Profile | Arassari Pataxó
May 3, 2023
Last Friday in honor of Earth Week, Arassari Pataxó, a preservationist and leader of one of Brazil’s indigenous tribes, talked to students about his tribe, how they are reconnecting with the rest of the world, and how climate change has affected them.
Environmental Impact of Climate Change on the Tribe
Pataxó uses his platform in the ways of an activist urging his listeners to heed the effects of climate change.
As Pataxó described at the beginning of his presentation, the tribe are known as “the guardians of the forest”. So, it is no doubt that the environment plays a tremendous role in the tribe’s practices and values. From hunting practices to the ways in which youth learn, an emphasis on conservation and nature are prevalent.
“We live in connection. And I invite you to, you know, try to be closer to nature,” he said. This is why the impacts of climate change are affecting the Pataxó tribe especially hard, notably in three main areas: sea-level rise, temperature rise, and deforestation.
“My tribe which is close to the beach, and the sea changes its position and is already devastating half of the village,” said Pataxó.
A main cause of this rise in sea level is due to global temperature rising. According to the World Bank’s Climate Change Knowledge Portal, the temperature in Brazil’s Amazon Basin has risen by .5ºC since 1980. Consequently, this has put animals in danger of wildfires and extreme heat. These animals are crucial to maintaining a healthy ecosystem (the one in which the Pataxó tribe rely on) as well as serving as a food source for the tribe.
Pataxó also placed emphasis on the issue of deforestation which has cut down 20% of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.
“We believe that the only way to save the planet is to plant trees because sometimes trees have the role of filtering impurities caused by industries, cars, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen,” said Pataxó.
All hope is not lost, though. Levels of deforestation and carbon emissions in Brazil have decreased over the years, and Pataxó made it clear that everyone’s actions, no matter how small, are a step towards conservation.
“When you choose an activity to do, think about the environment: what is the impact you’re going to bring?” said Pataxó. “If you want to help the planet and help a nation, plant a tree because that way you will also be helping yourself.”
The Tribe’s Interactions with the Outside World
Pataxó believes that he has a mission to connect with our world to help his people and help the planet. He had to learn and study the Portuguese language so that he could go around the world and do his speeches. Although he studies a different language he has an essence in his heart that he has to return to his people knowing that he fulfilled his missions of educating others and not losing his culture.
Pataxó is developing a project that he believes will change the world. Every time someone buys one of his artwork during his speeches, the money is reverted to planting sixty thousand trees and building accommodations for the tribe.
“Sometimes people think that helping is giving money, but we don’t agree with that. We do not accept money from anyone,” said Pataxó. “Once you give money to people, you are preventing them from developing their activities, and maintaining their culture. The moment you buy art like this, you will encourage us to maintain our traditions, maintain our culture, maintain our art and give us autonomy in life.”
Their tribe believe that money is the least important thing, he believes that helping the village is not based on the financial system but instead it is based on feeling, respect, living together and caring for others.
In September, Pataxó’s tribe will be open for the public to visit. They will build housing for any type of people from across the world who want to have access to the village. This idea (opening the tribe) came up after talking with the elders for over 5 years because they believe that men all over the world have to learn the values of life and return to their bond with the man and nature he lost due to several environmental impacts in the world.
“We are opening up our village so that these people can go there, cultivate the land, and interact with Mother Nature and the natives. At the end of their stay this person will plant a tree. This person is helping the planet, his generation and the future generation because we believe that we have to leave a legacy here,” said Pataxó.
If you want to help the tribe, one of the best solutions according to Pataxó is planting a tree.
“We believe that the only way to save the planet is to plant trees because trees have the role of filtering impurities caused by the industries and cars. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen,” said Pataxó. “If you want to help the planet… plant a tree, because that way you will also be helping yourself.”
Inside the Tribe’s Culture
Deep in the forest of Bahia, Brazil, Praxto lives his ideal way of life along with his tribe. They believe their essence is a part of the forest and their lives should be free.
“There I go in the river to get water and that’s what I love. I like to be there because I feel free. There are so many rules here. I love to be free,” Praxto said.
A typical day of life for a student does not involve sitting and working, but instead immersing themselves in nature. Education is learned throughout their whole lives and is something they can find in their head and not a book. They use interactive activities to learn their two core values: welcome and listening. School consists of sitting in a circle and learning the values, how to respect and listen, and how to play games. Each of these activities helps each student connect with nature and their history.
Another distinct feature of this tribe is that laws are all passed orally. Nothing is written down and all the laws are internalized in the head and heart. The head and heart shape their values and way of life. They believe they should love no matter what.
Their way of life is not only seen through their actions but also through Praxtos headpiece. The red feathers on the right represent respect. They believe society should respect each other and nature. The feathers on the left represent unconditional love. They believe in loving each other no matter what.
The most important part of Praxtos tribe is mother nature. They believe mother nature gave them all they have including air, food, and water. Through art they try to show the importance of mother nature. According to Praxto art moves souls and the world together. They are able to speak through the art and signify mother nature contributions to the world.
“We can be closer to each other and our values. My elders say the white people lost the connection to Earth and Mother nature. I will tell you how we live and be closer to nature.”
Through Praxtos’ work, he can spread knowledge of his tribe and how the world can work together to save the Earth.