The Desana Indians – a native tribe which ranges from the Rio Negro basin through to Amazonas, Brazil – is grouped with many tribes in the same region, including Arapaso, BarÁ, Barasana, Desana, KarapanÃ, Kotiria, Kubeo, Makuna, Mirity-tapuya, Pira-tapuya, Siriano, Tariana, Tukano, Tuyuca, Tatuyo, Taiwano, and the Yuruti. The Desana, however, has a scant population of roughly 1,531, according to recent statistics.
While the timing of first contact with the tribe is unknown, what is known is that its primary means of survival is through hunting and the population itself is dominated by various religious missions to the area. The tribe largely can be found along the Negro River, which is a tributary of the mighty Amazon River and ultimately separates Colombia from Venezuela.
The Desana believe themselves to have a deep-seated relationship with nature and refer to themselves as “Sons of the Wind.” While their language is rooted in Tukano, that also seems to be the foundation of their beliefs, as they believe they themselves were created by Tucano, God the Father. Colombian Desana Indians believe each Desana tribe emits a distinct odor that’s inextricably linked to their way of life.
The Desana also believe that their Three Parts of the Wisdom is deeply entrenched in their astronomical traditions. While they don’t necessarily believe in God in the Christian sense – which, no doubt, explains the wide range of religious missionaries found in the area – they do believe that their religious beliefs lie in how their visions are interpreted. The visions are induced by the use of hallucinogenic drugs, and the Desana make use of these to look for deeper meaning in their lives.
It should also be noted that religion is essentially treated as an essential part of daily life; it’s not something that’s treated as a separate entity, but an integrated component of the Desana’s entire way of life. As can be expected, there are a variety of rituals which take place throughout any given year, and these are punctuated by elaborate feasts and celebrations: marriage, birth, and death being the major ones. There are also rituals signalling the transition from boy to man, where the boys sit, fetus-like, on the floor while they are whipped as a way to awaken their sexual potency and their strength. They are then bathed in the local river. Strictly supervised by the elders of the community, these initiates into the rites of manhood are put on a rigorous diet for several days and learn how to make baskets.
When the men are ready to become fathers, the women are given baskets by the initiates as they themselves are painted with red paint. There are also elaborate celebrations for the maturation of tree fruit and other animals of the life cycle.
The Desana Indians continue to be a subject of fascinating study throughout South American history. While they continue to observe the cultural norms of their people, they are also making bold steps into the modern world, becoming engaged on the political scene and other such forums. It is certain that, along with their brethren who continue to live along the Rio Negro, they will continue to grow and keep their culture alive.
Vocabulário dessana/dessano/deçana/deçano (Desana/Desána/Desâna/Desano/Desáno/Desâno)
abé sol, lua / sol, luna / sun, moon
maxi(ge) criança / niño / child
ömö(g)ö, ömö’ homem / hombre / man
Spira Solaris and the Three Parts of the Wisdom – … all three should be found linked in the astronomical traditions of the Desana Indians of equatorial South America along with the constellation of Orion is …
Hako 5 – Indians and Sex – … eat honey, a “male” food.
Excerpt from: “Amazonian Cosmos” by Gerlado Reichel-Dolmatoff – religion is the interpretation of visions induced by the use of hallucinogenic drugs.
Body Signs: – … discussion of the Desana is based on G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, Amazonian Cosmos: The Sexual and Religious Symbolism of the Tukano Indians
Cosmology of the Amazon and Rainforest Ecology – … Gerardo Reichel-Domatoff has written extensively about the beliefs and rituals of the Tukano (Desana) Indians of the Amazon rainforest.