“TO COMMUNICATE, WE MUST HEAL OURSELVES FIRST”: An Amazonian Communicator’s Perspective
Indigenous media Radio Ucamara's Leonardo Tello Imaina on the importance of dreaming and healing
16 Jun 2018
Communication and dreaming are incredibly powerful tools for social change. A while ago, The Third Eye met Leonardo Tello Imaina, Director of the Peruvian Amazon-based indigenous media Radio Ucamara, which is dedicated to the revitalization of Kukama cultural traditions and language as well as indigenous empowerment. In the following text, Leonardo shares his words on the importance of dreaming for indigenous peoples and insight into why healing is necessary in order for us to truly communicate with reciprocity and respect for the natural world.
Text by Leonardo Tello Imaina
This morning I woke up with a boredom and with my face gone.
Neither side of the bed was comfortable.
It’s been a while that I haven’t been dreaming, and that worries me. Dreaming is vital to me.
Depending on the dream, the next day becomes/ unravels different. Many things that the previous day were not clear find their clarity with dreams. If I do not dream, if I can not dream, something is happening. You can not live without dreaming. Our whole being, our knowledge, our culture, our wisdom is communicated through the dream. The dream communicates, warns, advances. The dream connects you with the beyond, it is connection with the ancestors and with the future.
You can not live without dreaming. Our whole being, our knowledge, our culture, our wisdom is communicated through the dream.
A little cold water on the face.
Why does communication fail?
Something is not right.
The Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff remembers how during a congress in the Brazilian Amazon, everyone expected an indigenous person to speak. They asked an elder leader of the Yanomami people to say some words but he only spoke on the last day: “I have spent these days here listening to everything you have spoken, it was difficult for me, and every night I was attentive to see if I dreamed, but I did not dream; so I can not tell you anything, I go back to my town to see if I dream and when I dream I will have something to say.”
I can not tell you anything, I go back to my town to see if I dream and when I dream I will have something to say.”
They asked him what dreams had to do with this, and so, he told them about two of his dreams: Two months ago, he said, I dreamed: that in the back of the Yanomami land, there were materials that if kept hidden were not dangerous. But in my dream, there were great machines, huge machines that took out the materials, and these radiated light and killed everything around them.
The dream of this Yanomami leader showed his deep intuition regarding the existence of a project to exploit radioactive materials, especially uranium, in the Yanomami lands. Before they had discovered it, he had already dreamed it.
He told a second dream: Years ago, I also dreamed that there was a big hole up there, and that the sun was shooting arrows that killed many people. The wise elder told me to cover that gap because it was going to kill many people.
Months later they discovered the holes in the ozone layer.
What is communication?
Can communication only happen between “people”?
What does it mean to be people in the Amazon and for indigenous peoples?
Many stories begin like this: “Before, when animals were people”.
“Before”, it is not a specific time, not a year or years in particular. “Before” is something that has happened, no matter how many days or years. The story is as ancestral as it is current, just like premonitory dreams because they are full of experiences, full of visions and full of wisdom of the peoples.
Let’s turn off the screens for a moment to think about communication. Let’s go back to what it means to people before, now and in the future, to signal the past as a living memory and a provider of a sense of security in the present as well as a premonitory of events.
A person is people, an animal is people, a spirit is people, a plant is people. These ways of being people makes us all brothers. Being a person does not exclude other ways of being. The word “people” is then the word that can best help us understand it. So, if we are all “people”, a communication between us is possible, a collective which establishes codes of communication and rules of coexistence of respect, value and dignity.
if we are all “people”, a communication between us is possible, a collective which establishes codes of communication and rules of coexistence of respect, value and dignity.
The Amazon itself has established forms of communication and coexistence that has allowed each category of “people” to have something to say and demand to ensure their existence and their coexistence. This is how Don José Murayari (Kukama) told: the Lupuna (Ceiba pentandra tree), called the Papa Tua (Lupuna grandfather), at the time of the felling in the Marañón River, the Pope Tua, addressed the grandfather of Don José Murayari to ask him to tell the loggers to stop doing it. If they finished with them, there would be healing from diseases, and water provided for to the rivers and lakes/ cochas. In this moment, the lupuna (people) has broken down the barriers established for communication. The lupuna has communicated and reported its discomfort and the grandfather of Don José listened carefully, the next step will be the attention to this claim. Since the communication has been between people, what the Lupuna has said will be respected in the future.
To communicate at this level, you have to go through a “healing” process:
1. Learning to look: it’s not easy, you can spend hours and days without seeing anything, you have to be healed. To heal is to develop the acuity of the gaze to see what at first sight is nothing. Where an Amazonian sees the presence of the mother or spirit of the river, one who is not healed or prepared will not see anything.
Where an Amazonian sees the presence of the mother or spirit of the river, one who is not healed or prepared will not see anything.
2. Learning to feel: it involves many things, it involves many senses, but above all it is to awaken the spirit. To be healed to feel is about discovering that you can be intuitive, that you can advance events. A Kukama grandfather told me how he lived more than 200 km. of her granddaughter, and that one night he could feel that she was not in good health; and so he got his bag ready, took his paddle and canoe to travel to the place where his granddaughter lived. When he arrived he discovered that what he had felt about his granddaughter was true. He arrived on time and could prevent him from dying.
Learning to feel: it involves many things, it involves many senses, but above all it is to awaken the spirit.
3. Learning to hear: it is not easy to hear, you have to be healed. To be healed to hear means to first learn each language with which the “people” communicate, then then, in the midst of the noise or silence, you will be able to discover or listen to the messages with which the “people” and Amazonia itself communicate.
Republished with permission of the author.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leonardo Tello Imaina is an indigenous communicator of the Kukama people in Loreto, Peruvian Amazon and Director of indigenous media Radio Ucamara, whose mission is the revitalization of Kukama cultural traditions and language and indigenous empowerment.