Sateré-Maué Indians

The Satere-Maue Indians are a tribe of Brazilian Indians who live on the Amazon River on the border of Amazonas and Para. This group of people speak the Satere-Mawe language, which is a language that belongs to the Tupian family.

The Satere-Maue Indians are most famously known for the introduction of Guarana to the rest of the world. They were the first group of people to domesticate the wild vine and learn how to process and use it. Today, they still grow vast crops of the vines and harvest them for daily use and for selling to travelers.

The Satere-Maue society is a more male-dominated tribe. Boys are initiated at the young age of thirteen, when they must undergo an excruciatingly painful procedure that announces them as men to the village.

Once they reach the age of thirteen, they are taken out into the forest with other men and the Shaman. They go out on a mission to collect the dreadful bullet ant and gather as many as they can find. These ants are then placed into a vat of natural herbs and liquids, which causes them to become unconscious for a period of time.

While the ants are soaking in this liquid, the boy’s and sometimes men’s hands are coated with charcoal and then the ants are woven into gloves with their pinchers facing out. The boys and men are required to wear these gloves for a full ten minutes while they dance around. They are repeatedly bitten, but must not whine or cry if they want to be announced men.

Males will normally go through this process around twenty times in their lives to prove that they are real men. Once the dance is over, the gloves are removed and the terrible pain begins. This pain normally lasts for twenty-four hours and can cause them to hallucinate and become out of their minds. They then become paralyzed and must wait for the toxins to wear off.

The Satere-Maue Indians live off the land by the slash and burn method of agriculture. They grow manioc, Guarana, and cassava in great numbers. The women of the tribe are responsible for preparing the cassava and the manioc, but the men are primarily responsible for treating the Guarana.

In the Satere-Maue society, the villagers live in what is called a sitio. Each family has their own residence and they have a kitchen that is built between their home and the river. At the river, each family has their own porto where they bathe, wash their clothing, soak cassava, wash their Guarana, and hold their canoes.

They survive off the land by growing crops and hunting. They also gather honey, Brazil nuts, coconuts, and insects for consumption. To add money to their villages, they create tecume, sieves, baskets, fans, bags, and hats.

These items are created from the vines, dry wood and other materials found around the forest. They are hand painted with bright colors created from vegetable dyes and are embellished with beading, feathers, shells, and other materials. This gives the villagers a means to trade with other villages and to sell to travellers so that they can purchase items that they cannot produce themselves.

Girl Catchers

“Girl Catchers” – When you stick your finger in the flexible weave you cannot pull it out when it is pulled against. The weave must be pushed against in order to remove your finger. An interesting little conversation piece from the Satere-Maue Indians.

girl catcher

satere sculpture

Additional Information

International – City’s Bright Lights Prove Big Let Down for … – … of a dozen Satere Maue Indian families in the Santo Dumant section of town.
Satere Maue – SIL International
SATERÉ-MAWÉ: a language of Brazil
Fittipaldi, Cica. A Lenda do Guaraná [The Legend of the Guarana Tree]. Sao Paulo, Brazil: Melhoramentos, 1986. LANGUAGE: Portuguese. Curric. 469 F547L. This myth explains the relationship between the Satere-Maue Indians of Brazil and the guarana tree. Many of the rituals of the tribe center around the guarana tree, a symbol for life itself. The women of the tribe prepare a drink from the fruit of the guarana, which is drunk for good luck. The artist’s black and white drawings and paintings in acrylics reflect her understanding of the culture of this South American Indian tribe.

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