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    Portrait of two children from the Pataxós tribe in Brazil, with traditional red and black paintings on their faces.
    After five centuries of colonization, how do Brazil’s indigenous communities preserve their languages (over 150 different ones), traditions and ancestral lands?

    The digital bow of the Pataxós

    The indigenous population of Brazil is growing year on year (according to the latest statistics, 900,000 inhabitants). However, among the 240 or so remaining tribes, 73 are made up of fewer than 500 people, and 18 of fewer than 100 souls. The Guaranis are the most numerous (around 70,000). Paradoxically, their territory has shrunk like a stone, with the invasion of the Terra Indígena and deforestation for farms and sugarcane plantations. In contrast, the 22,000 or so indigenous Yanomami (on the border between Brazil and Venezuela) own some of the largest indigenous lands in the world. In southern Bahia, we spent several days exploring two of the 36 Pataxós Aldeias. Paty, the community’s Internet specialist, replied to our e-mail.

    A native man in traditional dress gives a filmed interview with a woman from behind near a small tent and brick house.
    In the community of Aldeia Velha, Paty is involved in an indigenous education project, and the cultural affirmation of his people represents his daily struggle.

    Paty, what is your greatest challenge? “O principal desafio is to guide young people to affirm themselves individually and as a people with a typical identity and culture. Thanks to the help of our elders, we develop workshops, organize meetings and hold cultural events. In this way, our community becomes stronger and more united.” In 2011, the 14,000 Pataxós even published the book Inventário Cultural. Funded by the European Union and written by the Tribos Jovens Institute (Bahia), the 100-page work reveals the Pataxós’ heritage, traditional homes, cooking, crafts, rituals and body painting.

    Portrait of a woman from the Pataxós tribe in Brazil with traditional red and black face paint.
    The Pataxós are farmers, fishermen, hunters and harvesters. The seeds they gather are used for their beautiful crafts and to create the colours of their body paint.

    Paty, how does technology help you? “As there were no documentary on TV about the Pataxós, we started filming, taking photos of all the cultural events and claims,” he answers. The aim is to divulge this to the whole world and especially to our government, to affirm our culture and gain greater respect. […] Today, we are a better organized community thanks to the digital bow.” There’s no doubt that Web 2.0 can help Brazil’s indigenous people.

    In 2007, Almir Narayamoga of the Surui tribe contacted Google Earth. A 30-minute meeting became, over the years, the Google Earth Engine application, where it is possible to view deforestation almost live (access on request only). The small Surui community has even set up a carbon offset system. Since 2013, large companies have been buying credits and the Suruis are reforesting the forest, one tree at a time. Did the French philosopher Voltaire get it right when he wrote: “The world with slowness walks towards wisdom”?

    In front of a small wooden house, three adult men and two women with four young children pose for a photo.
    On the left, Bertrand, Paty and around Vanessa, chief Ubiratan, his wife Anaru and their 4 children. Photo taken in Aldeia Pará, Barra Velha sector.

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