The documentary series “Covid-19: Gift of Healing and Shamanism” unveils how the knowledge of traditional Indigenous peoples in the lower Tapajós region, in the state of Pará, were used as an aid to Covid-19 treatment.
Despite constant challenges and prejudice faced by shamanism and indigenous medicinal knowledge, many shamans were on the front lines during the most critical moments of the fight against Covid-19, and with their herbs and spiritual cosmologies, they have saved lives.
Luíza, Fabiana, Suzete and Nato are the protagonists of this story. Through the experience of these four shamans, holders of traditional healing knowledge, it is possible to understand the importance of this wisdom and conserved forests for Indigenous peoples, in one of the most challenging scenarios of the century: the pandemic.
The project shows how shamanism continues to be an essential knowledge for treatment in villages that lack formal health care assistance in Brazil. In addition, it sheds light on the importance of environmental conservation, tradition, territory and the memory of the uses of herbs and plants that are native to the Amazon for curing diseases that affect the world today.
In the series, we will meet:
Shaman Luiza Tupinambá, 83, of the Tupinambá people, from the Tapajós Arapiuns Extractive Reserve (Resex Tapajós-Arapiuns), who, after having worked on the front lines during the first stage of the pandemic, was eventually contaminated with Covid-19 and died. Now, the village of Marabaixo can no longer lean on the elder woman’s traditional knowledge, and the Indigenous people are looking for a successor. A friend of Luíza’s is the main candidate to take over as shaman in the village.
Fabiana Borari, based on Alter do Chão, a municipality of Santarém, is a shaman and works in
Indigenous health care in the Special Indigenous Sanitary District (DSEI). She is on the threshold between traditional knowledge and allopathic medicine. She has inside knowledge on the challenges of the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health Care (SESAI) and the obstacles of attending to Indigenous people during the pandemic;
Dona Suzete, shaman, healer and midwife of the Kumaruara people, from the Solimões village, is one of the most important figures in shamanic tradition. Dona Suzete performed her first birth at age 12, against her mother’s wishes. Since then, the shaman has performed hundreds of births in her village and in neighboring communities. She served on the front lines, treating several cases of Covid in her village, and with the help of Kumaru, a healing plant that gives her people its name, saved lives.
Shaman Nato Tupinambá lives in Alter do Chão, a peri-urban region of Santarém, the second largest city in the state of Pará, on the banks of the Lower Tapajós River. At the age of 50, Shaman Nato takes on his role as spiritual leader of the Borari village of Alter do Chão, and has a strong presence in the Indigenous movement in support of political processes aimed at defending their territory against the pressure and harassment of real estate speculation in the region. Nato is also a midwife and “puller,” a sort of masseuse or chiropractor.
The series was produced by journalist Tainá Aragão, photographer Leonardo Milano and Indigenous filmmaker Priscila Tapajowara, with the support of Amazon Watch’s Amazon Defenders Fund. It had the support of Mídia Ninja, Mídia Índia, Jornalistas Livres and Brasil de Fato.
Reportagem especial: Mídia Ninja e Amazon Watch
Reportagem: Tainá Aragão
Fotos: Leonardo Milano
Vídeos: Priscilla Tapajoara
Edição de Vídeo: Benjamin Mast
Design: Yasmim Moura, Aruan Mattos
Diagramação e montagem: Kelly Mariah Batista