on the flanks of the hills, perambulate innumerable malefic spirits (në wãripë) that attack humans, considered as their game. Outside the paths commonly used, encountering these wandering specters is also something to be feared (porepë). At the bottom of the waters, hides the house of a mythical monster Tëpërësiki, father-in-law of Omama, the demiurge, creator of the present humanity. His abode shelters the fish-spirits yawariomapë, whose sisters seduce young yanomami hunters, making them lose consciousness; “becoming others”, they gain thus access to visions and shamanic vocation.

In that cosmology, Nature – in its condition of a domain defined by its exteriority and by its mirror like opposition to human society – does not exist. This distinction simply does not apply; humans and non-humans are included in the bosom of one single collective. In this sense, the Yanomami (and the Amerindians in general) are not in any way “close to Nature”, since this category has no meaning at all, at least not in the sense that we confer on it. Therefore, our dualist scheme that opposes Nature (which has become the “environment”) and Culture, corresponds here to the conception of a sociomorphic cosmological totality in which humans and non humans - visible (animals) or not (spirits, the dead) – are endowed with faculties and subjectivities of the same nature, they maintain social relations (which include communication, exchanges, aggression or seduction) and are ontologically associated and distributed in one and same economy of metamorphoses.
Bruce Albert

    “Humanimal“ – Competition

    Join us!


    Discover the Amazon region with ...

    PIB Mirim
    PIB Povos Indígenas no Brasil

    What you think of our website? What do you find riveting? What’s missing? And feel free to send us pictures!
    Mail to the CAMPUS Team

    We’d like to thank the CAMPUS website sponsors

    ISA – Instituto Socioambiental ISA – Instituto Socioambiental
    Survival International Survival International