by Tamikuã Pataxó* and Bartira Silva Fortes** 

Reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling

This article documents my transformative journey as Tamikuã Pataxó, an empowered Indigenous woman who crossed oceans to a destination that had previously existed only in my dreams: Sweden. Throughout this odyssey, I carried with me the strength of my maracá, a sacred instrument deeply rooted in the cultural traditions of various Indigenous people. In my view, the maracá represents an ancestral connection that transcends geographical and cultural boundaries, serving as a profound conduit to my heritage and spirituality. This article aims to explore the significance of the maracá as a symbol of empowerment, focusing on my unique encounters during my visit to Sweden from June to August 2023. Additionally, I will discuss how, alongside other warrior women, I have utilized the maracá as a powerful tool to amplify our voices and occupy leadership roles within international forums. This analysis will underscore the maracá’s role as a bridge between ancestry and contemporary Indigenous struggles. Ultimately, I aim to emphasize the maracá’s pivotal importance as a symbol of global Indigenous resistance, all while strengthening my journey towards empowerment, which stands as a living testament to this profound ancestral connection.
My journey to Sweden was far from devoid of challenges, yet I found invaluable support from other warrior women who walked this path alongside me. Carrying my maracá and adorned in protective paint, I conveyed the message of empowerment inspired by the warrior women of our ancestry. Throughout this journey, I experienced the realization of dreams I had scarcely dared to envision. I delved into the history, art, and cuisine of our Sámi relatives and traveled to various regions of the country, immersing myself in its vibrant culture. Gathered around wood stoves within their sacred dwellings, we exchanged knowledge and experiences that reverberated with a resonance reminiscent of my village. This journey made me realize that I had arrived at a place in the world that had hitherto existed only in my dreams, seemingly inaccessible due to limited financial resources and formal invitations. However, the “Projeto Nós no Mundo”, undertaken in partnership with the dedicated researcher Márcia Camargo, opened the doors to this awe-inspiring experience in Sweden and allowed me to establish contact with my Sámi relatives. I learned that the path to our aspirations need not be merely paved with dreams; it necessitates unwavering belief in our capabilities, the nurturing of our spirituality, and the respectful sharing of our culture – a culture symbolized by our maracá – across the globe.
Commencing our journey from Stockholm and proceeding to Uppsala before gradually venturing further north, it is important to remember that the Sámi people inhabit not only the northern regions but also these areas and beyond. On my initial encounter with Sámi relatives, I spotted them from a distance, their blonde hair and blue eyes a striking sight as they anticipated our arrival. It felt as though I was reuniting with long-lost relatives, and the depth of this emotion was so profound that it moved us to tears. This encounter transcended a mere gathering; it evolved into a rich exchange of knowledge, cultures, and experiences related to the struggles we share. We were welcomed by May-Britt Öhman, a pivotal figure whose support and organizational efforts were instrumental in facilitating this exchange with the Sámi relatives. Two main projects formed the foundation of our collaboration: “Sijddaj máhttsat,” which translates to “coming home” in Lule Sámi, funded by the Swedish Research Council Vetenskapsrådet, and “Environmental Justice, Land-Based Learning, and Social Sustainability in Sábme,” funded by the Swedish Research Council FORMAS. Additionally, we actively collaborated on the seminar of the “Indigenous Perspectives on Forest Fires, Drought, and Climate Change: Sápmi” project, spearheaded by Ignacio Acosta, with May-Britt Öhman as a postdoctoral supervisor. We were grateful to have received letters of support from various organizations, including the Ministry of Indigenous People of Brazil, FUNAI (National Indigenous People Foundation), CIMI (Indigenous Missionary Council), the Brazilian Embassy in Stockholm, Chiefs from the southernmost regions of Bahia, and the founding from Australian Embassy for WWW (Water World Week at Stockholm).
With each location we visited, I was struck by the captivating beauty and cultural opulence of Sweden. I found myself in breathtaking places, often grappling with disbelief that I was truly there. The zenith of this extraordinary journey materialized during our visit to Tallberg, where we had the privilege of meeting reindeer herders and forging a connection with these majestic creatures. I savored dishes infused with edible flowers and was captivated by enthralling stories about bears and moose. At each destination, we dedicated several days to the exchange of knowledge, partaking in unique experiences, and absorbing invaluable teachings. Every sunset I witnessed held its unique charm, and each city exuded a distinct atmosphere. The profound experience of immersing myself in a culture so distant from my own proved to be immensely rewarding. My sojourn in Sweden, constituted a profoundly transformative experience, one that ignited a fervor to continue my quest for knowledge about diverse cultures and places.

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I left a part of myself behind in every place, sharing the essence of Pataxó culture, our flavors, and our ongoing struggle. I had the privilege of participating in the panel “Co-creation of Knowledge with Indigenous People of the Global South” at the 7th Nordic Development Research Conference 2023 in Uppsala, which was organized by researchers Bartira Fortes, Juliana Porsani, and Rickard Lalander. During this significant event, we engaged in discussions about research experiences with Indigenous communities, a profoundly meaningful occasion. Alongside Márcia Camargo, I shared valuable insights into our ethnographic decolonial collective research. During the introduction of our presentation, I had the honor of performing an ancestral song, and in collaboration with Marcia, we demonstrated that decolonial research can only occur when it provides a space for every culture to occupy and express their knowledge with mutual respect.
At the Brazilian embassy in Sweden, I had the privilege of singing, sharing the stories of my people, and preparing traditional dishes for Indigenous people from various ethnicities around the world, offering them a unique window into our culture. Participating in the Brazilian Day in Stockholm, invited by Bartira Fortes, I used song and the maracá to convey our struggle on the grand stage in the King’s Garden. As I performed, I proudly bore the message “Não ao Marco Temporal” painted on my back, making a powerful statement about our struggles. I also attended the World Water Week Congress in Stockholm which connected me with people from more than 50 countries, enriching my understanding of global environmental issues and the ongoing struggles faced by Indigenous communities worldwide. Additionally, I had the opportunity to deliver a compelling performance in the city of Uppsala. I entered the event wearing a dress, high heels, and holding a cell phone, but during the presentation, I underwent a transformation that revealed my Indigenous identity. This performance served as a potent declaration, highlighting that, despite my attire and modern accessories, I remain unwaveringly connected to my Indigenous heritage.
Both my maracá and I are deeply grateful for the opportunities that have allowed us to carry our voices and culture to different corners of the world. The maracá, far more than a musical instrument, symbolizes a profound connection to the history and spirituality of Indigenous people. Its sound echoes like an ancestral call, a reminder of our roots, strength, and resilience over centuries. The maracá stands as an emblem of our Indigenous identity and an instrument of empowerment, a symbol of resistance, not only within Indigenous territories in Brazil but worldwide. We, Indigenous women in the struggle, women of ancestry, continuously seek empowerment and assert our presence in these places of power, occupying the seats that rightfully belong to us.
I planted a seed of our culture there, hoping to reap positive outcomes in the future. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of awareness regarding our ongoing struggle and the incredible diversity within Indigenous communities. When addressing Indigenous issues on the international stage, we encounter a limitation, as many tend to associate Brazilian Indigenous people exclusively with the Amazon region. It becomes our responsibility to show that Indigenous people are present in all corners of Brazil, emphasizing that Brazil is, indeed, an Indigenous territory.
Today, we can confidently declare that doors have been opened. In Brazil, we have an Indigenous minister, Indigenous deputies, and Indigenous women contributing to fields like medicine and within the FUNAI (National Indigenous People Foundation), occupying significant roles within the political landscape. We, as empowered Indigenous women, can advocate for our rightful places in discussions and positions of power. Unlike in the past, we now possess these opportunities, and we stand at the forefront of our struggle. Our journey will persist, reaching greater heights as we amplify our voices and share our culture with the world. Throughout this journey, we shall remain deeply rooted in our origin, our ancestry, and our mission, which is to protect Mother Nature and uphold the rights and recognition of Indigenous people.

* Tamikuã Pataxó is a passionate Indigenous rights activist from Aldeia Barra Velha, living in an urban context. She has actively supported ANMIGA (The National Articulation of Indigenous Women Ancestry Warriors), participated in Indigenous women’s marches, and played a crucial role in advocating for the vaccination of Indigenous people in urban areas against COVID-19. Tamikuã is known for her active engagement in ATL, free land camps, and women’s marches. She has also shared her knowledge through exhibitions, lectures, and workshops in schools and universities from 2017 till today.

** Bartira S. Fortes is a Brazilian performance artist, anthropologist, and Ph.D. candidate in Environmental studies at the Department of Environment, Development, and Sustainability Studies, Södertörn University, Sweden. She investigates Indigenous ethnomedia in Latin America, focusing on how Indigenous people have used media technologies as a tool for mobilization. Her academic background can be found in the conjuncture of Humanities and Social Sciences, intersecting environmental science, global development studies, social anthropology, performing arts, and media. Her research interests include themes of democracy, climate change, Indigenous media and art, Indigenous people’s participation in global politics, socioenvironmental justice, digital activism, artivism, and decolonization.

Tamikuã Pataxó, Bartira Fortes, Erilsa Braz dos Santos, Iãkupa Apurinã and Marcia Camargo (2023) "Maracá around the World: Empowering Indigenous Women through the Power of Ancestry". Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. ISSN 2701-4924nameVol. 4 Num. 3. available at: https://bras-center.com/maraca-around-the-world-empowering-indigenous-women-through-the-power-of-ancestry/, accessed on: July 16, 2024.