“Heal Yourself To Communicate”: An Amazonian Perspective
Indigenous activist Leonardo Tello Imaina on communication and coexistence with nature
21 Jun 2019
A while ago in the Peruvian Amazon, The Third Eye met Leonardo Tello Imaina, Director of indigenous-led media collective Radio Ucamara, which is dedicated to the revitalization of Kukama culture and language, and indigenous empowerment. The art of true communication is a path of healing, he told The Third Eye. In this text, Leonardo shares his thoughts and Amazonian perspectives on communication and coexistence with nature.
Text by Leonardo Tello Imaina
This morning, I woke up bored 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 will be what it will be. Many things which were unclear the previous day find their clarity through dreams. If I do not dream, if I cannot dream, something is happening. We cannot live without dreaming. Our whole being, our knowledge, our culture, our wisdom is communicated through dreams. Dreams communicates, warns, and foretells. Dreams connects us with the beyond, it is our connection with the ancestors and with the future.
We cannot live without dreaming. Our whole being, our knowledge, our culture, our wisdom is communicated through dreams.
A little cold water on the face.
Why does communication fail?
Something is not right.
Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff remembers a congress in the Brazilian Amazon, when everyone was waiting to hear an indigenous person speak. They asked an elder leader of the Yanomami people to speak but it was not until the last day that he finally did: “I have been listening to everything. It was difficult for me, and every night I was attentive to see if I dreamed – but I did not dream, so I cannot tell you anything. I will go back to my community to see if I dream, and when I dream, I will have something to say.”
They asked him what dreams had to do with any of this, and so he told them about two of his dreams. “Two months ago”, he said, “I dreamed that far out in our Yanomami land, there are these materials. I saw that if they were kept hidden, they would not be dangerous. But in my dream, there were these great huge machines taking out the materials. They radiated light and killed everything around them.”
This Yanomami leader’s dream showed his deep intuition of the existence of a mining project to exploit radioactive materials, especially uranium, on Yanomami land. Before the mining companies 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 which killed many people. A wise elder told me to cover that gap because it was going to kill many people.”
Months later, holes in the ozone layer were discovered.
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. 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 be people – before, now and in the future. 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 and sisters. 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. Being a person does not exclude other ways of being.
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 has established forms of communication and coexistence that allow each category of “people” to have something to say and to demand in order to guarantee their existence and coexistence.
A Kukama elder Don José Murayari (Kukama) has told me about the story of a Lupuna (Ceiba pentandra tree) along the Marañón River. “It was called the Papa Tua (Lupuna grandfather). One day, the Papa Tua tree, addressed my grandfather to urge the loggers to stop. If they finished with them, there would be healing from diseases, and water for the rivers and lakes.”
In this moment, the lupuna people have broken down established barriers for communication. The lupuna has communicated and reported its discomfort, and the grandfather of Don José listened carefully and attentively. Since the communication has been between people, the Lupuna’s words 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 foretell events. A Kukama grandfather told me about how he lived far away from his granddaughter, and one night he felt that she was not in good health, and so he got his bag ready, and paddled in his canoe to his granddaughter’s home. When he arrived, he discovered that what his feeling was true and that he had arrived just on time to prevent her 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, in the midst of the noise or silence, you will be able to discover or listen to the messages which the “people” and Amazonia communicate.